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  • 1/24/2012

Elite-Oriented Democracy, an Obstacle to True Popular Participation


Participation of organized and powerful elites in democratic systems nowadays has created obstacles in the way of public participation in the political life of the society; to the extent that some of the contemporary theorists like Robert Dahl maintain that democracy is nothing more than competition and plurality of elites.  In his opinion, dictatorship is a system in which a minority rules and democracy is a system in which several minorities rule.

Robert Michels too has described the governments, including democratic systems, on the basis of the theory of iron oligarchy law, and argues that societies are condemned to accept "oligarchy". Because elites have control over political decisions, social and economical equality is at risk in contemporary democracies. Thus, democracy of elites has replaced the old concept of democracy of majority.  In a democracy of elites, ‘individual freedom’, ‘rule of majority’, and ‘equality’ of the classic democracy, have given their place to democracy as a method for the formation of political leadership. Contemporary pluralists believe that democracy is practically nothing more than the activities and competition of several elites. In their viewpoint, the ideas of radical democrats, such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, are just idealistic opinions, when they state: “The voice of people is the voice of God”‌ and “The minority is always wrong”‌.

According to modern democracy of elites, democracy is not the government of the majority and that of the masses, but at most it is a means to consult with the majority and protect the interests of the minority. Understanding of the people is not enough for solving complicated issues. Such a democracy comes to life only when the government is not in contact with the direct demands and requirements of the masses.

Therefore, theorization about democracy in the twentieth century has an “anti-majority”‌ tendency.

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi  


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