Introduction to Democratic Ideas and Principles

Our species has been working at Democracy for a very long time. For the better part of 3 millennia there are written records of this and I surmise that the true history goes back to some much earlier time when tyranny was first seen as something to resist. And, the story continues -we continue to work at this most fundamental of notions regarding power relations within and between groups. The struggle to define, implement, and defend Democracy and it's source of power and sustenance - citizenship - will likely be an ongoing process - we must be in it for the long haul.  I submit that this means becoming educated about Democratic ideas and principles as a source of meaning, perspective and a guide to action.

As noted in the “About” section of Nurture Democracy, a key goal of this site is to provide information on core ideas, principles, and theories of Democracy.  I hope to make this information accessible and relevant through providing summaries and commentary on selected works that have contributed to the meaning and development of Democracy.  I have selected works/writers that begin with the “Ancients” starting 2500 years ago or so (principally Greeks and Romans) and continuing through the Middle Ages to the 17th through 20th centuries (and maybe a touch of the 21st).  I do not intend to make this an exhaustive summary but ideally reasonably thorough. 

Throughout the summaries, I will name and provide links to referenced texts and commentaries, to allow for further exploration.  For your convenience, these links will be to Amazon, although I certainly encourage visiting your local independent bookstore and/or library.  Also, I invite not only reaction and commentary to what I offer, but thoughts and texts that I do not mention.

As a starting point, here are some thoughts/quotes to provide context about why democracy matters:

“No government is more easily susceptible to disintegration into anarchy then is democracy, and in no government does the choice between order and anarchy depend so largely upon the thoughts, actions, and decisions of individuals. If democracy fails, if it does disintegrate to anarchy, the fault lies clearly with the people themselves. This is their government; this is their opportunity and their responsibility.” (John Hallowell, The Moral Foundation of Democracy, 1953 - p. 48-49)

“Democracy rests upon a faith in man as a rational, moral, and spiritual creature, and it is as much aspiration as it is fact. The ideals of democracy never have been and never will be achieved with perfection - they are goals constantly to be striven for but never perfectly realized.” (Hallowell, p. 128)

To paraphrase Reinhold Niebuhr (The children of light and the children of darkness, 1944) our capacity for justice makes democracy possible and our inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.