Study questions from democratic ideal for midterm political theory



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STUDY QUESTIONS FROM DEMOCRATIC IDEAL FOR MIDTERM

POLITICAL THEORY

Carver

Carver suggests that a basic theoretical tension, or perhaps an outright contradiction, confronts Marx's successors when they attempt to define Marxism as scientific and objective. Why is this a potential problem, given Marx's own definition of "ideology"?

Marx bases his definition of ideology on economic and social structures. In his research he continuously made it clear that ideology was a "veil" over society’s eyes when it came to a economic base. He also said that socially it was a type of "false consciousness". Instead of being scientific and objective, it gives off a sense of sociology and political economy.


As Carver notes, the history of the term “ideology” is deeply conflicted because the concept has had so many different definitions; nevertheless, he thinks it is a term we should not abandon, even if we can never arrive at a scientifically objective ideology. Why does Carver think it is important to understand the meaning of different political ideologies even if none of them can prove itself to be the “correct” one?

Carver states that ideology is supposed to be discussed and dissected for the purpose of gaining knowledge. He says that understanding ideology and its history of usage can help people gain new perspectives when contemplating today’s political and philosophical ideas and agendas.


Pericles

In an infamous aside, Pericles briefly discusses the place of women within Athenian democracy. What does he understand as women’s role within the polis?

The Athenian democracy viewed women as inferior and did not consider them as citizens. Women not being citizens were denied any rights and benefits of protection and equals under the law. Citizens were restricted in that they were not able to have freedom of speech, and if they did they were banished or punished. Women then, would have no voice or opinion in anything and were essentially in the same status as slaves.


In Periclesʼs view, what was so special about collective citizen participation and deliberation about the most important public matters, including war itself? Why does

Pericles believe that Atheniansʼ greater willingness to engage in courageous acts on

behalf of their city-state was related to their commitment to democracy?

The democracy that Pericles spoke about held many avant-garde ideals. He spoke about a government that was not exclusive; even those in poverty have a place and contribution to society. In this speech he calls upon every citizen to be involved in public affairs. He even goes as far as calling the uninvolved, “useless characters.” Pericles argument was that informed citizens can take greater actions. Therefore, discussion, prior to action, was pivotal to Athenian success. In the case for war, each citizen would understand the purpose of the fight rather than the enemies who were “courageous from ignorance.” This greatly contributed to Athens’s strength at war, according to Pericles. Democracy provided the society purpose and empowerment. In the “Funeral Oration,” Pericles holds the highest regard toward the soldiers who had recently fought and gave their lives in the Peloponnesian wars. The democratic ideal

that the soldiers upheld, instilled in them honor and heroism on the battle front, according to Pericles. In his speech, he explains that an Athenian citizen would not neglect his duty to the government because he cares for his own household. Each citizen influences the other, and there is an emphasis on collective, not individual, happiness within the democracy. When describing the soldier’s attitude on the front of battle, Pericles wrote that, “these men were [not] weakened by wealth or hesitated to forgo the pleasures of life . . . punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things.” Even while facing the Spartans, who had been trained since birth to

fight, they can hold their ground easily. Pericles attributes this to the unity that had under the banner of democracy.


How does Pericles understand the connection between democracy and empire?

In his famous speech “Funeral Oration,” Pericles praises the men that have died in the Peloponnesian War who had strengthened the Athenian empire while making a connection to the

Athenian democracy. He states that similar to how the war heroes recognized that it was their

duty to fight and protect the empire, Athenian citizens should never abandon their obligation to

take advantage of their democratic system. According to Pericles, democracy and empire are

connected because the people need to manage both with their “own hearts and hands” (17) and

appreciate the privileges they enjoy from the strong systems.
Theseus

Theseus argues that tyrants are especially brutal in punishing the youth in a political

society that they come to control. What reasons does he give for this?

Theseus explains that tyrants do not listen to the voice of the people. His city is ran by the people and argues that there is no balance with tyrants. He specifically acknowledges that tyrants would take away te people's sense of freedom in the city. This would make the youth doubtful and the whole system would collapse because the system wouldn't work. Tyrants would take the voice of the people and simply ignore it. The growth and progress created by and for the youth would be in vain.


Why does Theseus put so much emphasis on the rule of law in his response to the

Theban Messenger? Why is it so vitally important in a democracy?

Theseus emphasizes the importance of the rule of law to the Theban messenger because he wants to make a clear distinction between the way Thebes is ruled, where the Theban messenger resides, and how Athens governs its people. Theseus makes a clear distinction between the tyrannical government ruled by Creon and the democracy achieved in Athens. In order to stress his point, evidently emphasizing the importance of democracy, Theseus proclaims that as consequence to their system of government, the people of Athens all have a fair say, making all the rich, poor, powerful, and weak equal before the law enabling their voices to be heard without fear of repercussions as opposed to being silenced under the rule of a tyrannical oppressor.


Aristotle

In addition to the metaphor of many people becoming one, Aristotle also compares democratic deliberation and judgment to a “feast” (p.22). What does he mean by this comparison?

Aristotle makes this comparison because he states that although the judgment of the people is right or wrong it is better to work together to come to an agreement rather than just the judgment of the individual. He makes the comparison with a “feast” because he states that it is better to work together as a group on a feast for a better outcome rather than just one person working alone to make dinner for just one outcome. The judgment of multiple people will be a better outcome because they will come to an agreement on what benefits or is right for the community as a whole. As oppose to just one individuals judgment, which they will just look out for their own interest rather than the communities or the group as a whole.



Aristotle gives a number of reasons why middle-class rule is so profoundly important.

What are they?

In his own words, Aristotle believed that, in a democracy, there will always be poor and rich people. The rich will always try to stay rich, and likewise the poor will try to gain economic status through any means necessary. Aristotle believed in middle class rule because he thinks that they have the best grounds to rule people on; they are neither rich nor poor, they are simply in the middle of the economic status. While the rich and poor would govern in terms of money and taxes, the middle class would rule without the thought of money in their head, and would avoid thinking in the ways of the jealous poor and the aloof rich. Middle-class rule, in Aristotle’s mind, would work to maintain a constant flow of stability, unlike the rich and the poor.


On pp.22-23, Aristotle notes that some works of art are not best judged by those who create them, but by those who utilize them. How does he develop this point into a defense of democratic judgment?

Aristotle developed the “republic” idea where powers are distributed among the people, the wealthy (aristocrats), a single person. To make sure that no one goes on a power trip, there would be checks and balances to ensure that the people have more of a voice and keep it that way. To Aristotle, the many would be guided by the (wealthy) few.


Machiavelli

In his conclusion, what does Machiavelli claim is the chief difference between the excesses of the people and the excesses of the prince that make rule by the former preferable to rule by the latter?

Machiavelli’s Conclusion: People vs Prince

In his excerpt from The Discourses, Machiavelli competes the success of a country ruled by the people versus a country ruled by a prince. Although he states that both powers without law or restriction are sure to abuse authority he believes that even left to their own will the people are a lesser evil than a prince. He states that the people would have less excesses than a prince in power and that those excesses would be more easily resolved because they would be less important. Machiavelli explains that a prince with great power could do much more harm due to his own self-interests and could only be stopped with violence, whereas the people could be saved and brought back to “good conduct” if they once again came under the influence of a good leader. Machiavelli concludes that a rule by the people is more preferable because their mistakes would be more easily corrected but a prince with enormous influence could do irreversible damage.
Some scholars have argued that the link between The Prince and The Discourses lies precisely in the role played by prince when the republic becomes corrupt and requires the renewal of ties republican origins. Is there any evidence in this extract for that argument, which stresses the important role that one human being can play in history?

Machiavelli’s political advice in The Prince focuses on strategies that would benefit a

monarchical ruler in Medici and is designed to keep that ruler in power. His final objective in The Prince was in helping the monarchy maintain power; rather than to serve the wellbeing of the citizens. Machiavelli’s advice in The Prince is that a leader should be the sole authority who determines every aspect of the state and is justified in implementing policies that serve only his best interest. Whether or not this despot attitude functions or not under a monarchy, it is Machiavelli’s recommendation that in the end “it is better to be feared than to be loved”. Whether or not absolute power corrupts absolutely, it is Machiavelli’s view that the prince is justified in this exercise of political power, if in the end it is for the common good of the citizens. Since Machivelli’s advice discourages individualism and mass political activism, the prince’s method to preserve power over his citizens is by using violence carefully and strategically while respecting the persons, property and traditions of his subjects. By choosing to rule wisely rather than authoritatively, he can condescendingly deceive citizens and gain their trust. The Prince’s role as a leader and human being is to be directive, efficiently and to be authoritative when needed without being accused of being too controlling or autocratic.

In The Discourses, Machiavelli’s political theory is primarily focused on a republic and which fosters a spirit of citizenry if it is to survive. Although Machiavelli’s argues that there are six types of Republic’s, the best formula is a mixed democratic republic government, such as the one used in ancient Rome. Although the Roman form of government was not perfect, the pursuit of liberty by citizens could be attained easier through a republic than a monarchy. Machiavelli states that although the masses desire liberty, they are more concerned with protecting themselves against oppression and consider themselves “free” when they are not abused by the powerful. However, this powerful sense of individualism reinforces the theme that under a Republic you can accomplish anything, because a non-republican regime rests upon coercive domination and by violent means.


Adams

Adams puts a great deal of emphasis throughout the piece on the importance of annual elections within republics, arguing that there is no more “infallible maxim” in all of the sciences than the claim that ‘where annual elections end, there slavery begins’ (p. 31). Why does Adams think that annual elections are so important for republican self-rule?

John Adams believed that annual elections were vital because they kept the elected officials honest and representative of the peoples will. He said it taught them “humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey”(p. 33). Elected officials without the risk of losing their power each year would eventually attempt to consolidate that power and keep it. They would also pass laws that benefited them and their colleagues, rather than those they were elected to represent. A republic relies on its citizens to vote, ensuring that the people most of the power in the system.


At the end of the piece, Adams maintains that three additional types of laws are very important for maintaining republican self-rule. These are: a militia law, laws which make

provision for “the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people,” and

sumptuary laws” (p.34). What does Adams mean by these laws, and why does he think they are so important in a republic?

Militia laws are laws designed to keep and maintain a militia made of by the men of the

country. Sumptuary laws are laws of that govern taxes. Laws for the education of youth, are

made precisely that, laws to encourage education. Adams believes each of these laws to be important to a republic because what he believes the purpose of a republic is: an political system designed to lift people up. Each of these laws promote agency in the lives of the people. Militia laws encourage people to protect themselves and their property. Laws for education encourage the ability of the public to analyze information which leads to making better choices regarding their country’s future. And taxes are necessary because they “promote happiness” (34) raising funds for other programs that the country needs. Each of the suggestions Adams has emboldens the people to take care of themselves and control of their destinies.
Bill of Rights

The issue of the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” (Amendment 2) continues to be one of ongoing controversy in the United States. From a Republican perspective, why is the right to bear arms so crucial?

The right to bear arms is crucial for the Republican party for numerous different reasons. Since Republicans believe that the United States should be less government regulations and more of a free business, it is only natural that they believe every law abiding citizen should have the right to own firearms with very little government regulation. This includes no federal licensing of guns, and the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration. Some people also believe that the right to bear arms is important to Republicans because it will enable citizens to rebel against their own government if needed.


The Tenth Amendment has been regarded as one of the Anti-federalists great victories. How might we read it as helping assuage Patrick Henry's fear that the Constitution was insufficiently democratic? How might it be seen as setting the stage for the American Civil War?

Patrick Henry had fears that the central government would begin to pull in so much power that the states would not have enough freedom to rule themselves. The tenth amendment ensured that any powers not expressly granted to the federal government in the constitution would remain with the states, and the feared over-empowerment of the central government would not occur. This allowed the states greater freedom in ruling themselves, which is inherently more democratic. However, the Tenth amendment did not do a great job of defining what powers belonged to the federal government, and states challenged federal laws that they didn't like by ignoring them and claiming that those powers rested with the state. This came to a head over the issue of slavery, and then we had the civil war.


The First Amendment declares that Congress shall make no law depriving people of freedom of speech and assembly. These freedoms were long-standing keys to republican arguments. Given what republican theorists feared, why would these two features of the First Amendment, in particular, be so important?

In Ideals and Ideologies, it is stated, “The republican idea was that the forms of government must be mixed in such a way that some power is in the hands of the common people, some in the hands of the aristocratic few, and some in the hands of a single person” (12). The book also states that the populous would have a significant voice under a government that ruled in the common interest. Without the freedoms of speech and assembly, the voice of the people would be limited and can even be silenced, leading to the possibility that the decision making of the

government was not impacted by what the populous believes.

DeTocqueville

Conversely, what does Tocqueville laud about aristocracy? What does he think has been lost in the replacement of aristocracy by democracy?

Tocqueville who seemed to be a casual fan of democracy still had some reservations about it and felt that there is some benefits to having an aristocracy. For one he seemed to feel that the chain of social classes helped man be able to understand his purpose and duties when it came to the world. There was no social ladder to climb and everyone had their own duty to fulfill. They knew who was above or below them and who was responsible for dealing with the problems associated with their class rather than it being vague and spread out amongst the people. Also having a surmountable social ladder in democracy gave rise to the belief that any man can rise from rags to riches rather than the firm social standings of aristocracy. This in the case of democracy creates what he feels is unnecessary social and economic competition that could eventually lead to a chaotic rather than a cohesive government. Also Tocqueville was afraid that equality could potentially lead to tyranny through the pressure to conform from those of the popular opinion. This pressure, he feared, could eliminate the individual's will to act out for their own interests.


Mill

Underlying Mill’s argument is a clear commitment to “active” over “passive” sorts of human character (p. 49). What reasons does he give for preferring the former over the latter, especially since, as he points out, most moral philosophers prefer people to be precisely the opposite of what Mill is advocating?

The “general sympathies of mankind” prefer the passive, docile individual for his “acquiescent and submissive” nature. These characteristics provide an increased sense of security for those around such an individual – in essence, the passive type is not one to stir anything. Philosophers of morality prefer this passivity because it seemingly promotes stability and peace. Mill argues just the opposite, asserting that the active type – those who struggle against their complaints – are more valuable for the general progress of humanity. Mill claims that history was made not by those who compromised with the wrongs of their time, but rather by the unhappy few who decided to struggle and vanquish what they saw as evil. Moving civilization forward, Mill teaches, is impossible without the active few.


What does Mill believe will be the consequences for society of the failure to put in place means for citizens to participate in the process of democratic self-governance?

Mill believes the consequences for society of the failure to put in place means for citizens to participate in the process of democratic self-governance will be the loss of basic political liberties in the Bill of Rights. Failure to put in place means for citizens to participate in the process of democratic self-governance removes the voices of the citizens which in turn result in the failure to uphold the wants and needs of the government’s citizens and begin to control aspects more suitable to the wants and needs of those in political power.


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