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What Democracy Meant to the Greeks de Walter Agard (1942) – 2

Começamos a publicar, na área de textos teóricos de Dagobah, o clássico de Walter Agard (1942), O que a democracia significou para os gregos, infelizmente sem tradução, até agora, para o português. O texto ainda está sem revisão (remanescem erros gráficos introduzidos pelo programa de reconhecimento de caracteres), o que faremos progressivamente com a ajuda dos leitores. Uma tradução colaborativa seria muito bem-vinda.

What Democracy Meant to the Greeks


O Prefácio e o Índice estão aqui:

Publicamos abaixo a Introdução.



At the foundation of the widely differing systems devised by democratic peoples, there is one essential conviction, expressed in the word democracy itself: that power should be in the hands of the people — political power (the concept has often been limited to that), economic power, social power.

This belief has always been challenged and bitterly fought by autocrats and those who consider themselves aristocrats because of superior birth, wealth, culture, or strength of will. According to them, most people are in capable of exercising such power; they lack the necessary intelligence, they are swayed by individual caprice and mass emotion. The self-chosen few have considered the “mob” as people inferior by nature, or even as sub-men, and have either pitied or frankly scorned them. This veredict, the autocrats and aristocrats say, is proved valid by the action of the people when they do exercise control. Democracies have been inefficient, unable or unwilling to make use of the experts who are so necessary, especially in any complicated political and economic system; they have wasted time in endless discussion when speedy decisions were urgently required; they have been stupid or apathetic, so that they have constantly been victimized by so-called public servants. In a word, the mass of men should, in their own interest, be governed by their intelligent and efficient betters.

In the face of this indictment what is the justification for the democratic faith? It is not enough to make merely a negative defense, to say that autocrats and aristocrats have also failed in intelligence, efficiency, and honest public service. Some more positive answer must be given.

Democracy has an answer to give. Admitting its faults and the need for correcting them, it nevertheless claims for itself a fundamental validity that no other kind of society shares; it asserts that creative activity flourishes best when ordinary men have a sense of freedom and responsibility, and extraordinary men work in free association with their fellows. History supports this claim. Our culture is the consequence of such co-operation among men who have recognized their dependence on one another; out of such association developed language, the arts and sciences, social institutions. Whenever there has failed to be a common interchange of ideas through freedom of speech, a common interchange of appreciations through artistic freedom, a common interchange of ideals through freedom of religion, the creative spirit has declined. Autocrats and arbitrary party groups have often controlled men by means of force; they have temporarily operated machines of peace or war with great efficiency; by pressure or patronage they have enlisted the services of able scientists and artists; but they have failed, in the long run, to stimulate human initiative or foster human happiness because they have denied the values which men honor most deeply and most deeply need for living and working.

What are those values? How can democracy give them the best environment in which to flourish? Let us examine specifically the axioms of a creative society and some of the ways in which they can be applied most suc-cessfully to human living.

1. Each individual has essential importance and worth as a person. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” if not the natural and absolute rights of every one, are at least good for every one; it is good to feel free to live and enjoy oneself in one’s own way, free to express oneself without restraint or fear, to worship as one chooses, to have a job that one enjoys doing and to participate in de-termining the conditions under which one works, to be free from the fear of arbitrary coercion and oppression. These personal values, which must be regarded as rights unless they are used for anti-social purposes, are superior to those of property or institutions; “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” It was a profound insight of democracy into human nature that guaranteed for each individual a sphere of liberty to be himself; how profound it was may not be realized by those who take such liberty for granted, but the testimony of refugees from countries in which freedom has been brutally suppressed reveals the tragedy of its loss.

But we must grant that these freedoms may be misused. When personal privilege conflicts with the welfare of the community, when men seek only to satisfy their own desires and become insensitive to the needs of their neighbors, regulation is required. Anarchy is suicidal. Yet it remains true that the primary tenet of democracy is faith in the right of each individual to build for himself the happiest and most complete life of which he is capable.

2. Human nature has qualities of intelligence and good will which can be relied upon. Democracy is optimistic about the ability of men to direct their development by the use of reason. This confidence has obviously been justified in our mastery of nature and in our scientific, technological and artistic skills. In the field of social relationships control has been slower and less certain, because the problems are so much more complicated. But here, too, experience has proved (as we shall see later) that people can be trusted to work out useful solutions when they have sufficient education and responsibility. Under decent conditions most men may also be counted on to act honestly and in good faith toward others. There is still enough of the wolf in us, however, so that any community must be on its guard against those who may prefer duplicity to fairdealing.

3. Opportunity is to be provided every person on the basis of his ability, and on that basis alone. Democracy recognizes no validity in the prejudices of class, race, or religion. It regards any standard except that of personal worth not only as unjust to those who are discriminated against, but also as socially harmful in rejecting the contribution which such people could make for the enrichment of all. It may be questioned at this point whether the recognition of individual differences is consistent with the democratic concept of equality, and of course it is not if by equality we mean that all men are born with the same capacity. But no one can reasonably claim that they are. The democratic concept of equality is this: that all men deserve equally to be respected as human beings and given a fair chance to express their ability. But far from disregarding inequalities of talent, democracy glories in them, and is hospitable to variety and differences, realizing how such diversity enriches and vitalizes the common life. It is the authoritarians who advocate the principle that all men (except themselves) have been created equal, on an extremely low level, thereby condemning them to regimentation and destroying their creative powers.

4. The welfare of the entire community is the aim of social organization. Collective interests must be protected against any individual or group which jeopardizes them, and every special-interest group must be appraised and treated in terms of its relation to the whole. Since autocrats and aristocrats have sometimes claimed that the welfare of the community is their aim, too, and that they are best fitted to bring it about, we must proceed to the means by which it may be realized.

5. The judgment of all the people, in the long run, is both sounder and safer with respect to the general welfare than that of any one person or group. In government, industry, and social relations alike, absolutism may at times be benevolent but it eventually tends to seek its own interest at the expense of the many, and dangerous social unrest is likely to follow. What Walter Lippmann has said regarding the control of industry applies equally well to other arbitrary rule: “Employers are not wise enough to govern their men with unlimited power, and not generous enough to be trusted with autocracy” (1).

In the short run, it must be granted, the judgment of the people has sometimes been uninformed and capricious. So democracies have usually come to discipline themselves with constitutional checks, which give their judgment time to mature before final action is taken, and to provide for representative government when the community is too large for direct action to seem expedient.

They have also realized the need of using the advice of experts in various fields, but rightly insist that policy-making in an inclusive field can never be delegated to specialists in separate fields; only representatives of the people, directly responsible to them, can wisely be trusted with that function. They have further learned from experience that they cannot afford to ride rough-shod over minorities; the resulting discontent and resentment may threaten the stability of the entire social structure.

6. Sound judgment is most likely to be arrived at by unhampered access to the facts and by general discussion of those facts. Access to correct and adequate information is the first requirement for the forming of any valid judgment. The contribution of many minds to the interpretation of such information is inevitably enriching, as every association of men —scientific, artistic, practical — has demonstrated. Civil liberties are thus to be regarded, not as static safeguards, but as dynamic functions. The unhampered expression of minority opinions is especially important; failure to heed them leads to dogmatism and social sterility.

There are two dangers implicit here: people may make discussion purely a game, a deterrent to action when action needs to be taken promptly, or they may become apathetic and abdicate their responsibility.

In times of crisis, freedom of expression may have to be curtailed if the commonwealth itself is to survive. How extreme must the crisis be to limit a function so individually satisfying and socially useful? A majority decision of the United States Supreme Court some years ago set up the “bad-tendency” test: if any utterance has the tendency to result in criminal action it is illegal. A minority opinion by Justices Holmes and Brandeis dissented on the ground that intention to bring about a criminal act, with a clear and present chance of its success, must be proved. It would seem that neither opinion gave sufficient weight to the social importance of free speech. As Donald Meiklejohn has said, in order to get a common judgment of value we must refuse no contribution which may be offered; we cannot afford to weaken “the resourcefulness that depends on variety – and the toughness that issues from resolution of differences”; to suppress even “dangerous” ideas would force underground some points of view that may be worth hearing. In other words, free speech serves a positive purpose in forming sound community judgments, and should be suppressed only in time of extreme crisis. Even then, it may be argued, advocates of any point of view should be tolerated as long as they are willing to present their case candidly for open discussion and to abide by the decisions reached by democratic procedure. And certainly the only agent competent to limit freedom of speech is the government itself.

7. Once these facts are presented and discussed, decisions for action are most wisely made by deliberative vote of the majority. The characteristic method of democracy — the sifting of various opinions, the give and take of argument, the friendly adjustment of differences – requires patience and tolerance, but it gives the best promise of arriving at acceptable decisions. The alternatives are intrigue and violence, both of which are socially destructive. These tactics of the authoritarians have been sometimes used avowedly to accomplish democratic ends; but democracy recognizes no divorce of ends and means: the end is revealed by the means, and the means which are used determine the end. Democracy is true to itself only when it follows the method of reaching decisions by free discussion and deliberation, and then abides by the will of the majority. It will resort to force only as a temporary necessity against enemies of the democratic process who use violence or intrigue in an effort to destroy it.

8. A community is most productive when all its abilities are utilized. No party, class or faction has a monopoly of talent; we have reason to believe that ordinary people have reserves of skill and competence which have rarely been tapped. It is the first duty of a democracy to devise means for discovering where these talents lie, then educating them and providing for their functioning freely and eagerly.

Rigid schemes of standardization must be avoided. In our economic structure, for instance, it may well be that no single system is adequate to liberate these abilities; that private enterprise, producer and consumer co-operatives, industry partly controlled by labor, and government business may work side by side, each stimulating the others to greater public service and releasing the full productive capacities of their workers.

There is a danger here of jealousy being directed against the abler men, a tendency to check legitimate ambition, a popular distrust of the expert. Men must be educated to maintain a respect for every skill and encourage its working for the common good.

9. Community health, happiness, and progress are achieved by the co-operation of the many, not of the few alone. Men work most effectively and live most zestfully when they engage, not in ruthless competition, but in friendly collaboration, not under the domination of an autocrat, but in the happiness of developing initiative and realizing the value of what they are doing.

Dr. Walter B. Cannon, in his 1940 presidential address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, drew an interesting physiological analogy. He declared that in a healthy body myriads of differentiated cells are organized into functional organs, all co-operating in a dynamic democracy; that any form of dictatorship by an individual organ, even the brain, will lead to degeneration or death. Tyranny in the body is best illustrated by a tumor, which has its own way for a time but eventually destroys the organism on which it lives. So in a healthy society, all individuals and groups co-operate so as to enable each part to contribute to the welfare of the whole; no individual or group must be allowed to assume domination over others, for if it does the entire social organism will suffer.

It must be granted that democracy is not yet as effective as it must become in solving the complicated social and economic problems that have arisen as a result of its own creative energy, and has been inefficient in directing social and economic machinery. How to do this better is a challenge to the ingenuity of free people. Yet a little immediate efficiency may well be sacrificed for the sake of preserving greater values. A dictator may produce impressive material results, but at the cost of degrading the human spirit. Industrial autocracy may produce more goods, but at a frightful expense in the health and happiness of men, women and children. It is still true, as Thomas Jefferson said, that “the care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

We cannot deny, however, that efficiency is important. Its best guarantee is expert leadership. There is every reason to believe, judging from the experience of previous cultures as well as our own, that when they are educated to the need of them democracies can select able leaders and make full use of the skill of trained specialists. And there is beyond question greater opportunity for leadership to reveal itself and be accepted in a free society than under the jealous eye of a dictator or an arbitrary ruling class.

But more than efficiency is required to create a distinguished culture. In the greatest periods of the past this has been the product of people who have developed the sense of sharing in a common enterprise, fusing their diversity of experience into a unity which has transcended party and class. Sometimes a unifying aim has been imposed by individuals or groups from above, who have persuaded or mastered the people by superior will power and clever manipulation. But experience has shown that this unity can also evolve from within, and only when it has done so has it had a substantial basis and liberated a lasting creative energy. For under such circumstances individual freedoms realize their most constructive social value. Freedom of speech means the responsible interchange of ideas and formulation of public policy; freedom of religion means earnest effort to create a better world; economic freedom means working for the improvement, not only of the conditions of labor, but also of means for producing and distributing more and better goods; the freedom from fear leads to social courage. When the members of a community possess this spirit of freely participating in a common cause, the fruits of which they will share, there true democracy functions.

This involves a constantly self-renewing creative effort. No period and no generation can simply inherit the results of previous labor and vision; a society must be dynamic or it will degenerate. Here is a true lesson of history which democracies will disregard at their peril. When people become satisfied, they grow soft; when they take their institutions and officials for granted, those institutions and officials tend to further their own separate interests; when freedom is no longer regarded as a precious thing to be devotedly used, it becomes the play thing of individual caprice until it runs the risk of being destroyed by its enemies. Eternal effort as well as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Universal education is the chief instrument whereby understanding of democratic institutions, loyalty to them, and the will to improve them are woven into the pattern of social life. In order to fulfill its function, education must itself be dynamic in character, not only transmitting the traditional values of our culture but also fearlessly re-examining and restating them in terms of changing conditions. And it must be democratic in its methods as well as its purposes, encouraging free discussion and differences of opinion, and determining its policies by the collaboration of students, teachers, administrators, and the public whom they serve. For unless there is democracy in education, how can there be education for democracy?

We must conclude that unless free people continually re-create their friendly and co-operative unity of spirit, their devotion to a progressive culture, their eagerness for public enterprise, their will to protect their institutions against aggression from within as well as from without, they will be (as they have been) the prey of other societies less generous but more determined, less free but fanatically united, less richly varied but more powerful in purpose. Here is a danger to which democracies have many times in the past succumbed, but one which need never frighten them so long as they have the will intelligently and bravely to keep mobilized and on the march all the human resources at their command.

10. Finally, in relations between communities, including international relations, the same principles apply. The soundest and happiest world organization will be based on a recognition of the essential importance and value of each constituent unit; the aim will be the welfare of the entire world; the combined judgment of all states will be superior to that of any one; this judgment is most likely to be reached by unhampered access to the facts and by general deliberation; the world will be most productive when all its capacities are utilized, and this will be achieved by the co-operation of all, united in the sense of sharing a common human enterprise.

On such a foundation can a Community of Nations be built? In this infinitely more complicated field the same difficulties and dangers arise as we have seen in the case of separate communities. But they have already been mastered on a smaller scale with promising results; and democracy has faith that they can eventually be overcome throughout the world, by using the combined human resources of intelligence, good will, and resolute determination.

Such are the values which democracy cherishes. How far they were actually realized in the society which first formulated them we shall now proceed to investigate.

1. Drift and Mastery (Mitchell Kennerley), p. 8z. z. Ethics, Vol. LI, 1-21.

Continua aqui.

Democracy Unschool é um ambiente de livre investigação-aprendizagem sobre democracia, composto por vários itinerários. O primeiro itinerário é um programa de introdução à democracia chamado SEM DOUTRINA. Para saber mais clique aqui

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