By definition, a democracy can only function if its basis is a demos (δῆμος ), a group of ordinary people who share the same language and general values. There is no modern English word or phrase that describes exactly the same thing.
The closest approximation is probably “ethnic group”, but even that does not quite catch it, since the word “ethnic” derives from nother Greek word, ethnos (έθνος), which means, “people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture”. Demos, in contrast, means “the common people; the populace”. In an ancient Greek context it could be used pejoratively, to depict the populace as base, as a rabble. This sense is still preserved in the word “demotic”.
Up until the early 20th century, the word “nation” was a good approximation for “demos”. In the Bible, a nation was a collection of tribes that shared a common culture. In the 18th and 19th centuries, during the rise of nationalism, in Europe, the word meant the same thing.
But not any longer. Nowadays the concept of a nation is in disrepute, and the preferred political form which has replaced it is despotic rather than democratic: people are to be bound together by allegiance to a common ruler or oligarchy, whose rule they are not permitted to dispute.
In the comments on Fjordman’s most recent post, the Dutch blogger Kleinverzet had some cogent things to say about the demos:
You argue that a functioning democracy consists of a well defined, identifiable demos and a ruling class that is loyal to this demos.
Thus the solution should be centered around restoration of the demos and forging a class of rulers that are loyal to it.
Present developments notwithstanding, I think that a sense of national, or ethnic, identity is still present in much of Europe. Latently in many, existent nonetheless.
The ruling classes of today, the ones that are knee-deep into the European political project, are in trouble. And they know it. Around Europe (and it is quite surprising to see this trend so massively) parties that are not considered ‘mainstream politics’ are gaining popularity. In the usual MSM commentary this is blamed on the increasingly fickle, short attention-spanned voters. But I think it might be an indication that more and more people are recognizing that ‘traditional’ political parties do not represent the people anymore.
Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Wilder’s PVV and the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, the Kascinski twins in Poland, Front National and MPF in France. For better or for worse, people are more and more turning to parties that still project a sense of interest in preserving the nation state.
I say ‘projecting’, because I am not sure whether there is a truly democratic heart to the principles of for instance the FN in France or the SP in the Netherlands.
If the potential is there (as it seems to be), it can be mobilized. First and foremost that would mean telling the population that a measure of nationalism (or patriotism, maybe that’s a less loaded term) is nothing to be ashamed of. Educate the people that to ensure freedom a nation state is indispensable, as is some national identity. What we need (back) is national self-esteem. Knowing what we are worth, not just because of personal merits, but also because of the values and mores we have internalized in being brought up in a country*.
If that notion of national self-esteem is back, the voters will inevitably vote for rulers that represent that new-found self-esteem.
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*Of course, as the apostle said: “Examine all things; hold fast that which is good”
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But is it possible to reclaim the demos? Are we too far gone to recover it?
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The 20th century saw a systematic effort to eradicate the demos and the traditional cultures that supported it. First, under Socialism in all its despotic variants, it was necessary to disempower or exterminate the ruling class and the bourgeoisie, and to destroy capitalism. Then the bastard child of Socialism, which we call Multiculturalism, found it necessary to eliminate all the vestiges of the separate nation-states, and replace them with a hodge-podge of selected cultural elements that had been run through a blender, leaving an amorphous group of people to be ruled, naturally, by the elite theorists of Multiculturalism themselves.
This process can be traced back through Rorty, Marcuse, Gramsci, Lenin, Marx, the French Revolution, and Rousseau, or even further back. The common denominator that all these theories share was the discrediting of the ruling classes of the existing nation-states. If you belonged to the progressive elite, it was self-evidently necessary to overthrow the traditional hierarchy and replace it with a ruling group selected from amongst people like yourself, people who had come to an enlightened understanding of what needed to be inflicted on the masses — for their own good, of course.
For Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini, the necessity was to eradicate bourgeois capitalism through means of varying brutality, and replace it with a structure that was firmly connected to the State.
For the panjandrums of Multiculturalism, the necessity was to eradicate the demos itself. Towards this end they launched a systematic discrediting of their own traditional culture, accompanied by the mass importation of Third World immigrants into the heart of Western societies.
So the task that is before us now, as Kleinverzet said so succinctly, is to forge a class of rulers that are loyal to the demos. But before we undertake it, we face the even more daunting task of reconstructing the demos.
There are countries — for example Finland — where the basis for the demos is more or less intact. And Denmark, except for its recently imported immigrants, has a well-functioning demos that is capable of reasserting itself.
But other European countries are not so fortunate. Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain, and France have been so damaged by the combination of cultural self-destructiveness and mass immigration that it may be too late for the demos to be resuscitated prior to a descent into fratricidal anarchy.
And what about the United States? We, too, have (or had until recently) a common culture, based on a common language, a widely shared religious faith, and shared values. But we are even more loosely connected to it than are our European cousins, since our national founding myth welcomes all newcomers and repudiates traditional aristocratic hierarchies.
At one time each individual state may have approximated a demos. In 1789 Connecticut and South Carolina were quite distinct polities; hence the necessity of a federal structure. But the ensuing centuries have seen the federal behemoth rampage unchecked through the rights and traditions of the individual states. Add to that the customary mobility of the American populace, and the groundwork for the homogenized Multicultural nanny-state has been laid.
What we have wrought over the last hundred years or so will be quite difficult to dislodge.
Consider what we are aiming to restore: large groups of culturally homogeneous people collected into a well-defined geographic area. How is this to be accomplished in such places as Rotterdam, or metropolitan Paris, or Skåne, or Arizona? What will cause each group in these places to separate itself into a demos?
Such population transfers have occurred in the past only by force, through either slaughter or forced migration. We’ve seen where this road leads in Bosnia and Kosovo.
On the other hand, the end result must necessarily come — the Multicultural element is unstable and will eventually decay by one means or another, and then ethnic homogeneity will reassert itself.
One of the main impediments to the restoration of the demos is the disrepute into which its defining characteristics have fallen.
What, after all, is a “demos”?
- It is a collection of people like me, who speak the way I do, who engage in many of the same customary behaviors.
- We tend to find those who are very different from us to be outlandish or alarming, depending on the circumstances.
- We welcome the stranger among us as long as he accommodates himself to our ways, and accepts without the complaint our tendency to regard him with amused contempt until he is fully assimilated.
- We argue viciously among ourselves over relatively trivial matters of doctrine or practice, yet will take up arms and fight in ferocious unity when we are threatened.
- We consider our little corner of the planet to be the most beautiful, commodious, and enlightened of all places, and can back up our assertion with ample historical evidence.
Does the above list help give you an idea of the depth of the problem?
For well over a century the very ideational basis of the demos has been systematically discredited by the educated and erudite among its most privileged elite.
In a millennium or two whatever survives of our culture may look back upon such people and see them as a deranged anomaly. But, for now, because of their iconoclasm we are in the midst of a ruthless cultural war, one whose gnarled branches are only just beginning to bear their bitter fruit.
|It’s a dangerous opportunity.|
In the days around and after the glorious revolution, the best approximate of ‘demos’ was “The mob”, which was the somewhat pejorative term parliament and the royal court used to refer to everyone tho wasn’t them. Keep the mob happy, the logic went, and you’d stay king. Charles the second learned this one very fast, and consequently managed to die from natural causes. It was a primitive form of continual election that held faint echoes of the wittan, and the early celtic and nordic means of choosing a ruler.
“Mob” meant something different then than it does now, of course, and was probably alot closer to the greek meaning of Demos. Now we’re the ‘people’, the ‘electorate’, nicely civilised and distance. At heart, though, we’re still the mob.
Sorry for my ignorance but what is a republic to a democracy? What are the differences? I have heard that the USA is supposed to be a democratic republic or a republic run on democracy.
There are a few places left that remain “nations” in the classical sense. Some have argued over the years that we should view each country as a “tribe”- i.e. the Russian Tribe, the German Tribe, etc.
Of course, in the crazier parts of the world, the tribe is still an important political entity.
The two terms are similar, I think. Viewing the Germans as a Nation works, as does viewing them as a tribe.
America and Britain don’t work so well as “tribes”- not homogeneous enough. And the lesser tribes that make up the US- the Blacks, Hispanics, etc- refuse to acknowledge that their minority status means anything.
(Note that I don’t mean any sort of second-class membership in the Tribe. Merely that the majority shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to accommodate their culture.)
At any rate, the point I want to make here is that the “nations” or “tribes” that survive today are the ones that I believe are most likely to survive into the next century. They understand that they’re different from others, understand that their culture works for them, that they have a little plot of land that is “theirs” and that they need to do whatever it takes to hold onto all these things.
That’s what I think the Demos is. A tribe or Nation. But I don’t know if this sense of self can be “restored” once it’s lost. It might be possible for a group to evolve into a different one- similar to how the North American branch of the English Tribe turned into Americans- but the young are being brainwashed into thinking that the tribe/nation and all it’s traditions are wrong-headed, if not actually evil.
Until leaders come along who are so charismatic and so powerful that they can restore that sense of Self- and do it in the face of incredible hostility from those who “know” better- there’s no chance. And I think the only way that could happen is if the Old Media dies out completely, and is replaced by the New one: bloggers especially, though even some of them are too hostile.
I think the real battle will come in a generation or two. When people have lost all use for old media, and replaced it with new. When the evil “geniuses” that now run the NYT, CNN etc., die off and are replaced by newer versions who focus their energy and money on the internet.
And when the young folks of today, who are taught that you are a winner if you barely try, and that winning is meaningless, have either embraced it completely, or taught their children that their grandparents were fools.
A democracy implies that the will of the majority is dominant. If 50% +1 of the people want to expel all minorities from the country, then it is so.
Republic has democratic ideals, but doesn’t subscibe to that belief, and has checks and balances in place to prevent such abuses.
Not very accurate in a textbook way, but kinds helps, I hope.
Thanks GTW. It seems that due to the actions of politicians and far left progressive ideologists democracy has gone the way of the dodo.
It’s odd, recently I’ve been seeing a trend in certain parts of the media to quietly denigrate democratic ideals. Democracy is a like a gun; it’s a tool, a thing you use, not a goal in and of itself, but recently people have built up democracy in to a goal in and of itself. To a certain extent this affects all sides of the political spectrum but the reasons for doing it are very different. On the right democracy becomes a goal because the understanding of how useful it is as a tool to achieve results still remains. On the left, I suspect it’s because of the egalitarian ideas that can be implemented if you can convince enough people to vote for them. Unfortunately democracy has a habit of allowing the majority to have their way, and more often than not people are very conservative, preferring things to remain the way they are rather than voting for drastic changes, which is more than a little frustrating for progressives and leftists, who still (wittingly or otherwise) subscribe to Marx’s concept of constant revolution. Constant revolution can’t work if you have to go to the people every few years.
This brings be around to what I mentioned right at the start of this rant. I saw an advert for a documentary (on th BBC, oddly enough) that seemed to be putting forward the thesis that democracy of any shade is no longer the best way to govern. Of course the trailer didn’t suggest alternatives, but I suspect that there were a few very unrepresentative ideas bandies about in the actual program. I’ve seen this trend for a while in various places. The EU, to use a constant example, tends toward the idea of claiming it represents the people, without actually listening to their wishes. It tried to reduce the influence of the people over as much of its existence as possible, and in today’s world that means reducing and denigrating the effectiveness of democratic institutions.
The UN has had a plan going for almost all of its existence to bypass every level of national institution with its own, non-democratic institutions. They would appear democratic but they would lose any accountability that remains. In short their system called for a series of representative councils that started at the neighborhood and worked up through city, county, state or nation and upward as far as each country went, appearing to be democratic, aping the means by which the nordic kings were chosen without actually giving people representation in any meaningful sense, as all was administered from the centre. The Soviet Union used a similar system and often wheeled it out to prove how truly representative it was, but decisions made at the edges never made their way up to the middle, and were often overridden by party diktat.
Generally the trend is less obvious, but it’s always there. Democracy is first transformed in to an ideal, a goal in itself, and then inevitably it becomes tainted with disappointment as people find simply being able to vote isn’t enough without the rule of law. How people react to this depends on their political thinking. Some try to get the rule of law implemented, and some try to get rid of what is obviously a ‘discriminatory’ system. After all, their side didn’t win…
“I think the real battle will come in a generation or two”
But on the present trajectory in a generation or two most of the West will no longer exist. The USA will resemble central America; most European countries will be Muslim-majority at least in the ‘youth’ age group, indeed the countries themselves will not exist except as administrative areas of United Europe.
I think that any decisive change that could prevent the Death of the West (as Buchanan calls it) will come within the next 8-15 years.
The notion of a nation as a shared linguistic-cultural identity is definitely on life support. Perhaps it can be saved…but if it can’t, what might take its place?
— Religious affiliation?
— Racial homogeneity?
— Commercial alliances?
All of these are candidates, but so far none of them has demonstrated enough cohesion to fill the need that the “old” nation addressed: the sense of mutual defense: safety in numbers.
For nations, like all other human institutions, exist for a reason: that is, to address some human demand. The nation-state, which is the instantiation of the concept of a nation most familiar to us, embodies the mutual-defense idea in political terms. How could a religious, racial, or corporate group do the same?
Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson fantasized about corporate states, the idea of which they found conditionally attractive. Orson Scott Card has played with the idea of relgious states, but he didn’t manage to make them appealing. What other examples might there be?
“In short their system called for a series of representative councils that started at the neighborhood and worked up through city, county, …..”
I know this.
This is fascist corporativism.
The left always sought to kill democracy.
It must be remembered that, among other things, Mussolini, creator of fascism, was a revolutionair sindicalist, NAZI stands for Nazional Socialist der Deutschland Arbeit Party or George Sorel, one of masterthinkers of Fascism, was a marxist.
When you look to leftshits you see all of them thinking being better tham the mob, thinking they have better ideals and thinking they are the ones who should be in charge. The more leftshit the more fascistic they are.
You see this in action at the UN, in the NGOs, in other international organizations. They want take over the power to apply their lunatic ideas.
Republic only means it is not a monarchy. you may have democratic or dictatorial republics. Remember North Korea is a republic too. This also applie to monarchies as well.
“A democracy implies that the will of the majority is dominant. If 50% +1 of the people want to expel all minorities from the country, then it is so.”
You are completely wrong. This is not democracy, this is dictature of majority. To have democracy you must have the rule of the law. It is this law, wich prevent dictature of majority, that allow the democracy.
Democracy isnot a goal in itself. It is a tool to attain freedom. It is democracy that prevents those who are in power to sneack your freedom.
2 Francis W. Porretto said
The notion of “The notion of a nation as a shared linguistic-cultural identity is definitely on life support” is due to those who wants to kill european (and western) nations. The very same who says that are those who already wants a palestinian state (and nation). Why the ones who wants a palestinian nation and state refuse that to the kurds ?The two ideas are indissecable: state is impossible without nation and nation without a state is always at stake. Look to the Kurds. They dont have a state&nation to defend them. The same to us if we alloy european leftshits in UE to kill our nations and states. National states burocracy would then become just an extension of EU burocracy
The difference between the tolerance promoted by the Enlightenment and the multiculturalism is that from parallelism and intersection/convergence – to be tolerant doesn’t mean to perform other cultural values than my own. The cosmopolitan project isn’t wrong per se, simply there is no enough human quality to make sense of it. The resurrected nationalism (see the recent analysis published by Robert Kagan) is only a prove of this failure and it is nothing to hope from it, if we think of the nationalism in the old ethnic terms. A civic nationalism/patriotism is more fitted to balance the damages brought by the wash braining promoted both by the ethno-nationalists and by the multiculturalists. In both cases we are facing a manipulation – of the natural desire of identity and self-esteem and of the desire to be free to choose your identity values. Migration is a constant of history and “resurrection of the demos” was accomplished spontaneously ( the Indo-Europeans, then the Germanic migrations reshaped the ethno-map of Europe). Europe is in an aging process (at the other end of the world, Japan) and immigration is the key to survive – what is the price for it doesn’t seem to be on the top agenda of the bureaucrats and it is exactly why the multicultural approach, as a discriminatory policy of the majorities, is undermining the future development, risking a New Dark Middle Age.
And we will stand as defenseless as the kurds were some time ago!!!
English girl barred from Government job…because she is wrong kind of white
To summarize, the girl was barred from the job because she was “of the majority”–not only white, but also English (and not Welsh, for instance; had she been Welsh, the PC police stated, she could have had the job).
Sometimes I just feel like setting up a forest, getting a bunch of hippies and Marxists into it and putting up a sign encouraging people to hunt them for sport.
Excellent post. I don’t believe anything will change until more people–many more people–feel endangered. Today, in the West, one can still withdraw into a cocoon. Terrorism can be seen as a distant threat, not something at your doorstep. Our institutions are in place, everything seems normal. My town still has its fire department, I see police cars going by, the supermarket is stocked, things seem normal. We have a president and a Congress and state governments and elections. So what’s all the fuss about, asks Joe Average College Graduate.
As Machiavelli wrote (in the Discourses), “Cities are destroyed, for the institutions of a republic are never modified to suit changing circumstances…Change comes too late because it is too difficult to accomplish. In order to bring it about the whole society must feel endangered.”
2 Cristi Andrei
“resurrected nationalism”. Nationalism never died. The ones who told that just want kill nationalism to build their proper projects of power.
Imigration is a solution for nothing but population substituition. In the case of aging, to solve this problem by imigration you should have absurd rates of imigration. Take exactly the case of Japan, they have the same problem of us minus the problems we have with imigration.
“Migration is a constant of history and “resurrection of the demos” was accomplished spontaneously ( the Indo-Europeans, then the Germanic migrations reshaped the ethno-map of Europe). “
Migration werenot a constant of history. Most of the there werenot such. And they were always catastrofic to someone.
In the case of Europe the ressurection of the demos was a lengthy and slowly process.
Ther are two ways you can construct nationalism:
Next time she had better vote for BNP
Nationalism got a bad name because of World War II. Unfairly, because it wasn’t the “Nationalism” in Nazism that was the problem, it was the imperialism–Nazism was far more than just German nationalism, it was German imperialism. In that, it compares well to Marxist imperialism (a.k.a. Communism) and today’s threat of religious imperialism (Islam), although the bases are different.
Nationalism today is one of the only stop-gaps against the menace of superstates that strip their constituent member-states, as well as their subjects, of their rights. The European Empire, the strong Federalism that American Leftists have in mind for the USA and the Islamic Caliphate are just three examples of superstate creep. In the face of all this, the insistence on national sovereignty, with all that entails (reminding immigrants that theirs is a privilege, not a right, etc.), is essential. Nationalism today needs to be bolstered by a good PR campaign: to explain that mere nationalism wasn’t what caused WWII, and that nationalism is in the best interests anyone who values his freedom from the dictates of self-appointed imperials sitting on their thrones far away.
The problem, in a simplistic sense, is that the Left doesn’t support democracy or any variation of it. At least in the US, most of the changes that the Leftists want have come from judges dictating the change. This holds for busing, affirmative action, abortion, etc. Not saying all these things are bad (though most are), but they were never voted on by the people OR their representatives.
And this is the strength of the left. They merely have to control the lawyers (or vice versa) and they get to dictate what happens. So why muck about in the barnyard of democracy?
Tied in with that is the concept a commenter made here a couple weeks back of “moral vanity”. The leftists, by and large, simply feel that they are “correct” and therefore they’re “Better” than us fools.
Add to that the “fanaticism” of liberals- Marxists, environmentalists, etc- and it leads to more problems. Joe Average might recycle cans and bottles at his home, but he’s not gonna go rampaging thru the streets to demand more stringent environmental policies. The leftists will. The obsession to build a “better” society is their reason for living. (“Better” of course being defined solely by them).
As Douglas Adams mentioned in one of his books: They care, we don’t.
The final piece of the pie here is that, *in my experience* a majority of leftists come from money backgrounds, so that they have the time and the money to agitate, rather than working. The late Richard Armour, among others, pointed out that while Marx was at the library (or museum) in London working on his notion of Communism, he was getting money from (mind blank, so I apologise if I mis-write) Engels, who in turn got the money from his father’s business. Much easier to sit around and contemplate the evils of the world if you know where your next meal is coming from.
Finally, I would refer back to my second post above. Someone had an objection to my very simplistic definition of democracy, because I didn’t include “rule of law” as a requirement along with the majority. The point is, if the majority says something is legal, then it is. If Congress passes a law stating X, then X is legal until the courts overturn it. At which point Congress rewrites it, or impeaches the judges.
Rule of law is assumed, but the laws are written by (again, we assume here) elected officials representing the masses of voters. That was my underlying assumption.
On Answer.com there is compiled some useful information about nationalism and migration. The subjects aren’t so simple and although one has always to act with determination, the analysis that underlies a decision is more complicated. When I say that migration is a constant of history, I don’t don’t understand it as a phenomenon on daily basis :), but as one that is present, in different forms, amplitude and with different causes throughout the history. And it is more at a natural process than of a “construct”. When it comes to “constructing”, there is a lot of ideology involved and with that a lot of distorting of the facts. I don’t demonize the nationalism. I was pointing out that it won’t bring a better world, as it didn’t in the past. When every nation (no matter what their criteria are) thinks of itself in terms of “chosen by God” (or similar to them), it is good for the self-esteem and for its determination, but another consequence is the building of unending conflicts. It was posted here about multiculturalism as “child of socialism” – well, yes and no; take the example of Romania, where Ceausescu used nationalism (based primarily on russophobia) as a legitimation of the communist regime. No wonder that today many Romanians consider him a patriot, although his “patriotism” implied forced emigration of some of the best people in the country.
“they were always catastrophic to someone” – you are right. But history doesn’t seem to know about good and evil, about what we perceive as catastrophe. After all, all the history may be described as a long catastrophe (“the mob” syndrome, as Archonix put it)… I feel the history most of the time as a trap, although I am not willing to let the waves of history to wash up my identity.
wash OFF my identity
it is more OF a natural process
sorry for the misspellings, I will try to be more careful 🙂
Spare-me the ones who want to built a better world. Usually they just do hellish.
I just want “better world sellers” to have a hard death.
Nationalism isnot, and doesnot have to be, linked to a better world.
You have a nation when a group of people living in a definite territory share some goods. This is the basic but variations are almost infinite. The unique pre-requisite is “it works”. There are only two things mandatory, a common past and a common future. You can unite many nations within one state (Spain, pre-comunist Russia, Belgium, Switzerland) or a nation in many states. There was possible, and it is still the case, to make an european nacionalism wich would include western, and only these (why?), nations of europe
When you have a nation you can build a state because you have people who give their loyalty to a thing you can hardly say what it is.
That “chosen by God” makes me laugh. Islam has tons of it and no nation nor state. In some cases that has been added to the construct but it it not mandatory. The conflicts are about territory.
“Spare-me the ones who want to built a better world” – I fully understand what you are saying., but you took me as the wrong guy. Let me put you a question: when you speak as you speak about the nationalism, don’t you imply that it is something better than the multiculturalism? Are you then a seller of a better world with the message in another package ? I am skeptical about the improvement of humankind, but that doesn’t mean that in everyday life I care for nothing and nobody. I am a teacher. I am trying (sometime hard) to have the necessary empathy, so as to have a better relation with the children and helping them to go further in life. Generally they consider me their friend. I don’t sell them dreams, nor existentialist philosophies. We are trying together, me and my students, as you put it, to make it work. They are more pragmatic than former generations, it doesn’t signify they have no hopes, no projects, no ideals, no souls. I believe it can be made a difference between perfectionists and meliorists. The people you refer to I tend to place in the first category (well, this classifying thing can be laughed at, but take it as an ad-hoc tool).
“That ‘chosen by God’ makes me laugh” – You seem to be a good Marxist D: It was just the ideological frame of the 19th century in Europe, when Christianity was used by both the supporters of the imperial and national/homogeneous ethnic states. Of course it might be not mandatory, but we analyze facts and their consequences, and ideologies, mentalities had and have a major role in history (you don’t need to be lectured about manipulation of information, propaganda etc). As for the Islam, the artificial-religious idea of an “Arab nation” or of the Caliphate is strong enough to appeal (besides material advantages for the families of the “martyrs”) to cohorts of young people in the war with the “unbelievers”.
As you have pointed, all is about power & interests. And the policies emerging from this perspective are sustained by manipulatory ideologies, no matter what kind of territorial organization is. For a “democracy” you need not only laws, but educated people, people who think and, like you, reject the demagogue sellers. (A “footnote” – an example of national pride I am not ready to follow: the Eurovision is a MUSICAL contest, but everyone is expected to vote for THE COUNTRY, not for the best musical performance)