Sunday, February 5, 2017

Democratic Prophecy

Democratic Prophecy: Who speaks truth to power in a democracy?Recent events have reminded me of Jacques Maritain’s book Man and the State. Therein he makes four points about an obscure topic that is now splashed all over the headlines: democratic prophecy.
  1. Prophecy is necessary to democracy.
Democracy like every government has a legal structure. In fact, what we typically call “democracies” are not democracies at all. Rather, they are governments with the form of a republic and the democratic principle of popular sovereignty.
But for all the forms, structures and norms, a society always has to rediscover the principles that found their institutions, and often in spite of those institutions. For a democracy, that task has to be carried out by the people. And so democracy depends upon “the dynamic leaven or energy which fosters political movement, and which cannot be inscribed in any constitution or embodied in any institution, since it is both personal and contingent in nature, and rooted in free initiative.”1
In other words: prophecy cannot be replaced by law, history, technology, bureaucracy or better policy. And so, if democratic societies are to flourish, they must make room for it.

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