• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Why 19th Century Liberals Feared Democracy

Extracts from this document...


A fear of democracy runs throughout liberalism Democracy is derived from two Greek works, ?demos? meaning ?the people? and ?kratos? meaning ?rule?. Democracy therefore means rule by the people, implying both popular participation and a government which acts in the public interest. In its unrestrained form democracy leads to tyranny but in the absence of democracy ignorance and brutality will prevail. Therefore this hybrid nature of democracy explains why liberals have been ambivalent about its benefits. Very few liberals reject democracy, on the other hand no liberals accept democracy uncritically. Earlier political theorists such as Plato and Aristotle viewed democracy as a chaotic rule of masses at the expense of wisdom and property. Nineteenth century liberals echoed this idea as they saw democracy as dangerous. They were concerned that democracy could threaten individual liberty. Democracy is necessarily collectivist, in that it places political authority in the hands of the ?people? who are not a single entity but are turned into a collection of individuals or groups . ...read more.


Therefore he believed elected politicians should speak for themselves rather than reflect the views of their electors and suggested a system of plural voting that would deprive the illiterate from power . This argument demonstrates a liberal disdain for representative government, a key feature of democracy. Nevertheless, the liberal arguments against both majoritarianism and representative government demonstrate a deeper mistrust in liberals of universal suffrage. Such fears of tyranny of majority by the uneducated poor as a result of the arrival of mass democracy which result into the destruction of a civilized society and moral order are also expressed by Gasset. Moreover liberals feared excessive democracy because democratic systems that widen access to political influence tend to be characterized by growth in interventionism and the problem of over-government. Such intervention may weaken the efficiency of market capitalism and therefore contradict early liberals? belief that the market should be free from government interference. As a result excessive democracy may disadvantage the mass of citizens in the long run. ...read more.


Since the twentieth century liberal theories about democracy have tended to focus less on consent and participation and more on the need for consensus in society.Pluralist theorists have argued that organized groups,not individuals, play the most important role in the politics of increasing complex modern societies which are characterized by competition amongst rival interests.Therefore democracy has the benefit that, in giving a political voice to all competing groups and interests in society it binds them to the political system and tends to promote consensus thereby maintaining balance and political stability within modern societies. Nineteenth century liberals mostly feared democracy but as time went by liberals of the twentieth century came to recognize its benefits .Even though there are conflicting ideas within liberalism and democracy ,the liberal acceptance of universal suffrage, the key feature of democracy, has led to an acceptance to all the elements of democracy including majority rule and representative government. This is because liberals were able to create solutions to prevent the extremes of democracy .This can be seen with the example of majoritarianism when the liberal element of checks and balances prevents the tyranny of the majority. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. How and why does Locke explain the creation, value and protection of property?

    God gave the world to mankind for everyone to share. God created the world so that everything, including everyone would be equal. We know that the world was useless without labour. What Locke failed to include in his theory was that certain people such as the disabled may not be able to use their bodies for labour.

  2. What are the dilemmas of a pluralist democracy?

    Another common criticism of pluralist theory is that groups are dominated by small elites or oligarchies. Disagreeing with Truman's main ideas, that interest groups serve to protect the interests of their members, many observers argue that private associations often aim to enhance the well being of their officials rather than the majority.

  1. Indonesia: Transition and Prospects for Democracy

    prevented market economies from developing. Governmental decision to deregulate the economy was exploited by Suharto associates who captured privatized companies and monopolized markets (T�rnquist, 2002). When these two factors were combined into "despotic liberalism" (T�rnquist, 2002), it caused de-legitimisation of Suharto's regime, and his quick exit.

  2. Explain why the Liberals were electorally so successful so often, 1868-85?

    a Whig), he was troubled by an unending worry that the state could not be trusted to be the guardian of his beloved Church.1 He deserted the Conservatives, but neither did he want to be a Whig as he mistrusted Palmerstone and was unwilling to commit to any party grouping on a permanent basis.

  1. Socialist uses of workers' inquiry

    The working class are paid to produce goods and services which are then sold for a profit. The profit is gained by the capitalist class because they can make more money selling what we have produced than we cost to buy on the labour market.

  2. Can a plausible case be made for participatory democracy under modern conditions?

    The idea then of direct participation on the scale of countries is unfeasible. Practically speaking, once we go beyond the size of what generally comprises a committee (whatever exact size that might be), the opportunity for citizens to participate declines significantly and our chance of any kind of direct and equal participation becomes unlikely.

  1. An Assessment Of The Liberals

    Only 2% of the entire population spoke Italian, as the rest spoke in their more comfortable local dialects. The Catholic Church was so unsociable towards the Liberals that it encouraged the majority of the population to also act this way.

  2. Participation is the essence of democracy Discuss

    Protests, freedom of speech and petitions are the essence of democracy. If no one voted, if only one voted or if no one had an interest then it would still be against the law to be a homophobic, if no one gave an interest then the government wouldn?t fight to bring soldiers back home because it what the people what.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work