„Democrația ca formă de viață" - conferință susținută de președintele Institutului Cultural Român la Londra cu ocazia Zilei Naționale a României

Preşedintele Institutului Cultural Român, domnul Andrei Marga, se va afla în vizită la Londra şi Cardiff în perioada 30 noiembrie – 4 decembrie 2012, cu prilejul unei serii de evenimente dedicate Zilei Naţionale a României şi al unor întâlniri cu oficialităţi şi personalităţi britanice.
Astfel, pe 30 noiembrie 2012, domnul Andrei Marga va participa la recepţia de Ziua Naţională oferită de Ambasada României la Londra.
Sâmbătă, 1 decembrie 2012, preşedintele ICR va lansa colecţia de carte românească de la Biblioteca Centrală din Cardiff, un fond de 300 de volume constituit printr-o donaţie a Institutului Cultural Român, la iniţiativa Asociaţiei Române din Ţara Galilor. La ceremonie vor fi prezenţi ES Dr Ion Jinga, Ambasadorul României în Marea Britanie, Dr Dorian Branea, Director ICR Londra, demnitari locali, diplomaţi, personalităţi culturale şi reprezentanţi ai comunităţii româneşti. Lansarea va fi însoţită de expoziţia cu titlul „The Shapes of Light”, realizată de ICR Londra şi cuprinzând lucrări ale celor mai cunoscuţi fotografi peisagişti români.
Intrarea este liberă. Rezervări:nrichards@gov.uk | 02920 780980.

Luni, 3 decembrie 2012, profesorul Andrei Marga va susţine conferinţa „Democraţia ca formă de viaţă” la sediul ICR Londra din 1 Belgrave Square, organizată în colaborare cu Institutul Cantemir de la Universitatea din Oxford. Aceasta este prima conferinţă publică în Marea Britanie a preşedintelui ICR de la numirea sa în funcţie în septembrie 2012. Evenimentul are loc în prezenţa ES dr. Ion Jinga, Ambasadorul României la Londra, cu alocuţiuni susținute de dr. Marius Turda, director al Institutului Cantemir şi dr. Dorian Branea, director ICR Londra.
Vă prezentăm mai jos textul integral al conferinței „Democraţia ca formă de viaţă”
Democracy as a Form of Life

In 1993, Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner published the book The Global Resurgence of Democracy, in which different authors shared, with unconcealed satisfaction, the diagnosis according to which “democracy’s third wave” takes place worldwide . It is well-known that, at the beginning of the ‘90s, in the euphoria of the expansion of free elections, a firm belief, concerning the “end of history” in the law of liberalizations that took place in economy and politics, emerged. During the fifteen years that passed since that day, the perception of democracy has been differentiated. After a few years, people talked about “the changing nature of democracy”, by supplementing the mechanism of free elections with a “culture of civic competence and of democratic capacity”. A new inventory has been made, an inventory of perspectives on democracy, from the point of view of “challenges” to which it has been exposed during the late modernity . In the Habermas-Ratzinger debate, the most important representative of the enlightenment noticed that the proceduralist democracy, no matter how developed it was, needed cultural resources that it could not produce by itself; the necessary resources came from elsewhere. The famous theologian argued in favour of a new osmosis of power, law and ethics . Closer to our time, in democracies, the replacement of visions guided by values with the brief ideology of relativism is generally blamed and a the return to a “common sense/direction sens commun” as reference point is suggested instead, and the theme of the “fragility of democracy” is raised again for discussion with an important remark: it is not the democracy that is brought forward, but the “liberal democracy”.
Very recently, a discussion about “l'épuisement de la démocratie” has began in Europe, under the multiple challenges (“celui, interne, d’avoir à gérer des sociétés de plus en plus ouvertes et donc porteuse d’un risque d’anomie de plus en plus fort ; et celui, externe, d’avoir à gérer la triple évolution contemporaine: économique, numérique, génétique”) from today’s society, the understanding of “exhaustion (épuisement)” being the dissolution of normativity from the conceiving of democracy. In relation to the “classic normative scheme” of law, defended by Kelsen (on the first level the juridical organisation that is the Constitution, on the second level the laws as general regulations, and on the third level the singular decisions), a “profound mutation of the normative chain (“une profonde mutation de la chaîne normative”)” is produced. The “mutation” has its quantitative indicator in the “legal inflation” (for instance, there is a request for legal regulations in bioethics, at the edge of science), in the “constant pollution of the constitutional norm through decisions”, in the multiplication of “private” laws, in the increase of the jurisprudential function from the “bottom” and the qualitative indication in the “passage from an upper general normativity – the parliamentary law as a place of the general will – to a lower particular normativity” . Once with the “interference (brouillage)” of the components of the state, subject to the law and the exercise of the political power, democracy loses its coherence and practically reaches a “normativity of facts reinforced by moral statistics (“la normativité des faits alimentée par la statistique morale”)”, as Arthur Rich formulated.
The diagnosis of “the global resurgence of democracy”, emphatically coloured, had its sufficient reasons. If we are to take into consideration the history of Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, one can talk about the incomparable advantages of democracy in economy, institutions, culture, which justify the confidence in democracy. Given this background, to admit the “challenges and the problems that democracy itself has to face is not at all a ceasing in relation to the critique of democracy. In fact, John Dewey is always at a distance from Carl Schmitt in his conceiving of democracy.
On the other hand, the change on the scene of debates on democracy, that I have just signalled, also has its own sufficient reasons. My thesis is that this change accompanies the liberal democracy, proceduralist in its essence, and requests democracies themselves the transition from the democracy understood as a technique of periodical choice of leaders to the democracy as form of life. I would like to defend this thesis through a brief evaluation, based on the case of my country, Romania, of the understanding of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe (1) and a summary of the diagnoses recently given to contemporary European societies (2), so that, further on, to look upon the latest power centralisations in democratic societies (3) and upon the current “provocations” of “democracy (4), to describe the “distortion” of liberalism and to consider the need for a new understanding of democracy (5), in order to update the formula of the “democracy as form of life” (6), and in the final part, to explore the current need for leaders (7) and to indicate the importance of visions upon society, individuals and human life (8). I will not raise again for discussion here the factual analyses that I have made in previously published works , but I will focus on the difficulties and aspects of conceptualisation of democracy, in order to configure the democracy as a form of life.

Since the French Revolution, it has been thought that democracy is not only a solution, but also a pretentious institution that brings only troubles. We have observed that, in fact, democracy is not possible without democrats. The vision willing to see both the advantages and the claims of democracy is, however, different from the vision that sees democracy especially from the point of view of what is has not carried out. We have known, however, for a long time, that democracy depends on culture and, directly, on the way that those involved understand democracy.
I have called forth this delineation because, for instance , the elections that took place in Romania in 2003 justify the question: how is democracy understood? The answer, suggested by many indicators, is that we are dealing with a rather brief understanding of modern democracy. Here are some indicators.
A democracy worth its name implies a debate on themes of public interest, starting from identified needs. As to the local elections 2008 in Romania, three observations can easily be made. The first is that there has not been, in the written press or in the audio-visual one, an actual debate. There have been formal presentations of objectives, by each candidate in particular, but there was not an actual debate (which claims arguments and counterarguments, the examination of the consequences of the options, projects of turning opportunities to good account etc.). The second observation is that the existing parties have prepared neither a coherent approach of the existing situations nor a conception on the local or regional development. In fact, the electoral proclamations have appealed to either extremely general reasons (“European village”, “European town”, “we do what we are supposed to do”, etc.) or to punctual objectives (“improvement of the local transportation”, “attraction of foreign investors”, etc.), but there was a lack of what is literally called “projects”. The third observation is that the essential public debate has been replaced with commercial advertisements for the candidates. The sterile agitation, thoughtlessly considered as being “electoral”, has outclassed the thematisations that would have been needed. Romania’s great problems at the local and the regional level, such as the modern organisation of transportation, the effective regional development, the attempt to draw small towns out of isolation, the increase of the qualification level in every profession, another health system, the increase of the production and exportation capacity of the town etc. have not been in the European Union’s charge or they have been only in its charge.
Democracy is not possible without parties configured through their staff conceiving, and capacity to elaborate projects. Are the parties from Romania profiled as such? In many regions of the world, idea that there is no longer a need for conceiving (which is illegally mistaken with “ideology”, as the wish lists are currently mistaken with projects) is prematurely disseminated. The people of good morality and professional quality avoid joining parties, the leaders of which, on the one hand, do not hesitate to use again the practice of appointing persons with poor experience in public functions, in order not to compete for the highest positions.
Functional democracy is not possible without civil participation. Even though the voting in the local elections in Romania can be compared to that of other European countries, one should not ignore the fact that this participation is far too unique for a young democracy. The apathy has too soon intervened here. Participation is not an aim itself, but, we must say, there is a need to overcome the confusion between “legality” and “legitimacy”. We should reach a level where to distinctly set the problem of legitimacy. Under no circumstances the legitimacy needed is achieved when the participation to voting is the one in the local elections or when leaders (such as the Presidents of Local Councils) are chosen with just one vote in advance of their competitors. The recent local elections already ask the political body of our society to clarify the mechanisms of legitimacy.
Each party has proclaimed its victory, in spite of the arithmetic of the results. There is no place where one can eliminate the subjectivism of the party visions, but democracy needs not only the competition of those visions, but also honesty. In fact, the result of the local elections has not given a single univocal winner, as the electoral body has distributed the power to several political parties. The certain winner is the political pluralism and this winner has to be welcomed, as in the case of Romania the superpower of a party, whichever it may be, would rather be prejudicial. A competent and efficient governmental administration is not conditioned, however, by the bold or hidden mono-favouritism. However, the quality of the staff is decisive – at least in Romania’s current situation. Its improvement remains a great problem on the political agenda of Romania.

The modern societies in which we live evolve under the impact of certain historical forces of unusual magnitude: technologies, globalization, or communication means. In what kind of modern societies are we nowadays? Which are the characteristics that democracy depends on, and that the democrats should take into consideration? We see that, as today’s living generations, we are in a modern society, which has adequately been described, on the one side of the evolution, by Max Weber, and on the other side, closer to us, by Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialektik der Aufklärung (1946).
Clearer and more profound than any other of the researchers of the modern society, Max Weber has noticed the matchless force of actions oriented towards profit, based on the calculus of the means and supported by the implementation of modern sciences; he has also anticipated the triumph of the “instrumental and strategic rationality”. The unparalleled economic development and the wide social reorganisations in the last century are the convincing evidence. More sensitive than many others to problems of liberties, Max Weber has blown the alarm . In Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie (1920), he claimed that the future of individual liberties, on which democracy depends, is more complicated and more prosaic than it has been thought in the liberalism of the previous centuries. For, by virtue of associating the economic marketisation with the rationalisation of activities, imposed by the competition, the institutional framework in which we move will no longer result from individual decisions, but it would rather be imposed somehow from outside and it will limit those decisions through bureaucratisation. We will enter – this is Max Weber’s diagnosis – a bureaucratised society similar to a “steel box of the obedience (ein stahlhartes Gehäuse der Hörigkeit)”. “Niemand weiß noch, wer künftig in jenem Gehäuse wohnen wird undo b am Ende dieser ungeheuren Entwicklung ganz neue Propheten oder eine mächtige Wiedergeburt alter Gedanken und Ideale stehen werden, oder aber – wenn keins von beiden – mechanisierte Versteinerung, mit einer Art von krampfhaftem Sich-wichtig-nehmen verbrämt” . Fearful that the individual liberties and rights will be affected, Max Weber concentrated liberalism on procedures and, in the end, encouraged a proceduralist democracy.
Meanwhile, we have reasons to say that Max Weber’s vision, diagnosis and recommendations have been confirmed. If we take into account the last years’ systematic efforts to characterise the current society, we have the confirmation evidence. The rapid development of computers and their usage in communications, as well as the wide use of the Internet have emphasised the contours of the “information society”. If we have in view the wide infrastructure, built in the meantime, in order to transmit information, then we may legitimately speak about the “society of communications”. However, in the meantime, Hegel’s intuition, according to which people live in communities that share concepts, has also been confirmed: if we call knowledge the production of concepts and if we take into consideration the fact that this knowledge has become the most important capital in today’s society, then we may say that we have entered the “knowledge society”. Is, on the other hand, the “society of communications” a “communication society” as well? Is the “knowledge society” also a “wisdom society”? These questions become pressing nowadays and the answers to them should not be conventional.
Horkheimer and Adorno have drawn attention upon the fact that we have entered the era of the “cultural industry”, which changes public communication from its foundations and which leaves behind serious questions: isn’t it that, starting with the expansion of mass media, we can no longer speak about serving the democracy, but about its instrumentalisation? Isn’t it that the aspiration of reproducing reality has been replaced with the struggle for its creation? We must say that we have entered a “media-related society”, which brings with itself at least three things: the autonomisation of the mass media in order to become a competitor on the wide-spread markets of the globalization era; the transformation of the media networks into power centres; the dependency of reality on media coverage. We may discuss whether the “media-related society” absorbs the late modernity or whether it is just one of its manifestations. I think that the second alternative is more realistic.
The “media-related society” is, however, simultaneous – at least this is what the most recent diagnoses tell us – with an “invisible society” – which is characterised by a famous Spanish thinker as being a society particularised by “complexity, contingency, non-transparency”, in which relativism dominates, and the future leaves people puzzled - with a “turbulence society” – dominated by the fluidity of structures, by the paralysis of the decisions, the emergence of new concentrations of power, by the weakening of the innovation energies - and with an “uncertain society”, where firm values are replaced by “deconstructions”, and truths by manipulations . Taken together, such diagnoses bring to our minds the perspective exploited in Dialektik der Aufklärung, written in 1947: the modern domination of nature through the means of science, by virtue of omissions from the modern project itself of nature domination, culminate with the reign of contingency, of the arbitrary and of powerlessness (Ohnmacht) .

Not long ago, in Bologna (Italy), I took part to a debate on the question: is it still possible to have autonomies in today’s societies? The question was asked in the case of the oldest European institution (after the Church) – the university. Is the proclaimed academic autonomy – which means, as we know, the right of academic communities to evaluation and professional self-organization – still effective? Or is it living merely as a result of the memory of the concept?
There are many reasons for asking this question again. For instance, the academic specializations are being selected by a more and more severe market, so that the autonomous decisions of universities should connect to the market requirements. The financed scientific research takes into consideration such requirements, rather than their own. Academic rankings create prestige to some universities and put others under pressure, determining them to conform to certain programs, which are rather technocratic. A university that does not become entrepreneurial – by making flexible its organisation and the procedures of autonomy – fails. The long-term policies are rare, and the administration of a university inevitably calculates everything in relation to the given situation, rather than to autonomy. And the examples could continue.
I think that we do not give a realistic answer to the question referring to the autonomy of institutions (the university is not the only one in this situation; the Church is in a quite similar situation) in current societies, without taking into consideration a real fact: it is not about societies in which there are power relations (the money, the administrative power, sometimes the solidarity and, diffusely, the individual self-projection are the media of our lives), for power relations exist at all times in societies: it is about societies which, based on power relations, have constituted power centres. Power is exercised at any time in society, and modern society has made only the delineation between homo oeconomicus and zoon politikon, between civil society and the state. Meanwhile, however, the sphere of zoon politikon and the public sphere of the state have been occupied by new forces. My thesis is that nowadays there are new power centres, the impact of which has begun to be felt: in the era of globalization one can speak of three types of power centres – economic, political and media-related.
In fact, there are concentrations of the economic power, not where there is a wealth concentration, but where the prices on the market and other conditions of the competition are established by certain companies, where the decisions of public authorities are conditioned by these companies. We have concentrations of political power where political parties are no longer exposants of the interests in society, but they form these interests themselves, where leaders are no longer a result of elections, but they organize the elections themselves, where parliaments are prisoners of the majority resulted after the elections. There are concentrations of media-related power where mass media do not restore the opinion and the interest diversity, but form the opinions themselves, where the inevitable dependence of the reality on the promotion through the media is used to ignore or to create “realities” through manipulation.
All these concentrations exist, as well as there exist, of course, entrepreneurs that fight with all their forces against monopolization, politicians who oppose themselves to the politicianism, and journalists who reject manipulation. Anyway, for universities – connected, at least in the European tradition, to the need for autonomy, as a necessary condition for performance – the following question arises. On the one hand, universities are functionally connected to a non-restrictive autonomy (universities have never been efficient when someone interfered in their decisions, and the Magna Charta Universitatum of 1988 and the Bologna Declaration of 1999 rightfully affirm that the autonomy is a condition of performance for universities!). On the other hand, universities inevitably operate within the environment of power concentrations. How will universities be able to promote the autonomy in the environment of the concentrations of economic, politic and media-related power from different monopolies, the actual subjects of social life? We do not have an answer to this question that might be considered detailed enough, but what we already know gives no results. Anyway, two paths are no longer practicable in the society of the late modernity: the proclamation of the political “abstinence”, under the antiquated form of the “intellectuals’ apoliticism”, which is neither realistic, nor true and it deceives the university as a public instance for critical examination; the blind leading to consequences in political contexts which deceive the mission of the university, i.e. to form specialists at the highest level ever attained in knowledge. In other words, nowadays, universities are challenged to find out, through their own reflections, their fertile line, in agreement with their mission and their multiple functions, between the apoliticism and the opportunism.

For instance, in the 90’s, we have lived the “third wave of democracy”. Nowadays, given the life situations that we have reached, we have to ask ourselves: doesn’t the current globalization affect democracies? Is democratisation invariant to the intensification of competitions on global markets? Do globalization and continental unifications leave the gravity of the decisional processes inside the countries untouched? Does the classic civil society still maintain a prominent role in relation with the state, under the conditions of the end of democratisation? In what way does the emergency of the decisions to act, under the conditions of high complexity, leave a place for democratic survey? How can there be ensured not only the legality of legal systems, but their legitimacy as well, under those circumstances? Isn’t it that democracy itself, through its tolerance, inevitably makes room to trends that are intolerant with rival opinions? Which is in fact the impact of mass-media expansion over democracy? Does mass-media bring new chances of public control over decision-makers or does it rather bring new manipulations of those who are led? Does democracy remain the automatic solution even under the conditions of expanding the mentality of cynicism, in post-totalitarian and post-conflict societies? Is it possible to institutionalise not only the free elections, but also the mechanisms of a continuous, democratic control, in the name of public interest, on those who make the decisions? Isn’t it that democracy should be invigorated from now on, by appealing to religious beliefs regarding the civil value of the human person? Can we convert democracy into a form of life and therefore prevent the reduction of democracy to a technique of obtaining power? Isn’t it that we imperceptibly operate with a Eurocentric representation of democracy?
These are only some of the questions to which the advocates of democracy must answer today. They are “challenged” now not only by the arguments of those who accuse the discrepancy between the democrats’ proclamations and practices (they have recently been brought together around the work of Carl Schmidt), but also by the dissolving relativism, hidden in the visions of groups that can neither create nor concur through creations, but claim everything (visibly tearing liberty from the responsibility for performance!), or hidden in the Judaism and in the infantilism that illegally pass for an emancipated intellectual approach (the “provincial post-modernism” from many countries is a good exemplification!) or just hidden in the views of those who use democracy in order to exclude others and to set up a monopoly of truth. Democracy is “caused” nowadays not only by traditional rivals, but also by its proceduralist or libertarian misrepresentations.
I will not evoke the different answers to such questions. I would like to go straight back to the beginning of the democracy’s reconstruction, under the pressure of the above-mentioned “challenges” and problems, that is The Changing Nature of Democracy (UNU Press, Tokyo, New York, Paris, 1998), edited by the distinguished Japanese philosopher Takashi Inoguchi, together with Eduard Newman and John Keane.
I go back to this beginning not only because it really is the beginning of reconsidering the situation of democracy, but more because of the lucidity of this reconsideration. The general premise of the approach in The Changing Nature of Democracy is that “democracy may be an obsolete idea, an atavistic instinct, and an outdated institution. Nevertheless, it seems to be the only feasible institutional arrangement to promote civil and political freedoms, social and economic rights, human dignity, and international harmony” . But nowadays democracy has to find solutions for numerous problems. “While more and more countries in the developing world are moving toward democratic governance, old democracies have increasingly revealed their own deficiencies. In particular, the substance and scope of democracy appear to be thinning. As democracy prospers, so it declines” . Given the situation, to continuously expand the citizens’ participation in the life of democratic institutions remains the major direction of action, even though it is more and more obvious that “democracy is not necessarily an efficient political system” . Moreover, some new processes intervene. “The development of international communications and made the political leaders more vulnerable in relation to the controversies of public opinion”. In effect, CNN-style live coverage of events has eroded the traditional propaganda and the chances of political leaders to manipulate and has activated grass-roots political movements. On the other hand, the rise of global market forces has weakened the central role of the domestic body politic. Public apathy and cynicism are the visible consequences of the process. They cannot be fought against otherwise than through procedures of attracting individuals into the democratic political life, remaining conscious however that “a distinction should also be made between the institutions and procedures of democracy – such as elections, freedom of speech, the rule of law – and the content or substance of democracy. In any situation the emphasis should be not just on the institutional criteria of democracy but on the results. Does it serve to fulfil the aspirations of citizenship and does it serve peace, respect for human rights, and development?” The development of “a culture of civic competence and democratic empowerment” is essential in order to legitimately speak about democracy. Therefore, there is coverage when we say that “the issue for modern societies is not the creation of a market, but the creation of an economic society” . Democracy always remains more complex than the mere marketisation, which, at its turn, is not without complications.

But it is not about the obsolescence of proceduralism that I want to speak about now, but about the misrepresentations of liberalism today. It remains emblematic the stupefying invocation of the mechanical majority in order to decide who is staying and who is eliminated from one party or another. I am not going to insist upon the disqualifying conceptual confusion between majority as a rule to decide objectives and majority as evaluation mechanism. However, this confusion leads to considering the majority vote as a criterion of truth! I remind you here – only in order to understand the distance of certain current practices from the real proceduralism – Thomas Jefferson’s offensive against the “elective despotism” (in Notes of Virginia) and that of John Stuart Mill against the “tyranny of the majority” (in On Liberty), which remain central for the democratic culture of liberalism. But current liberalism is misrepresented by the full of sufficiency neglect of this culture!
Current practices misrepresent liberalism with regards to at least three crucial aspects. I have in view, first of all, the a priori misrepresentation of liberalism. It consists in invoking doctrinaire options without taking into consideration practical situations. There are frequently pinched separate fragments from Hayek or Friedman, without observing that the genuine liberalism is not a libertarian approach, but a liberty unified with the economic, institutional and cultural construction of liberties.
Further on, I have in view the economic misrepresentation of liberalism. Here we also have to notice that liberalism is not only an economic solution and it does not refer to economy only. Liberalism is a complex conception on the human nature, economy, state, knowledge and culture. One cannot have individual liberties and democracy without cultural convictions and mentalities capable of supporting them, therefore without having a liberal culture, which does not appear at all as a mere effect of proclaiming liberty and democracy.
Finally, I have in view the proceduralist misrepresentation of liberalism. But the importance of procedures cannot be underestimated here. The procedural liberalism is the part continuously present in any liberalism worth its name. Except that, in the vision itself of liberalism, no institution, or the state, is merely the sum of individual wills. In other words, not only individuals have goals (scopes), but in its turn the state itself also has goals (scopes), such as equality, justice, welfare. Liberalism is not reduced to the tautological mechanical implementation of procedures; however, today it is on the other side of Rawls, Sandel or Galstone , who have strengthened its cultural engagement. The mature liberalism is not reduced to decisional procedures, but is also a conception about society and a program for changing the society. In other words, what distinguishes liberalism is not the absence of the societal goal (scope), but the fact that this goal (scope) is different: liberalism does not pass from the goal (scope) to constraining the citizens to accept it. It has been very well argued that liberalism is not reduced to pluribus, as it is pluribus unum, that liberalism is not only procedural, no matter what it is at stake under the mask of “neutrality”, but it is a movement energised by a goal, in which its advocates assume initiatives to project and implement changes.

What Max Weber presented as postulate – the irreconcilability between the “ethics of value” and the “ethics of liability”, between “values” and “consequences of adopting values” – has become, in the meantime, the content of a mentality in democratic societies. Not only politicians, but also citizens, who more or less occasionally take part to the decisional process, leave democracy to procedures, which exempt from most of the worries and tend to minimise the values. During the late modernity the secular society culminates in this prevalence of procedures, to the detriment of values.
Are there enough clues nowadays that this mentality would cease under a significant scale? Can we resume the question not only on the negative side, approached by Max Weber when he drew the conclusion about the irreconcilability between the “ethics of value” and the “ethics of liability”, but also about the positive side that John Dewey approached, in a prototypal manner as well. And today – or maybe today more than ever before – the reaction from The Ethics of Democracy (1896) to the reduction of democracy to a mere governance form, therefore to a technique of selecting leaders, remains not only classic, but conclusive and inspiring as well. The horizon of keeping democracy in its specific difference, as a “form of life”, continues to be valid and actual, in the conditions of late modernity. John Dewey was right to combat, without reserve, the “numerical and arithmetical conception” on democracy and to evoke the fact that the vote of a citizen is not just another number introduced into the ballot box, but something more than that: an aspiration regarding the society. “A man when he comes to vote does not put off from him, like a suit of old clothes, his character, his wealth, his social influence, his devotion the political interests, and become a naked unit. He carries with him in his voting all the influence that he should have, and if he deserves twice as much as another man, it is safe to say that he decides twice as many votes as that other man” . Therefore, the core of democracy is not the vote or the counting of votes, but the setting up of a majority as an emergent will from the social body, with a “social” scope such as the “public welfare”. “Democracy, in a word, is a social, that is to say, an ethical conception, and its governmental significance is based upon its ethical significance. Democracy is a form government only because it is a form of moral and spiritual association” . It is only the democracy that continuously nourishes from an ideal, from the society, and which does not let itself reduced to procedures, that makes the difference from other governance forms and impedes the degradation of democracy itself in the ancient forms of corrupting the power that democracy wanted to overcome. John Dewey himself asked the question of democracy as “form of life” that subordinates the procedures in order to connect “secularisation”, to spiritual values. “The idea of democracy, the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity, represent a society in which the distinction between the spiritual and the secular has ceased, and as in Greek theory, as in the Christian theory of the Kingdom of God, the church and the state, the divine and the human organization of society are one” .
Certainly, beyond the enthusiastic formulations of the young John Dewey, which went towards the re-identification of the profane with the sacred – formulations that obviously do not face the autonomy and the differentiation of values characteristic of late modernity – a question still remains: to what measure are the behaviours of democrats guided rather by moral values than limited by procedures? Max Weber has avoided an affirmative answer to such a question as he had in front of him mainly experiences related to the peace settlement after the First World War, to the activities of socialist radicals in Germany and to the attempts of rendering Europe Bolshevik. Such experiences were showing, the first ones that ethical reasons are subordinated to the aspirations for power, and the latter that the claim for politics in values leads to the exaltation of leaders and, in fact, to the destruction of democracy. However, nowadays we are confronted with the effects - not only positive - of the democratic proceduralism – the insurance of a functioning without dramatic breaches – but also with its incapacity to prevent corruption and to generate the motivations that are necessary for its own functioning. Many democracies nowadays clearly show, on both sides – the flourishing of corruption and the decrease of the democratic motivation – the consequences of reducing democracy to a technique of periodical election of leaders, partly manipulated, partly accidental. Meanwhile, due to eminently practical reasons, it the thematisation of the cultural resources of democracy and of its specific difference has become necessary. On the other side, the “religious turn” itself, from the last decades, represents the indicator of a relative decrease in the efficiency of the philosophical resources of democracy and of a reorganisation of the prospective cultural resources of democracy, around the perceived meaning of life, a theme that continuously is best covered by the Judeo-Christian tradition of the religion and its civil culture.
In Die Entstehung des Staates als Vorgang der Säkularisierung, Böckenförde has rebuilt, with precision, the genesis of modern states in Europe, between the 13th and the 18th centuries, not only as a “historical and constitutional” process, but also under the “spiritual and religious” aspect of the dispense from legitimizations by appealing to transcendence. He assumes the idea that the state based on individual liberties always needs a “bonding force (eine Bindungskraft)” . This bond has been ensured, since the beginning, by religion, but the advance of “secularisation” has changed the situation. Subsequently, the nation, energised by the “tradition of the Christian ethics”, has ensured the bond, under the form of the “national state”. Meanwhile, this erosion has been eroded, in its turn, under the pressure of the “individualism of human rights”. Especially after the Second World War, it has been resorted to the resettlement of the bond by adhering to “values”, but the subjectivism and positivism of their understanding always represent dangers . As a consequence, the following question is asked: which could be the “bonding forces”?
Böckenförde says that that the “bonding force” does not have to be looked for outside the “state based on individual liberties” and it is not going to be imposed through “coercions of legislation and authoritarian commandments”. The appeal to “ideologies of the state”, such as “reasserting the tradition of the Aristotelian state-town” or “proclaiming ‘systems of objective values’”, does not give results. The state may try to avoid the need for finding “bonding forces”, by stimulating “the eudemonic life expectations of citizens”, but this avoidance cannot last. Böckenförde’s solution is the following: “So ware denn noch einmal – mit Hegel – zu fragen, ob nicht auch der säkularisierte weltliche Staat letztlich aus jenen inneren Antrieben und Bindungskräften leben muß, die der religiöse Glaube seiner Bürger vermittelt” . Obviously (many other quotes confirm it as well), the distinguished jurist has brought into debate the “religious faith” as horizon of dispensing its questioning.

If we accept Aristotle’s argument that the presence of the “reasoning spirit” (nous) allows an organization to reach its goal (and it is impossible not to accept it today, when organizations that let themselves be dissolved in the chaotic movement of components are not competitive), then the distinction between bosses, managers and leaders is worth being employed. It is not a mere verbal distinction; on the contrary, this distinction allows us to shed light on the critical situations within institutions, companies, corporations, where there are bosses and infighting between those who aspire to become bosses, but where there are no managers, and where leaders have not yet arrived.
Today, in the research on organization, the leader is considered to be different from a boss. While the “boss” is at the top of an organization, and the actions of his/her staff depend on his/her decisions, his/her power depending on the position, the “leader” also has authority, but authority granted by the ability to understand the organization within a context, to guide it accordance to new directions, and to make these convincing for everyone else. The fact that the “manager” is something else has to be accepted. As compared to the boss, the “manager” has the advantage of having enough knowledge on the functioning of the organization and on competences, and as compared to the “leader”, the “manager” works in a given frame of strategic options. Only the “leader” can take the responsibility for changing major options.
Is there a need for leaders in organizations, companies, corporations? It is a fact that there are plenty of “bosses”, and that the fight for becoming a boss is a custom, as soon as there is an open possibility. “Managers” are fewer, because the creation of a real decisive manager involves strenuous effort to learn and acquire the necessary abilities. With “leaders”, an organization is not only efficient, but also long-lasting, not just existent, but also competitive, not only conspicuous, but relevant as well. Especially in the context of globalization, in which, as Robert Reich argues (The Work of Nations, 1990), the success on the markets depends not on the “high volume” of the product, but on its “high value”, therefore, the intelligence incorporated in the product, and in production implies qualified managers and valuable leaders (who do not lead only physically, but who are “leaders in ideas, in actions”).
The immediate question regards the leaders’ selection. “Bosses” are the result of one’s access to a position; but neither the “manager” nor the “leader” is created because they have leading positions. Actually, many “bosses” are lousy managers, and they will never get to be leaders. On the other hand, the passage from “boss” to “manager” or “leader” is not made through the simple effort of the person in question (“positions do not create leaders”); the wise saying “May God spare you of the ungifted hardworking person” is here a warning.
So how are leaders produced? Starting from recent research, we have to make three connected observations. The first refers to the fact that the leader is not self-proclaimed, but that he/she is acknowledged, and that leadership is not primarily ceremonial, but a position of hard work. The traditional work of Cartwright and Zander (Group Dynamics: Research and Theory, 1968) rightfully considered leadership as consisting of actions of “setting group goals, moving the group towards its goal, improving the quality of interactions among members, building cohesiveness of the group, and making resources available to the group”. The second observation is that the leader is made, not born. Miraculous endowments for leadership, a type of mysterious predestination, exist only for the naïve. The leader is the result of a learning process in at least three dimensions: knowledge that can be used from the technical point of view, interaction abilities, and self-reflexivity. The third observation is that nowadays we move in the environment of deep changes regarding the image of the leader. The leader “is made” through “continuous work and study”, and he/she does not rely on the success obtained (“Talent needs to be nurtured”). Both the traditional theory of the leader (“chieftain”, “prince” etc.), as a result of special “traits” (“the trait theory”), and the modern theory of the leader, as a product of exceptional circumstances (“the great events theory”), have lost their attractiveness when compared to the conception of the leader as a result of continuous learning (“the transformational theory”).
As those delineations and observations are well supported by the current research in the field of organization, the irrepressible question is: how about bosses, managers and leaders in everyday life? Nowadays, the show is that of a multitude of “bosses” resulted from the questionable mechanism of party lists, or their appointment, even more questionable, in public roles. Are “bosses” “managers” at the same time? A management of public interest is often in crisis. And if the simple appointment in a position can result in a “boss”, but not in a manager or a leader, if being a “leader” mean “continuous work and study” and skills of “leadership in ideas, in actions”, as today’s books tell us, then each of us can answer the question: how about “leaders”?

At the beginning of 2007, the famous publishing house Seuil of Paris edited, under the title Le futur de la démocratie, three writings (L’eta dei diritti, 1997; Il future della democrazia, 1995; Stato, governo, società, 1995) by Norberto Bobbio. Having a strong legal and philosophical experience (accomplished under Croce and Gramsci), Norberto Bobbio tried to make operational the concept of democracy – that is to capture it in simple distinctive options and in univocal phrases. The “minimal definition” of democracy, given in Le futur de la démocratie, is almost “operational”. Democracy means five clear things taken together: a “group of fundamental rules” regarding “decisional procedures”; a high number of members of the “group” to make the decision (without making “omnicracy” the effective ideal); assuming the “rule of the majority”; the existence of “real alternatives” for the decision; the “fundamental rights” of those members. However, this definition has to be taken together with the initial presuppositions of democracy: contractualism, utilitarian orientation and the delimitation between homo oeconomicus and zoon politikon .
Norberto Bobbio considers that three obstacles have intervened in the face to democracy in modern society: a) the passage from “family economy” to “market economy” increased the importance of “technicians” in decision taking; b) the continuous expansion of the “bureaucratic apparatus” created another decision than the “democratic” one ; c) the “democratic state” led to the “emancipation of the civil society” from the “political state”. As a result of the obstacles, at least six promises of democracy were not possible to be honoured: a) if, at its beginning, democracy still ensured the “centripetal movement” of the components of society, the “centrifugal” movement gradually dominates; b) the initial “political representation” has been replaced, more or less frankly, with the “imperative mandate”; c) the “oligarchic power” was reduced, but not removed; d) democracy was not able to occupy all relevant spaces of society; e) the removal of the “occult powers” could not have succeeded; f) the “education for democratic citizenship” has remained insufficient – as a proof we have the “political apathy” in democracies . Therefore, it does not result that democracy might be in danger. On the one hand, anyway, democracies have remained distinct from authoritarianism; on the other hand, external powers have not removed democracies . A fact, however, must be taken into consideration: democracies cannot survive without “active citizens”, and a “citizen” cannot be “active” unless he/she is nourished by ideals. We cannot have a democracy without ideals that transcend their own functioning (it is about tolerance, non-violence, gradual modernity and fraternity); therefore, democracy depends on cultural resources that it cannot produce itself, but takes them from the cultural environment.
Habermas has brought an important objection to the operationalisation of the proceduralist core of democracy undertook by Norberto Bobbio, from the perspective of the “deliberative politics”, capable of facing the inevitable “technicisation” of decisions: in The Future of Democracy, as Norberto Bobbio kept a strictly legal approach, he was not able to capture, in the definition of democracy, its orientation towards the “discourse” as a frameworks to solve problems . We may add the observation that John Dewey has been the one who has exemplarily understood it. But the objection is still related to a more advanced level of democracy than the one conceptualised by Norberto Bobbio.
No matter how many the causes of a situation might be, it definitely has remedies. Only that the remedies for the difficulties and problems of democracies today do not leave themselves reduced to a single action. So what should be done today? I believe that, at least in Central and Eastern Europe, we have to ceaselessly work on four directions, at the same time: the passage from news distribution to honest information and then to argumentative debate in public life; the passage from private and group interest, whichever they may be, to the circumscription of public interest and its promotion in administrative decisions; the constitutional reform that allows the passage from the “crushed democracy” and from the simple proceduralism nowadays to democracy as form of life; an education favourable to argumentations, public interest and democracy as form of life. Who can assume those directions? For any analytical view it is clear that, for instance, Romania needs a reorganisation of political forces to set its direction and, of course, new energies that come from its own society.

One who would try to build an opinion about our current intellectual life is faced with two facts: on the one hand, globalization, the spreading of communication, connect people from all around the world, from different cultures, and also internationalize solutions, and, on the other hand, when people take reference points of evaluation and behaviour, they relate, first of all, to their own culture. Thus, despite the pressure of creating a global identity, a lot of people come up with particular identities (ethnical, religious, of gender etc.). In Philosophy as Cultural Politics (2007), Richard Rorty expresses, in a very coherent philosophical manner, the individual’s contextual anchorage (to their own, particular, cultural standards), and the rejection of the universal reference points. Rorty makes our entire reality dependent on our own cultural arsenal. We have become, he says quite contentedly, “commonsensical finitists” , and the only thing we have left is to promote a “tolerant conversability” , without assuming any other intrinsic nature of the reality. Thus, contextual relativism is inevitable.
Even granting this intelligent philosophy the merit of expressing, better than any other one in the Modern Era, the possibility of the different conceptualization having a series of facts as its object, we cannot shun a deeper insight into the unacceptable consequences of relativism. The spokesmen of great trends, thinkers with different platforms, from Karl Popper to Habermas and to Joseph Ratzinger , have evoked them convincingly. Relativism is quickly converted into a dogma that contradicts its principle (“all is relative”), and stimulates the destruction of the unity of humankind, with all the implications that result from it. Relativism does not adequately take into consideration the human process of learning, which does not reduce itself to information, but which means the change of thinking frames or “boxes” . Relativism, by its own principle, does not take into consideration the natural telos of conversation, of speaking in general – that of obtaining the understanding between different rival points of view .
Today, Relativism may be overcome if it is faced not only with arguments brought against it, but also with alternative conceptions. We have at our disposal several proposals to date: such as to re-establish the motto “unity in diversity”, to weigh in a “view from nowhere”, to exploit the new continent of “communication”, to articulate a “fallible absolutism”, to consider the unavoidable consequences of Relativism . I believe that Relativism cannot be overcome without accepting two assumptions. The first represents the passage from the classical “universalism of norms”, which is challenged by the cultural diversification, to a “universalism of generative structures” – a universalism of those conditions that make a certain performance possible. The second assumption acknowledges the need to move from descriptions, poems, oral expression, dialogue, essay, journal, aphorism, epistle, to mathematic exposures to theories, knowledge systems and comprehensive visions . Nowadays we need not only knowledge, in its general meaning – which, of course, remains indispensable – but also visions capable of realizing what is actually the meaning of actions, of institutions, of life, of society, of the world and what is the meaning of the knowledge inside them.

Recently, a remarkable physicist reminded us that, due to several factors – the competition in research, the pressure from society to transfer scientific knowledge, the search for funds, the unstable work situation – the new generations engage in more factual research, finding solutions for problems on a short term, without committing themselves to far-reaching projects. We may add that this is the situation not only in the field of scientific research, but it is connected to a more comprehensive orientation of culture towards facts, immediate, customs, and to the predisposition towards what lies at the origin of the fact, of the immediate, of the custom, which implies a reduction of the appetite for theory, system, project. In the 80s, Habermas identified among the consequences of this orientation the apparent “exhaustion of the Utopian energies (Erschöpfung der utopischen Energien)” . The dominant direction in today’s culture is that of exploiting what is given, rather than asking what is possible. Moreover, a “negative futurism” is developed: “let’s leave things the way they are, because it may be not so good”.
Anyway, the physicist I have quoted, Paolo Blasi, after having analyzed the application, salutary of course, of the Bologna Declaration (1999), draws this conclusion: “the challenge of the European society today is to go beyond ‘the knowledge society’, and to evolve into what could be called a ‘wisdom society’. Knowledge is a conscious use of information; ‘wisdom’ means choosing one’s behaviour based on knowledge and shared values, in order to enhance the well-being of all, and the awareness that personal actions have social consequences” .
Indeed, this is an effective and pressing problem. Let us put in motion some wisdom capable of enlightening people about their own responsibility. I believe that Blasi, a refined physicist, is too optimistic when he speaks about the “restoration of some medieval values – the quest for truth, the unity of knowledge, the openness to the unknown and to other cultures”, as simple “restoration” has grown improbable for reasons of the new situation’s complexity. Still, Paolo Blasi is right when he considers that today’s universities have the responsibility of setting a larger and greater goal than producing and transmitting knowledge, in the projection of a “developed and peaceful world”.

Meanwhile, problems of the civilization we live in continue to grow worse, problems not related to “ideologies”, or the “divergence of great visions”, but that touch upon the very understanding of human life, and question not so much some specific orientation in life but life itself. In the first instance four such problems come to mind: first, the new clarification of what inevitably is “the cell of the society”, against the backdrop of the dissolution of the family, around which the culture we share has been built; second, the new explanation of “human nature”, in the context of the explanation that can prevent the foreseeable danger of enabling the human being to become the raw material for its technologies; third, the clarification of the mediating role of moral, civic, and aesthetic values in society, considering the continuous rise in the conversion of values to functions; finally, a new explanation of the meaning of human life, in circumstances in which, on the one hand, we cannot part with its uniqueness, and with meaning, as long as the human condition is a feature common to all of us; on the other hand, no substitute for the “redemption” of the Judeo-Christian tradition was found. Such problems are in no way ordinary, and they require the presence of cultural commitment and capacity to provide answers to such questions, in the new situation of humanity.


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