Is Democracy a Western or Universal Value?
The democracy testifies to the fact that it is not a natural way of life for people. Throughout human history, the law has been governing the world order. According to this fact, only flexible and tolerant individuals could survive. The formal arrangement is present in various socio-political systems, which differ in the degree of restriction imposed on a person. The democratic organization of life is a phenomenon that is contrary to human nature. Democracy is a cultural product that brings the revolution in the natural order of society. Scientists have debated whether democracy has either Western or universal value because it has been existing for two and a half millennia. During this period, several Western civilizations had different forms of government and contributed the key elements to the democracy. Thus, it is a Western value since Western civilizations introduced it initially, and their influence made the emergence and development of this phenomenon possible.
Each historical epoch has contributed to the concept of democracy. Moreover, they gave increased emphasis on its importance. Throughout the history, the best minds of humanity analyzed democracy, enriched, and developed the concept based on the principles of freedom and equality (Cartledge, 2016). Therefore, some scientists argue that democracy is the universal value. To refute this thesis, historians have proved that the key elements and prominent features of democracy originated in the Western civilizations. Besides, they explain that without Greek thinkers and contributions by other Western civilizations, the emergence of democracy would be impossible. In fact, democracy has a long history. However, the majority of the scientists believe that the development of Western civilizations, especially Greek and Roman heritage, has the most remarkable influence (Cartledge, 2016). Moreover, Western culture relates to the Europe nations and states formed under their impact (Cartledge, 2016). Obviously, the direct democracy is one of the most common forms of the political society organization. It was present in the primitive societies of the tribal period. In the western political tradition, the emergence of the democracy idea is associated with the city-states of ancient Greece (Raaflaub, Ober, & Wallace, 2007). Initially, the Greek thinkers defined the concept of democracy. The classification of countries, proposed by Aristotle, expressed the rule of the people, unlike the aristocracy and the monarchy. Furthermore, Greece was engaged in the struggles between democratic and oligarchic states, the most pronounced representatives of which were Athens and Sparta. Therefore, the foundations of Greek thinkers underlined the main concept of democracy to stop the conflicts.
Ancient Greek democracy differs significantly from the modern one (Raaflaub et al., 2007). The ancient democracy was a system of direct government in which all the free citizens were legislators. Besides, the state had no system of representation. Thus, in the ancient democratic city-states, each citizen was entitled to participate in the process of making decisions concerning his life and work (Kaplan, 2015). Throughout their lives, a significant number of citizens held one of the many posts in the city-state. There was no separation between the legislative and executive authorities, and both branches consisted of the active citizens (Kaplan, 2015). A firm action of citizens who were keenly interested in all sides and aspects of the management process characterized the political life during the ancient Greek civilization (Raaflaub et al., 2007). Modern thinkers regard a direct democracy as an ideal form of government. Another important difference between ancient and modern democracy is equality. Antique democracy was not only compatible with slavery but also tolerant towards it as it allowed free citizens to devote themselves to resolving social problems (Kaplan, 2015). Modern democracy does not recognize the differences in the political sphere and privileges based on social origin, class, and race. Even though the antique democracy is different from the modern example, its legislation system contributed to the emergence of democracy.
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Since antiquity, democracy has undergone considerable changes. Thus, every historic period had a strong influence on its development. In the Middle Ages, people were interested in the principles of the most advanced forms of government (Raaflaub et al., 2007). According to them, a perfect form of rule was the government that served the common good and gave the consent from all members of the community. Besides, the majority guarded social cohesion and did not consider the monarchy the best form suitable for unity (Raaflaub et al., 2007). However, in modern times, the freedom mainly depends on the sole power of monarchs instead of the feudal charters and liberties. Therefore, the political transformation in the Middle Ages had contributed enormously to the gradual emergence of democracy.
In addition, the Enlightenment, American and French revolutions encouraged intellectual and social development. They boosted the ideas of civil rights and political equality. For example, the Enlightenment generated new ideological trends (Dunn, 2005). Among them were humanism, an idea of equality, and the concept of free competition among people. Thus, this period shaped the modern phenomenon of democracy. Strengthening national states shifted the focus of political liberalization and democratization within the city-state scale to the whole country. The first step from theoretical to practical democracy was in North America (Dunn, 2005). People were eager to proclaim the independence from colonial rule to self-government in the name of the natural and inalienable right of the people. The revolutionary change accompanied the growth of American identity as a nation and became the basis for the emergence of modern democracy. Moreover, in the summer of 1789, the French National Assembly announced a human and civil rights which promised political freedom and social equality (Dunn, 2005). According to the Declaration, the source of sovereign power is the nation. Therefore, the Western Progressive States made contributed to the modern phenomenon of democracy.
The human rights system in ancient Greece was fundamental for the development and consolidation of democracy. In fact, European history had experienced many stages of development. Thus, the great Western civilizations had as an essential part in the development and improvement of democracy. People's government in Rome and Greece, the right to vote in the cities of the Middle Ages, the ideas of the Enlightenment Age, the Declaration of Independence, and human and civil rights in France were the main reasons for the development of democracy. Therefore, democracy is a value of the Western civilizations.