# 208: Educative Democracy
Story behind the Passage
It is funny what life does to you sometimes. I know, I start about every other blog entry with an introductory sentence like this. But it is true. I started my university career with a strong focus on political theory and I did political education for more than a decade. This led me to studying management theory and I could rely on my knowledge basis from political science. And now that I have been into entrepreneurship for quite a while now, I have not paid that much attention to political theory anymore, particularly democratic decision-making. Today, I had a meeting about a research project that was supposed to focus on entrepreneurship. And then it turned out that it led us to the topic of leadership and digital entrepreneurship in connection with: democracy.
There you go!
I swear, I had not thought the project would take such a turn. But now, it feels right. It feels like what I love thinking about and reading. And EVERYTHING I have done so far fits in as well. The thinkers I admire most came from political science and moved towards organization studies because it is a “natural” path to take to employ political science thinking when talking about organizational development. Now, we have reached the stage where management and organization studies have somehow moved ahead and we can transfer this back to the state level. Of course, if you are a philosopher, you know that this back and forth or first and second order that I am sketching above is artificial. Still, this is what came up today and it really made me happy.
“Die beste Regierungsform ist für Mill diejenige, welche die Tugend und die Intelligenz ihrer Bürger fördert und zugleich die Gesellschaftsmitglieder dazu befähigt, ihre Rechte und Interessen selbst zu schützen, beispielsweise durch Erziehung und Ausbildung sowie durch das Recht auf Beteiligung am politischen Willensbildungsprozess, in der Mill zugleich einen ‚edukativen Prozess‘ sieht. / „For Mill, the best form of government is that which promotes the virtue and intelligence of its citizens and at the same time enables its members of society to protect their own rights and interests, e.g., by upbringing and education as well as via the right of participation in political decision-making, which Mill at the same time sees as ‘educative process.” For those who do not know John Stuart Mill, he was one of the founding fathers of Utilitarianism. According to Mill’s version of Utilitarianism, action is “right” if it fosters the well-being of the people.
No worries, this is the point when I am not going to dive into political philosophy. I simply want to share how excited I am to be able to deal with texts like thise one again. I have missed this a lot but I did not admit it. Actually, I am also just realizing how much I have forgotten about all the details. When I was first introduced to Liberalism in my political theory lecture, I had one epiphany after the other. But that only happened if I read the original text. I never really enjoyed reading secondary sources like this one. Still, when I looked for “democratic theory” in my shelf today, this book came up handy. It is one of the standard books for political science students. And I am quite impressed how much and how detailed I obviously read everything, given my underlinings and notes.
If my way of reading says anything about my way of learning, that is fine. It just is not important. What is really important is that we do educate our citizens to become mature democratic decision makers. And as you can see in the quote, that entails quite a number of things that are not self-evident anymore. “Being enabled” means that you can actually DO whatever democratic decision-making might require. I do not think that this actually is the case anymore for the broad majority of the people, neither in the U.S. nor elsewhere. The point is: I am not sure where this will be taking us. And that is where the aspect of education becomes crucial.
It is one thing to argue that education is a prerequisite of democratic maturity. But I wonder if nowadays, democracy is not the only thing that is left to protect education as such — an education that is free of ends and market thinking — an education that is holistic and really shapes the character of “intelligent” citizens in the way that Mill asks for. I do not know if there is a concept like educative democracy. But I do hope that this connection between education and democracy does not get lost. There is a severe danger that it does. And the dividing line is actually also mentioned: expression.
We do see that freedom of expression is currently challenging democracies. There is a loud debate about who can say what about whom — even among self-declared and fierce proponents of democracy. But that is a big and general concept, of course. And that is why there are books about democratic theories. “Defining” what democracy is — actually is part of democracy. I just hope that the intelligent voices will not be muted. And I do hope that the political system does learn something from those fields who are applying governance practices which do not count as traditional but which work. This is where the relationship between management and politics becomes crucial again. I have no idea how it happened, but this is where my circle of life has taken me again.
1) What does “intelligence” means to you when talking about democracy?
2) Do you think that managers could learn something from politicians and vice versa?
3) How do you personally define Liberalism in the context of your political system?