THE EMERGENCE OF MODERNITY AND CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS OF DEMOCRACY

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How was the process and what is the research methodology

1 – Related titles were read from the main texts (Machiavelli: Prince, Discourses – Andrew Heywood: Politics, Key Concepts in Politics – Jean Touchard: History of the Political Ideas – Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract), and necessary-relevant videos were watched on YouTube.

3 – After these reading-watching processes, the mental process related to the aforementioned subjects was completed.

4 – The writing phase of the article was started.

General framework of this study

This study includes the examination of some concepts, taking into account their basic background and important historical events. In this sense, this article has been prepared with the awareness of the need for a multidimensional analysis while dealing and analysing events in social sciences, and aimed to evaluate the issues in certain aspects without being tied to one situation.

For example, in the evaluation phase of the first issue, an evaluation was made in terms of scientific, economic, political, religious and cultural dimensions. Likewise, the evaluation of democracy, which is the second topic, has been handled with an approach that does not depend only on the past but also includes current issues.

Changing-transforming world and the emergence of modernity in terms of sociology, economy, politics, science

To make sense of modernity, various concepts need to be understood. The modern world includes some economic, social, religious, political, artistic, scientific and sociological changes, especially in the context of renaissance and reform in the west. While analysing any event in social sciences, its causes should be thoroughly investigated and it should be known that no event has occurred suddenly and for a single reason. In this context, let us consider the formation of modernity from various aspects.

There is a linear-cumulative understanding in science (in the perspective of modern view). This linear understanding argues that in science, an accumulation occurs in the process and this accumulation increases over time. This view, which includes positivism, actually forms the basis of modernity.

In the context of science, it is seen that the most important feature of modernity is to be based on precise knowledge. We gain experience as a result of experiments carried out in this understanding, and we can base this on a cause-effect relationship. In addition, it should be noted that the modern understanding is quantitative, that is, the world began to be perceived mathematically with modernity.

Before the modern period, there was an understanding of science that included qualitative-target explanations. Aristotle is the pioneer of this teleology, and according to his understanding, the reason why any object falls to the ground when leaving it is that it is in its natural place. However, with people such as Galileo, Newton and Copernicus, a new modern world perception has emerged in science. In other words, the qualitative one has been replaced by the quantitative one.

Modernity, as mentioned later, can be explained as the replacement of some old concepts by new ones. In this sense, qualitative will be replaced by quantitative, the church will be replaced by the idea of nation and popular sovereignty, and theology will be replaced by laws to a large extent.

With the change in the understanding of science, there will be a heliocentric modern understanding, not earth-centered. This change and transformation will cause institutions such as the church to lose their importance and the theological foundation of the state will be shaken. This will bring with it renaissance and reform. “The growing scientific knowledge led to emancipation from the suppressive superstition of the ‘dark’ Middle Ages.”[1]

In addition to a scientific view of modernity, it should be mentioned, also, economically and commercially. The use of ships providing rapid flow of goods in the west, the implementation of the banking system, and the emergence of a new economic logic named capitalism appear as the reflections of modernity in the economy. With modernity agrarian society lost its importance, and these developments required that trade routes be safe and secure: “These developments, also, required the establishment of central states to safeguard coordinated trade on a vast scale.”[2] Plus, the concept of profit in the economy began to be reconsidered with a modern perspective.

Lutheranism and Calvinism are forms of the reform movement, one of the building blocks to make sense of modernity. Although Calvinism is more politically influential, the main thesis of Lutheranism is that with the emergence of freedom and individuality, not a single church but many churches emerged. In other words, in Lutheranism and Calvinism (Protestan religion and morality) there is an opposition to the sole authority of the church at the point of interpreting the truth.

Political transformation is one of the concepts that change and transform with modernity. This is how the modern state and some institutions emerged. The previously existing metaphysical elements in the foundation of the state have now been replaced by the idea of nation, democracy, and institutions. In other words, the legitimacy of the state has changed in a way.

Political organization and authority have deeply changed. In this sense, the individual began to take the place of society. The understanding of society, community has evolved into the adoption of a system in which there is an individual. In politics, quality turned into quantity, theory turned into practice, and ethics turned into realpolitik. Machiavelli is the person to be addressed in this matter. Because, Machiavelli is not an “idealist” chasing the ideal state, but a “realist” interested in the existing. At this point it is important to say with the modernity, in politics, we started to think about “is” not about the “ought to be”. This is clearly stated in the 15th passage of the Prince book: “Real life and dreamed life are so far apart that the person who leaves “what is” and follows “what ought to be” loses what he has.”[3]

According to Machiavelli, morality is not a phenomenon that should exist in the political arena. In his thought, the state has situations that are conceptualized as “Hikmet-i Hükümet” or “İdari Maslahat” in Turkish. These situations, in which the state is in, foresee that the state be given the license to commit all kinds of immorality when necessary. At this point, it would be appropriate to include a quote from Machiavelli’s book The Prince: “The person who tries to cheat will always find someone ready to be cheated on.”[4]

Conceptual analysis of Democracy

In this section, firstly, a brief definition of democracy and its types (direct-indirect) will be examined. Afterwards, John Stuart Mill’s and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s approaches to democracy will be evaluated and some phenomenon put forward by these thinkers in this context will be discussed. Current issues and some problems related to democracy will be presented in the last section.

Although democracy is defined in many ways, I think the most comprehensive and efficient is the definition made by Abraham Lincoln: “Government of the people for the people and by the people.” Despite the exclusion of some sections of the population from the administration in the ancient Greek city-states, the basic thesis of democracy is explained in the context of the principle of political equality. This situation in ancient Greece appears as the restriction of the right to vote for certain segments until recently in some European countries.

The two most important types of democracy are direct and representative democracy. “Direct democracy is based on the direct, unmediated and continuous participation of citizens in the tasks of government.”[5] In this sense, there is no difference between the state and civil society. “Representative democracy, on the other hand, is a limited and indirect form of democracy.”[6] Voting in elections held every few years is the basis of this limitation. The fact that the trust and bond between the governed and the representatives are effective and strong or ineffective and weak reveals the level of democracy.

Now let’s examine John Stuart Mill and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s views on democracy and some concepts arising from these views. According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, there is only one form of democracy and that is direct democracy. In this sense, one should realize that it is not possible to be free in this social life. Add, since there is no return to the “natural state“, our main question is how freedom can be supply in these conditions.

Rousseau thinks that this is possible with rule and law. This is possible with direct democracy. Yes, we have contributed to the making of laws, but still there is a majority situation here. It is here that the issue of minorities comes to the fore, and Rousseau coined the concept of “General Will” to theoretically establish their freedom.

General Will, on the other hand, takes place in the literature as follows: “Rousseau distinguished the general will from the particular and often contradictory wills of individuals and groups. In Du Contrat social (1762; The Social Contract), Rousseau argued that freedom and authority are not contradictory, since legitimate laws are founded on the general will of the citizens. In obeying the law, the individual citizen is thus only obeying himself as a member of the political community.”[7]

In John Stuart Mill’s understanding of democracy, there is the idea of dictatorship of the majority. This is called, also, the tyranny of the majority. Democracies are established by majority vote, and the greatest danger at this point is the formation of a dictatorship of the majority. In order to prevent this, it is necessary to develop a law that is based on minority rights and can establish freedom.

The current evaluation of the understanding of democracy is important in terms of rethinking the applicability of direct democracy with the development of technological opportunities. Although various referendums are held in countries, it is a question mark whether such a voting platform can be established for each decision. In addition, although this can be realized in developed countries, how will it be implemented in regions where there is no infrastructure?

When you think of democracy, voting comes to mind. Another area of discussion here is about who will vote. Is the right to vote a birthright or in what ways should it be limited? The last criticism I would like to make about democracy is that democracy leads to a situation that includes daily political ambitions and is highly suitable for polarization and ideological domination. This situation evolves from democracy to demagoguery over time. In the final analysis, it is observed that democracy cannot escape from the deadlock of polemics rather than situations that will increase the living standards and quality of citizens, especially in regions like Turkey.

References

[1] C.W. Maris, F.C.L.M. Jacobs, Law, Order and Freedom: A Historical Introduction to Legal Philosophy, 2012, Volume 94, p. 93

[2] C.W. Maris, F.C.L.M. Jacobs, Law, Order and Freedom: A Historical Introduction to Legal Philosophy, 2012, Volume 94, p. 93

[3] Niccolo Machiavelli, Prince, 2015, İstanbul, Volume 10, p.59

[4] Niccolo Machiavelli, Prince, 2015, İstanbul, Volume 10, p.67

[5] Andrew Heywood, Key Concepts in Politics, 2018, Volume 4, p.74

[6] Andrew Heywood, Key Concepts in Politics, 2018, Volume 4, p.75

[7] Munro, A. (2020, May 22). general willEncyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/general-will

Books

Niccolo Machiavelli, Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses

Andrew Heywood, Politics

Andrew Heywood, Key Concepts in Politics

C.W. Maris, F.C.L.M. Jacobs, Law, Order and Freedom

Jean Touchard: History of the Political Ideas

Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract

Internet Sources

Encyclopedia Britannica

Peter Emerson What is Democracy – TEDxVienna

Enes Bera Koşar

About Author

Istanbul Medeniyet Univ. Political Sciences Balkan Studies eneskosar00[at]gmail.com

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