Tocqueville formism and defiant individualism can based his insights in the observations of flourish while … the quest to create a more inclusive democratic society lan- "Jacksonian democracy", a term Miller guishes" Whitman who, paradox- himself uses in scare quotes. Howev- ically perhaps as Miller himself , saw er, Miller does not seem to be impressed the development of "perfect individu- with conclusions of the author, "regard- alism" as the telos of democracy , ed as an uncanny prophet" , over- "had exalted America's democracy as he prone to generalize.
It is not only Toc- had experienced it inwardly, as a kind of queville's misfires concerning the issues sublime pantheism, egalitarian in sub- of universal suffrage and its practices stance and cosmic in scope" Unlike Adorno, anoth- who were intoxicated by their first taste er American visitor much later, Miller did not find Tocqueville's "worries about 3 To be sure, Nietzsche was no democrat at all. To him, democracy is a sign of soci- etal decadence, a political form that is both itable — to market cultural artifacts that an introduction to anarchy and an equiva- strove to satisfy the otherwise frustrated lent to misarchism, hate of the many for the yearnings of ordinary Americans to be natural rule of the few that have the will to regarded as free and equal individuals, power Nietzsche b.
They seem Bakunin, the whole lot. Their secret to fit in Whitman's definition of "many societies and obsessive scheming wild brutes let loose" A Riddle of Politics and Faith, Anali 15 1 pated, and enlightened, equals. The first political group Not surprisingly, the negative minor expectedly did not fare to well by Miller's character here is Raoul Rigault, an out- standards, since they treated "the Jaco- spoken atheist and revolutionary, master bin constitution of as sacred scrip- of the manipulative art of rhetoric and ture" and "idolized Robespierre" Marx is two fine Burgundies and Chateaubriand treated without awe, in the recognizable aux truffes " Speaking of the good style Miller employed in the book about and the bad guys within this chapter, philosophers, dissecting their biograp- Miller seems to be much more conge- hies in defiance to any mind-numbing nial to Giuseppe Mazzini than to Marx.
Marx "felt that democracy Mazzini, an Italian republican and one was not an end in itself but only a means of the key characters in the unification toward the ultimate aim of fully realizing of Italy, whom Marx understood as a human freedom in a peaceful society of reactionary, noticed the discrepancy be- equals" , and "he speculated that tween the egalitarianism of Christianity an economy organized on egalitarian and the hierarchical nature of political principles would, eventually, be able to societies. In Schmittian terms, it might do without the hierarchical methods be said that Mazzini offered a sort of po- of command and control characteristic litical theology of democracy, deriving even of representative governments like the principles of national politics from that of the United States" A history the sacral grounding premises of the of Yugoslav self-management might add Christian doctrine: "We cannot logically to this theme: long ago Miller was a fan declare the children of God to be equal of that literature but soon enough he got before God and unequal before men", he disenchanted with that "brand of cynical stated Marxism", as he explained to me in an e-mail.
Miller seems to follow problems, such as Eduard Bernstein and him, opposing the carnivals of violence. Rosa Luxemburg, rising broader issues In Miller's meta-narrative that cuts about the relationship between socialism across the historical episodes, they are and democracy, as in the famous "gene- associated with a formula of "delirious alogy" written by Laclau and Mouffe. It is one of However, the lead role belongs to Robert the possible succinct definitions of de- Michels, an observer of actual practices mocracy Miller plays against.
While I of social democracy that exemplified the doubt that the party members from the discrepancy between socialism and de- buses in the introduction were delirious, mocracy, equated in a naive idealist un- they might still fall into this camp of derstanding of some of the proponents democratic phenomenology, associated of socialism. Michels, under influence with temporary intoxicating moments of of Pareto and Mosca, was famous for his fraternity on various levels.
It is Le Bon's formulation of the iron law of oligarchy, material, often with lots of corpses on which is in accord with their theory of the barricades, similar to those beneath elites that, as ever, successfully eschew Delacroix's Liberty's nipple.
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However, nominally democratic forms. Miller Miller also notices a paradox of chang- rightly finds great interest in the long- es associated with bloody revolutions term correspondence between Michels a sort of historical dialectics, although and Weber, "a priceless record of how he doesn't use such language : fear of two astute observers viewed the modern violence and popular pressures bring struggle for political and social equality, up changes to political order, which and the divergent ways they evaluated is a point traditionally made by Marx- its prospects" In another Weber, a diagnostician of the fossil- paradox characteristic for a democratic ized Western civilization, explained to believer, he seems to be abhorred with his young and still idealistic syndicalist violence but still thrilled by the oppor- friend, how Rousseauian notions of the tunity democratic moments bring to will of the people are but fictions.
If one political history. Weber's patronizing is not the Enter modern political parties, orga- whole story, assuming a recognizable nizations unbeknownst to the Greeks. An unexpected par- a party that advocated democracy orga- allel emerges, accentuating another pos- nize itself democratically? Did it matter sible normative layer in Miller's complex if its rhetoric was revolutionary while narrative: "Weber could see the advan- its policies were reformist?
In the choice between natural ar- ruly and uninformed citizens" To istocracy Adams and plebeian democ- put it differently, it comes down to good racy Jackson , Wilson is closer to the leadership for Weber, this was paired former option. During his times, one with political ethics of responsibility can observe the formation of a gap, very in "[t]he democratic currents of histo- important in Miller's opinion, between ry", which "resemble successive waves" the discourse of democracy and actual where, as Michels further observed, practices of governing, associated with revolutionary leaders become the part the development of federal bureaucra- of a new establishment to be in "turn cy, the ambitious policing schemes and attacked by fresh opponents who appeal the imperatives of secrecy associated K.
A Riddle of Politics and Faith, Anali 15 1 to the name of democracy", which lead with the maintenance of national se- him to a somewhat mystical conclusion: curity. The Patriot Act is nothing new, "It is probable that this cruel game will in other words. It is a part of a century continue without end" Indeed it is, as yet Moreover, the mirrors might also refer another example of Miller's analytical to the mirrors of democratic experience heed for the issues of political spiritual- across history, which is repetitively por- ity which I discuss at the very end, and trayed in the book, in a sort of structure of the normative complexity of the nar- of fugue, where similar musical motifs rative where leadership appears both as are repeated and reworked as democra- necessary and dangerous for democracy.
Princeton and university's president — the first and thus far last American pres- The account of Soviet experience is ident with a PhD, as Miller notices intertwined with biographic bits on Le- — had a lofty vision of "a concert of dem- nin, a strategist of a great willpower as ocratic nations, each one established described by Gorky It was a dictatorship, but this is appears in a very negative light.
Miller not especially new or controversial find- portrays him as a sort of a cynical ma- ing. Much more interesting are Miller's nipulator in a post-truth world avant discussions about the relationship be- la lettre — the world, in Bernays' own tween public opinion and democracy. No wonder that Walter Lippmann power, with the long corridor of mirrors appears as a skeptical hero in Miller's reflecting a controlled landscape that, narrative. What to serious test, but one of the proposed Bernays had called the 'mirrors of the solutions, setting hope on the "trained public mind' evoked not Versailles but a civil servants with an in-depth knowl- fun house maze" Need it be said edge of the facts pertinent to formulat- that this metaphor, evoking an older al- ing reasonable public policies" , is legory of the cave, does not sound too not unambivalently comforting in the good for democracy?
In any case, sessed by more ambitious criteria, Mill- Lippmann's well-known idealist coun- er, still a skeptical proponent of Enlight- terpart, who with Wilson and Miller enment I think , sticks to the project, shared a vision of democracy, under- since even this "'sham'" "represents an standing it as "a matter of shared faith" epochal transformation": "the rulers of , is James Dewey.
Miller's initial answer with even more religious overtones. Democracy was "a mundane threat posed by ordinary citi- kind of church writ large, a communion zens, however uninformed, periodically of souls sharing the same faith in free- queuing at a polling station, to exercise dom and equality and fraternity" Dewey does not refute Lippmann empirically, as Miller's notices, and his IX.
Miller, himself being involved in now. Add to this Huntington's omi- the activities of the anti-Trump opposi- nous implications that, as in some neg- tion, offers a piece of prose reflecting the ative eschatology of political decadence, current political moment. However, the American democracy does not have text is once again ironic and skeptical. It is a testimony idea that perhaps "John Adams had been of a young leftist idealist who with age right to warn, almost two hundred years turned into a more conservative politi- ago roughly the life span of the Athe- cal adult.
It is a political coming of age nian democracy , that 'there never was essay. To be sure, the portrait of Trump a democracy yet that did not commit K. A Riddle of Politics and Faith, Anali 15 1 is not flattering. Miller doesn't seem to suicide'" There is much Point as "a bit of Sparta in the midst of more, but the point is in the wider pi- Babylon", a remark that, in one of Mill- cture Miller draws, transforming the er's ironical quips, disabled Huntington recent American experience into anot- to teach at Harvard, at least right away, her vignette in the history of democracy.
Huntington, perceived by the to understand the similar sentiments young leftists as a war criminal, had his of their political opponents. He and his portion of graffiti on his house in a fin- co-protesters felt as "people in a bitterly er version of the similar political senti- divided country feeling like strangers in ment, Chomsky saw him as one of the their own land" , but so did many mandarins of new American power. Moreover, he also un- umphant Hegelian student Fukuyama derstood that it was American identity back in the early s, Huntington saw at stake in these struggles, generating the rise of power of China and Islamic tensions and challenges for American world, leading him to conclude that rea- democracy, and he turned to Samuel sonable American politics would have Huntington to look for the answers.
Parallel to his appear as common sense, but it is a analysis of international relations, Hun- controversy at least in the New School tington's last book dealt with American milieu. What once angered the young identity, providing the title to Miller's Miller, became a set of "sensible obser- coda. In that book, Huntington tried vations" for the old Miller. This, in part, is what I tivism" in the United States, is not too understand by the aspiration to cre- reassuring for American democratic ate a liberal democracy.
American identity, historical- ly speaking, was not at all universal but The finale of the book is not too re- more or less white, Anglo-Saxon prot- assuring, offering parallels between estant, paired with democratic ideology radical democrats and populist leaders that produced conflicts Political not protesting against democracy but skeptics, and political believers with against its limits.
Dahl's and other com- skeptical face such as Miller, recognize prehensive definitions of democracy, Huntington's historical lesson that po- such as the one employed by the Vari- litical principles are not enough to keep eties of Democracy project V-Dem , the polity together. Huntington wasn't include liberal components, and Miller optimistic at all: "For Samuel P. Hun- reminds us that illiberal doesn't mean tington at the end of his life, this is what undemocratic. Ultimately, democracy, American democracy looked like: a in the more mundane repetition of the fragile ideology, with cloudy prospects" introductory motif, emerges not only A disappointed radical better solution to the problems of hu- democrat of the s, rooted his skep- man coexistence than the authoritarian ticism in personal political experience — alternatives" , threatened today as "my own experiments in radical democ- the Enlightenment project championed racy quickly fell apart, as my friends and by Condorcet and others.
Secretive bu- I tired of the endless meetings and sup- reaucracy and PR operations manipu- pressed disagreements that the quest for lating public opinion, as in Habermas' consensus entailed" The author of early critique of contemporary public Can Democracy Work? The look, which still doesn't liberate Miller account of his own experience of direct from his democratic faith: "however democratic failures helps him to finally skeptically, and knowing that these tie together the whole narrative about words represent a riddle, not a recipe", historical democratic episodes: he evokes "Abraham Lincoln's charac- teristically American hope, especially in Instead of single-mindedly pursuing the darkest of times: 'that government of a new form of "collective thinking" the people, by the people, for the people through endless meetings meant shall not perish from the earth'" I am better to explore new ways to foster not even sure that author had such an a tolerant ethos that accepts, and can intention, as the last lines suggest.
Not quite. There is no "recipe".
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Miller seems to follow Hun- However, in the final assessment, it can tington in putting democracy first in be said that the book instead issues a re- some situations: democracy is the cause, asonable skeptical warning and a sincere not the effect. Unlike some other New confession. School professors, like Nancy Fraser, he does not muse against progressive liber- Can Democracy Work? He may well be one of them pro- of democratic and despotic episodes, a gressive liberals — a Deweyan optimist.
The story history of ideas, biography and political about hegemonic bloc associated with history. It is penned by an old skeptic the destruction of the middle class, to be still wanting to believe in democracy, politically assailed with justice as recog- K. A Riddle of Politics and Faith, Anali 15 1 warning the reader of its pitfalls.
It skill- nition and re distribution from the ac- fully poses the problem of democracy, ademic corridors , is simply not his cup by warning about its dark side, its auto of tea. He is no social justice warrior as, destructive force coming out of the un- on the other hand, a vision of democra- healthy association of demagogues and cy as a militaristic ethnic nativist band mobs but it also offers some enthusiasm of brothers is as far as possible from his for the possibilities opened by the dem- normative universe of the true and the ocratic vistas.
In the end, Miller per- good. Moreover, it seems to me that haps wrote a book that more resembles Miller doesn't attempt to solve the riddle a repetitive fugue than to an evolving by the means of a theory of distributive genealogy, a recollection of democrat- justice: the problem of who should get ic episodes perhaps making a step for- what and when — and how this should be ward in history with vague promises of solved, e. As he is no Rawls, he is hecatombs. Since people seem to have no Alasdair MacIntyre. He doesn't seem passions and interests, and society is not to have a substantive telos in the sense of and cannot be an impassioned scholas- a "comprehensive doctrine".
He is a lib- tic seminar, as Miller's historical analysis eral. His darling metaphor is hijacking: exemplifies, Miller's more precise solu- democracy is hijacked by the bad guys, tion, as far as one can surmise, would violent fanatics or simply sadists. It's an not propose a Habermasian deliberative old threat lurking from the Greek times democracy for democracy to work. He when democracy sentenced Socrates to seems to be quite clear about that. Gen- death, suggesting it can become a bigger erally speaking, he also doesn't seem to tyranny than any oligarchy. Can Democ- buy the story of positively reevaluating racy Work?
As he seems to ab- or intraparty disobedience, employing hor the occasional cruelty of the masses, buses or provisional protest tents.
He shares a noring its real historical dynamics. In and uncertain, as Whitman's visions. Albeit the not constitute a brake but a fuel for the skeptical irony and self-awareness of fire of despotism. This is not problem ethnocentric, even idiosyncratic na- that, in my opinion, preoccupies Miller ture of this faith, or perhaps any faith, seriously enough.
Be it as it may, a his- Miller's democratic belief is clearly ex- torical sociology of political religions pressed. It is a paradox of credo quia ab- could tell a part of the story about this surdum. With a reference to Whitman democratic faith since the sources of the and a question mark, Miller still sees self are historical, cultural and politi- democracy as "future-oriented" 10 , cal. And the personal dimension of the as any faith is, and starts his story with faith? When he rative, if only because I am inescapably writes of Mazzini, "[t]he child of a Jaco- the product of a typically modern dem- bin father and a Jansenist mother" who ocratic faith that was drummed into me "tried to reconcile the democratic prin- from birth.
This makes it hard for me to ciples of his father with the austere faith draw a sharp line between my consid- of his mother" , it almost reads ered political beliefs and an internalized like an oblique autobiographic refer- ideology that, in fact, typifies the present ence. On the one side, it's the story of age" Miller was "raised to revere end of this essay what is the nature of Walt Whitman" whose "strange vision" this faith, surviving even the dark fina- of democracy, in Miller's interpretation, le of the book? It is perhaps something becomes "a prophecy, a voice raised to typically American, as Miller again ad- keep faith with a future to which our mits at the very end.
There is historical shared past has committed us", and "a and personal dimension to this ques- supreme fiction," with a reference to tion of faith. And how can we reach of self-reliant self-rule" However, the author's mother? If the book has a when bereft of pathos, a much bleaker prelude and a coda, Dewey is, musically outlook of a tyranny, not of state but of speaking, the bridge between democra- society, could emerge, following another cy and religion, leading us to the part of Tocqueville's insight.
Instead of a socie- the story about the mother. Miller writes tal culture working against political tyr- about Dewey's "disarming candor"; anny, one can imagine a society self-sat- Dewey was a philosopher of democracy, isfied and unaware of its own potential but "explicit about the religious motives for tyranny, quite zealous to uphold to behind an ostensibly scientific theory", its tradition of witch hunts. He warns us, associ- On the other side of this Deweyan ating this with Wilson's understanding bridge, we can then see how the moth- of democracy, that democracy rests on er sets the tone.
She provides the spirit public opinion as do the interpretations to infuse the democratic form with a of no less than our "deepest moral and religious belief, as Dewey tried to do.
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That God-given to make this exceptional may be the most important single sen- society an even better place, in part by tence in the whole book. It points to exercising my political rights, not only the riddle of democratic faith. How can to vote but also to think for myself and one believe when a history of collective K. A Riddle of Politics and Faith, Anali 15 1 to speak out against perceived injus- tices" 7. Democracy is a moral duty visions of justice and good life of Rous- in the historical struggle for justice.
But seauians giving themselves to each and will the good prevail in this Manichean every other citizen at the same time, story that suddenly acquires an almost and thus in theory not giving oneself eschatological telos?
An anecdote may to no one, looks like a history of those help here. I remember how, after a sym- foolish enough to give themselves to posium in his apartment, Miller pointed demagogues and despots, witch-hunts to the apocalyptic illustrations in a re- and propaganda?
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In other words, what printed 16th century Lutheran Bible, and a strange faith, to entrust oneself to the exclaimed, perhaps ironically: "These whims of a historical political mecha- are my people". To a political sublimation of a mysterium justify the belief in democracy with its coniunctionis, a mystical synthesis of record of hecatombs becomes almost a the opposites in the familial tree of life: theodicy, an old and demanding spiritu- "father" and "mother," bringing together al sport of justifying the belief in God in hope for democracy with some hints of spite of all the suffering in the history of a dark eschatology.
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