Much has been said about the vices and virtues of democracy. Democracy, said Benjamin Franklin, is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. Lord Acton warned that democracy is susceptible to a ‘tyranny of the majority’. Winston Churchill told us that democracy is actually the worst form of government . . . except for every other form that has been tried. Not without irony, he also said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. H. L. Mencken described democracy as the theory that people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. These quotes speak to the majoritarian dimension of democracy and the reality that even in the best-of-functioning systems 49 per cent of the people can remain unhappy. To be sure, in most modern democracies even a less-than-majority popular vote can carry an election, due to the peculiarities of electoral systems.5 Democracy, in other words, is a system to ensure that some people get what they want; it is not a system to allow everyone to do so.
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There are strong linkages between religion, bureaucratic organization, citizen preferences, and political regimes. The views of Lipset and Rokkan, Marx, Lukacs, Marcuse, Adorno, Weber, and Durkheim are discussed. The choice of these thinkers relates to the three grand themes that are discussed in the book: (1) The linkage between religion and political regimes in terms of social welfare expectations by the electorate, surveillance incentives, and collectivist distribution by bureaucrats; (2) The religious traditions that shape the administrative structures of local or regional communities; and (3) The different levels of policy discretion, administrative monitoring, and centralization that correspond to different sets of religious norms adopted by citizens and bureaucrats. The critique of conventional social theory treats religion in its key dimensions: as state structure, party cleavage, and social welfare.