What are the problems with the principles of democracy? Outline different schools criticisms in this respect.
According to the critics, democracy does not provide society the security, economic development, welfare and the other goods it really needs. For instance, some critics say that modern liberal democracy is not a real democracy as power is actually exercised not by the people, but by an oligarchy or a bureaucratic elite, and they compare this system unfavorably with the direct democracy of Athens and other Greek city states in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.
Where the body of citizens actually participated, on an equal footing, in making decisions on public issues. In the case of Athens, critics feared democracy as potential monocracy, while the 19th century John Stuart Mill expressed his fear of the tyranny of the majority, which he equated with ignorance and a lack of education.
For Mill, democracy would mean the dominance of mediocre public opinion, elbowing out dissent and creative ideas. He stood in the defence of liberty and insisted on various welfare measures for the working classes. Karl Marx viewed bourgeois democracy as inherently flawed, on account of its class character.
However, he supported endorsed the battle for democracy as an important stepping stone in the journey of the proletariat towards revolutionary change. Moreover, the elite theorists of the late Democratic Politics 19th and early 20th centuries, Vilfredo Pareto and Gaetano Mosca, were among the most ardent critics of democracy. Their ideas struck a sympathetic chord in Mussolini’s fascist politics.
Mosca, believed that all talk of democracy was ideological hogwash, because in reality society had always been divided between elites and the mass of the people throughout history.
The elite were a minority of the population which had taken the major decisions in society. Joseph Schumpeter took up this argument in the mid-twentieth century. He argued that the classical, 18th century definition of democracy was flawed. This was so because the people were ignorant, irrational and apathetic. This fact rendered the principle of popular sovereignty as meaningless.
According to Schumpeter, in democracy there must be recognition of the vital fact of leadership and the role of the people should be restricted to choosing their rulers through competitive elections, and thereafter, leaving them to govern.
Accordingly, the electorate will merely selecting representatives and would not have decision making. In this way, the normative force of the democratic ideal was undermined. At the same time, the equalizing thrust of democratic institutions appears to have persisted. That democracy would have an alarming impact in terms of revising social rankings and under cutting the power of hereditary elites has proved to be right. Moreover, democracy has a certain power of containment of social divisions.