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Politics Essay Liam Morkham 21/09/15

How, where and why might democracy be promoted? Does it need to be? or not? what are the
arguments? Discuss, with 4 requisite attention to what democracy is, and clearly signalling your
own argument.

Democracy is always in a fluid and ever-changing state. To truly define democracy manifest would be
impossible as democracy has no one true and omnipresent form, however we can identify the
necessity for democracy in society as well as where and why it is promoted alongside the means of
promoting it. Through the changes sparked through public debate, power relations and even the
disdain for politics defined as anti-politics (C. Hay, 2007, p1), we can observe how forms of
democracy operate and evolve to address sub-national, national and global reform. However in
order to promote democracy and spark further public involvement to stimulate ongoing change, the
gaps in society formed by those resisting or disenchanted in politics need to be inspired to
participate.

A specific example of a minority that appears detached from the political process both during
election as well as the gaps between elections is the youths in both the Australian political
framework and even from a global perspective. This statement can be supported by the alarming
statistics by the percentage of voters between the ages of 18-25 who participated during the past
federal Australian election via information collated by the Australian Electoral Commission. The AEC
are constantly attempting to achieve rejuvenation in political and public involvement within
minorities such as the youths to mobilize these groups to participate by highlighting the necessity for
democracy and the benefits it entails. Colin Hay outlines in his 2007 article Political
disenchantment in Why We Hate Politics that the decline in voter turnout is a symptom of anti-
politics and a bolstering factor in the dissolution of what populism strives to achieve in
empowering the people as the foundation of political authority (Keane, pg. 11). This is an
important point to consider, when evaluating the future of democracy as if politics continues to
ignore the warning signs of a nation where the people are not the foundation, then the bedrock of
what democracy is and what it should embody, will be shattered. Peter Dahlgren proposes in their
article Democracy in difficult times that potentially introducing compulsory voting for youths
(including compulsory registration on the electoral role at age 18) could be a solution to maintaining
the integrity of a harmonious political society with less resistance as this would increase the number
of participants in elections which would hopefully lead into more post-election engagement.
However even while this clearly is a step in the right direction, there are also clear flaws in the
operation in recent years of Australian politics, most obviously through the revolving door politics of
elected officials being changed frequently within elected parties which has led to many public
outcries as to the practice and methods of politics in the 21st century.
Its no secret that it is impossible to successfully elect a representative party in any government
without being met with criticism from those who voted against the majority party who ends up
winning an election. But the alarming statistics that on average the highest percentage of resistance
to any government in the past 10 years, either through political strikes or protests, has come from
the age group (18-35) who also had the lowest voter average, highlights that perhaps Australian
politics is closer to a bourgeois-liberal democracy (Gregor McLennan, 2005, p.72) where
democracy is not necessarily for the masses but instead still a discriminatory framework that entitles
the elite and leaves the minorities voices silenced. Those aged 18 to 25, who only had a vote
submission rate of around 81.6% during the last federal election (Statistics via AEC) also make up a
high rate of 25% of the Australians of each generation whove undertaken a range of political actions
(such as strikes and protests), and while this may appear to have no correlation on the surface, if you
consider that these youths have had a much smaller window of opportunity due to their age to be
politically involved, and far more have done so compared to older generations, it clearly indicates a
public yearning for more political recognition of the youths in Australia and a revisitations on the
promotion of democracy. This directly relates back to the current operating status of democracy as
for a democratic polity to exist it is necessary for a participatory society to exist (Pateman, in Hay
2007, p 6).

As outlined before, Australias revolving door politics has led many to believe the dynamics of
democracy now should go far beyond the regular elections for a multi-party contest at national
levels to constitute democracy. This is credited to the fact that the elite model of democracy instils
too much power into the governing and elected leaders and organizations which has led to abuse in
power and mistrust from the populace, however because of this distrust, political challenges are
becoming more regular as the elite model of democracy is providing a moral high ground for parties
to challenge one another with the main rhetoric that a party is abusing power when ironically the
challenging party is practicing just the same. This specific example of a wounded concept of
democracy in which an ongoing political tug-of-war is occurring to gain support between parties and
from the public is a key component in explaining the where, why of democracy and how it might be
promoted without necessarily explaining what democracy constitutes. Obviously while the media
has also played a key part in negatively slandering democracy on a worldly and national scale as it
can be slow to achieve political action due to public interaction and resistance, the ability to
distribute political awareness in a public and accessible manor is at the heart of democracy,
especially with the new forms of media that can be used, however these forms of media are merely
the relays of public awareness that light the fire of political debate rather than be part of the fire.

As Schudson outlines in Critical Studies of Mass Communication, It is not at all difficult to find
views that place conversation at the centre of democratic life however he suggests that
conversation being placed in the heart of democracy is dangerously misleading as it creates a
paradox as the relationship of talk and equality is not one of affinity, (Michael Schudson, 1997,
p299) much like the relationship between the media and the masses. This is a more sensible view of
the relationship of the media as it is important to note that we can observe the promotion of
democracy within the public sphere of media, but not the application of actual change, that comes
from the receiving nodes (The public) who then participate in the conversation that mobilizes
change. So if we are to assume that democracy is promoted and relayed effectively to a large spread
of people, more ideally the masses on a national or global scale, then that would mean that there
would little to no discrimination as to who can participate in conversation, which inherently
embodies the romantic ideal of democracy, but in reality democratic talk is talk among people of
different values and different backgrounds, it is also profoundly uncomfortable (p. 298).
With all the conflicting views and ideas of what democracy should strive to be as well as how it
should go about being promoted, some would ask the question whether or not democracy should
necessarily be promoted it at all. While it is fair to say that a utopian view against the end of
authoritarian power and established power of political systems is a nice sentiment, John Keane
outlines that the current new form (monitory democracy) should strive to promote democracy in
communicative abundance but not as the sole driver of monitory democracy. John Keanes
Monitory Democracy and Media-saturated societies, is a primary source of evidence in
understanding as to why it is essential to promote democracy. This reason being that in order to
revise democracy and better society, current democracy must be put into the spotlight and
promoted either for negative or positive outcomes, otherwise the societies operating within
democracy will also be blocked from transforming or developing. While you could argue that many
members of the public do not consider politics as a cornerstone of their lives, Keane correctly
identifies that democracy is coming to mean more than elections, although nothing less (p. 2) and
while of course you cannot force people to become involved in political conversation, you can
prompt them through promoting democracy in the environments in which the public operates in
thanks to the media and all the platforms that are now unavoidable for the everyday citizen.

In order to fully understand the importance of democracy and the relevance relating back to the
introductory example of motivating youths to participate in political issues through compulsory
registration below the age of 25, it is important to understand both sides of the argument for AND
against the promotion of democracy to make an educated decision on the stance of the argument,
with the stance in this piece leaning far towards the avocation of promoting democracy in order to
further enhance society and politics at its core. On the opposing side of the argument it is fair to
consider that there is no necessity to promote democracy further as society has already reached a
point of clarity where the bare minimum of democracies criteria, minimal level of civic input to
function (Peter Dahlgren, 2009, p. 5) has been met. And this point can be linked back to the
example of youths, who for some, only practice the bare minimum of democratic criteria as a citizen
and very little more. A bold generalization to be fair, but it does hold truth. And while these points
may seem to go against the stance that democracy should be promoted. These counterpoints
bolster the argument as it highlights the potential for a more engaged society in political culture.

In summary, linking back to the example of the necessity for youths to have stimulation in order to
feel invested in political culture, the promotion of democracy and the entitlements It bequeaths
upon those who embrace it are a critical component in decreasing the gap between minorities and
leading society towards a closer and connected society where all voices are heard and represented.
While there is no true outcome in which power relations can be abolished in place of equality,
through the promotion of democracy politics can be more accessible for more than just the
politicians, and while we elect officials so that politicians can do politics, the public can play both an
active and passive role in political development.
Bibliography:
http://www.aec.gov.au/about_aec/Publications/youth_study/youth-study-5/youth-electoral-study-
05.pdf

http://www.aec.gov.au/Enrolling_to_vote/Enrolment_stats/elector_count/2015/elector-count-6-
2015.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-19/research-overturns-view-young-people-not-engaged-in-
politics/5681740

- Gregor McLennan (2005) Democracy, in T. Bennett, L. Grossberg & M. Morris (eds) New
Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Blackwell Publishing, pp. 72-76.

- Peter Dahlgren (2009), Democracy in difficult times, in Media and Political Engagement:
Citizens, Communication, and Democracy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 12-
26.

- Colin Hay (2007), Political disenchantment, in Why We Hate Politics, Cambridge, Polity,
pp. 1- 2, 5-10. notes 163-4 (excerpts).

- Michael Schudson (1997), Why Conversation is not the Soul of Democracy in Critical
Studies in Mass Communication, 14, pp. 297-309 (excerpts).

- John Keane (2009), Monitory Democracy and Media-saturated Societies, Griffith Review
24: pp. 1-23.

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