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Essay on “Politics and Ethics” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Politics and Ethics

Democracy is not just confined to the political domain, but it pervades all spheres of society. Ours is age of democracy. Democracy as a form of government, characterised by elections and the installation of a “representative’ government, is becoming a global phenomenon. The fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, and domestic and global changes in Latin America, Africa, and West Asia (the Middle East), have brought democracy to places and shores where it was undreamt of a few decades ago, giving people a taste of freedom.

The globalisation of democaracy as a form of more legitimate representative government has not been accompanied by genuine efforts to tackle the problems of democracy, such as the lack of equilibrium between equality and liberty, the dictatorship of the majority, the actual as well as manufactured disinterest on the part of the so-called citizens not participating in the electoral process, resulting in as much as 50 per cent of them not fulfilling their constitutional obligation to vote—the problems highlighted by no other than the most thoughtful observer of democracy as a practice, Alexis de Tocqueville. The challenge, thus, for us now is to widen the universe of democracy in accordance with the historical changes taking place in social systems, as well as in the light of a desired agenda of social and economic transformation.

In the current discourse on democracy, there is the valorization of a false tension between freedom and equality. The dominance of the economies of liberalisation makes us believe that democracy as a political arrangement has nothing to do with the pursuit of welfare and well-being of people, in the context of a pervasive economic deprivation and inequality. But advocates of democracy have now to realise what Robert Dahl argues : “in an advanced democratic country, the economic order would be under-stood as instrumental not merely to the production and distribution of goods but to a much larger range of values including democratic values”.

Advanced industrial societies today, by the procedure of democratic politics, have put the issues of welfare and equality on the defensive. The conservative counter-revolution in these societies led by protagonists such as Mr. Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher have led a political revolt against the welfare state, on the ground of its inefficiency and its negative impact on the entrepreneurial floor of society. In the political theatre of democratic societies, the welfare class has become a “disposable subject of political representation and an indispensable subject for political dispensability”. But, in the meantime, in a country such as the United States, not only has the gap between the rich and the poor widened but even the middle class has fallen into poverty as a con-sequence of economic restructuring and de-industrialisation. Thus, people in need of social support in advanced industrial societies are not only the people who are the vagabonds but also the middle class who are now “falling from grace”. In this context, democracy as a political process cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of enhancing what Mr. Amartya Sen calls the “functioning and capability” of individuals. The collapse of socialist economies has not vanished the problem of economic deprivation, and advocates of democracy have to support programmes of well-being which con-tribute to “human capital formation” rather than create perpetual dependency. Democracy is not, strictly speaking, confined to the political domain but it ought to pervade all spheres of society. A society consists of several institutions—family, school, firm, university, the press, etc. It may very well be that while a society’s polity may be governed by the formal procedure of democracy, its institutions may function in a very non-democratic manner, as these violently trample upon the dignity of its individual members. A case in point is the way Indian political parties operate. All these parties are votaries of democracy, but the way they con-duct themselves inside their own parties is nothing but senseless authoritarianism. The challenge, thus, now, is to bring the ethos of democracy to the functioning institutions in society. But this is a task politics, as a competitive bidding for power, cannot perform. It is a task for reconstructive movements which are animated by a moral desire to build a good society in the place of systematically produced, pervasive social immobilisation. Reconstructive movements have to democratise not only existing institutions, but also place an alternative institutional design before the citizens, as existing institutions become obsolete in the face of contemporary changes.

Consider, for instance, Taylorism as an institution of super-vision and management in the workplace. This institution is based upon a taken-for-granted division between conception and execution and has created a caste system in the modern workplace between the workers and the managers. But the new technologies, which structure the workplace today, require a different kind of work organisation where workers and the managers have to be partners of innovation and competitive performance.

Similar is the predicament in the case of an institution like family. As women and children are taking their rights with pleasure and dignity seriously, there is the challenge of giving an alternative institutional design to family which will fulfil the needs of a democratic personal order. The question here is not only democratising intimate relations, but also realising that the infrastructure of personal life is the foundation of a democratic social order; the challenge now is to realise that intimacy is democracy. But democratisation of intimate relations requires a different striving, other than the one with which democracy has so far been familiar, namely the one of distribution of power. But the challenge before democracy, when we go out of the political system and enter the life world, is to participate in a new enfranchisement where the conflict is not only between different social groups but also between different kinds of desire—conflict between what an individual perceives as a more desirable desire and a less desirable desire in one’s life. But a resolution of the conflict of desire cannot be solved in the ballot box, but in the reflective self of a person. It requires a distinction between attention and distraction in one’s life.

In fact, as Robert Bellash and his colleagues argue in their provocative book, The Good Society, that only as a moral quest democracy can revitalise itself today, since it has taken itself to a blind alley in the subsystems of money and power. As a moral quest, democracy is a mode of paying attention to the needs of others and the aspiration of the self.

The limits of politics as seizure of power, and the need for a moral revitalisation of the actors and institutions, is nowhere more prominent that in the case of the professional order of contemporary societies: The rise of complex systems, as a consequence of revolution in science and technologies, have made professionals with ex-pert knowledge, important in the functioning and governing of society. But the increasing significance of professionals in contemporary societies is not being accompanied by any institutional effort to arouse the moral consciousness in them, not to use their knowledge for enhancing power over those who do not know and make themselves servants of the “common good”.

The distortion that professionalism introduces in the work of democratic polity, where policy elites are outside “the effective control by the demos”, cannot be solved by power politics alone, and it requires a moral revitalisation of the self and the public sphere.

In our age of democracy, nations are heralding democracy at the very moment in which changes in the international order are compromising the possibility of an independent democratic. nation-state. Many of the problems that individuals within a polity are faced with, today, be it ecological disaster, terrorism, pollution or continued pauperisation defy solution at the nation-state level, since those problems neither arise there nor are they confined to it. But the solution that democracy offers today to the problems of global contingencies to the citizens, is, to say the least, outmoded and in-effective. The challenges for transformation at the current euphoric moment of democratic transition is to move from democracy in the national state to democracy in the transnational sphere. But such a move requires a reflective moral self which is aware of the limits of nationalism, and the need for a transnational consciousness as the actor of politics and the protagonist of democracy.


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