Marxists been so sceptical about the prospects for democracy?


An example of this is that , a majority of people may agree that top up fees for higher education should not be introduced in Britain, but this same majority may be divided over the issue of defence spending, because people have different preferences. Thus it is impossible to obtain a coherent idea of the will of the public. Another problem concerning democracy is that of irrational outcomes. It is an assumption of rational choice that humans attempt to attain their ends rationally.

However, it can be seen that individual’s rational choices, if repeated en masse, can equal collective irrational choices (Ward, 2002). For instance, if one person decided they were not going to recycle their household waste because it was too far to drive to the recycling station, then this would have a relatively minor effect on the environment. A collective decision like this, though, could have catastrophic results. The implication this has for politics is that if collective irrationalities result in our own personal interests being inhibited, then democracy clearly does not work.

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Instead, a market-type model should be followed to allow for all individuals to pursue their goals. Marxism Marxist theory is quite different to both elitism and rational choice theory in that it could be seen as a meta-narrative. Marx conceived not only a political ideology, but also a theory of history and of all human nature, which had its own ideas on liberal democracy. Marx believed that in a capitalist society, the owners of the means of production, the bourgeoisies, oppress the workers, the proletariat, which creates a class conflict (Marsh, 2002).

Marx argued that the proletariat would realise that they were being given a false consciousness from the bourgeoisies and rise up in a revolution, resulting in the emancipation of all men and the withering away of the state. It was only when the state was abolished and all men were free that people could identify their real needs. This is only a brief synopsis of a gargantuan doctrine, yet it is sufficient to allow us to analyse the Marxist scepticism of liberal democracy. Marxism is sceptical for the prospects of democracy because the liberal democratic process is a tool of the capitalist state.

Classical Marxists believe that the workers are given a false consciousness by the owners of the means of production, whereby they are duped into believing that the democratic system is of benefit to them. Liberal democracy placates the masses by giving them a vote, thus they believe that their interests are being represented. Thus, Parliaments create unacceptable barriers between the ruled and those that represent them, as Marx didn’t believe a vote every once in a while is sufficient to represent the peoples views (Held, 1997).

Neo-Marxist writers have also been sceptical of democracy as a means of initiating communism. They argue that capitalism is sustained through popular voting because workers have not constituted an electoral majority (Przeworski, 1985), and also that many workers are happy to vote for a capitalist system as redistribution of wealth is an easier route than the possible violence and long time required for a socialist revolution (Dunleavy, 1987). In spite of this, Marx was not wholly sceptical of democracy, merely liberal democracy as a tool of capitalist oppression.

Marx believed that true democracy, by this he means direct democracy, was only possible in a communist society. Marx advocated a system known as ‘the ‘pyramid’ structure of direct (or delegative) democracy (Held, 1997: 145). This was a system in which the smallest communities would administer their affairs and elect delegates to larger districts such as towns, which would in turn elect candidates to still larger administrations such as the national administration.

This allows all people to have their opinions taken into consideration thus allowing the government to be accountable to the majority (Held, 1997). Marx also believed that as people would be emancipated from capitalism, their collectivist nature would come into the fore, thus people would believe in the good for everyone, which dispels differing opinions (Marsh, 2002). Therefore, it is not simply the case that Marxism is sceptical for the prospects of democracy as a whole, merely liberal democracy as a coercive force of capitalism, as Marx was an advocate of direct democracy.

Conclusion The three ideologies are sceptical for the prospects of democracy for different reasons. Elite theorists believe that political elites will naturally form in society from those who have sufficient knowledge and strength to rule the masses. Some theorists are normative in that they believe elites should rule and others are empirical, in that they believe elites will develop regardless of whether this is desirable.

Rational choice theorists are sceptical of democracy as they feel that people’s opinions are disregarded due to the aggregate of policy in political parties, thus causing a dilemma as to the electorates preferred policies (Dunleavy, 1987). Rational choice theory is a scientific theory, in that it is merely an analysis of human behaviour as opposed to a distinct political thesis. Marxism differs from both of these ideas in that it believes liberal democracy to be a tool of industrial capitalism.

Marxists believe that true democracy can only happen in a communist society, as people would be emancipated from capitalism. . What they agree on is that liberal democracy is certainly a term to be distrusted, since it is misleading and inaccurate to describe modern systems, and whilst their differences are great it is this uniting idea that brings the theories together as ideologies which question, and are sceptical of, modern democracy. Word Count: 2034 Bibliography Arrow, K.

(1951) Social Choice and Individual Values (New York, Wiley). Becker, G. (1986) “The Economic Approach to Human Behaviour”, in Elster, J (ed), Rational Choice (Oxford, Blackwell). Dunleavy et al (1987) Theories of the State (Malaysia, Macmillan). Held, D. (1997) Models of Democracy (Oxford, Polity). Marsh, D. (2002) “Marxism”, in Marsh, D and Stoker, G, Theory and Methods in Political Science (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan). Michels, R. (1915/1959) Political Parties (New York, Dover). Mosca, G.

(1896/1965) The Ruling Class, (ed) Livingstone, A. (New York, McGraw Hill). Pareto, V. (1966) “Residues and elites” from his Sociological Writings, Selected and Introduced by S. E. Finer (London, Pall Mall). Przeworski, A. (1985) Capitalism and Social Democracy (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press). Robertson, D. (1993) Dictionary of Politics (London, Penguin). Ward, H. (2002) “Rational Choice”, in Marsh, D and Stoker, G, Theory and Methods in Political Science (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan).


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