IT’S TIME TO CONSTRUCT DEMOCRACY ANEW
All developed industrial countries face the necessity of finding an alternative to the present, outdated representative democracy. The division of Finnish politics into two parts is one example illuminating this argument.
Political parties take care of public decision-making while citizens seek to remedy faults in their own surroundings. As long as these two fields of activity remain independent of each other, the present political system doesn’t stand for democracy; it just secures the smooth functioning of state institutions. An alternative calls for two matters.
The new system for the use of public power has to be free from the crucial defects in the present one. Public decision-making is today subordinated to the interests of those with economic power and dominated by unaccountable, supposedly apolitical experts.
Constructing a new democracy is only possible if citizens ask themselves two questions. ‘Am I doomed to adjust to decisions made outside Finnish borders without demur?’ ‘Do I really influence decisions made in the parliament, for instance?’
The idea of politics is to guarantee what in the citizens’ view is good life for them. Economic growth and international competitiveness are just means to this end. Free elections serve a similar kind of instrumental function: they provide the citizens with an avenue to promote their targets. The core of democracy is their joint action.
However, people do disagree about the substance of a good life because their values clash and they prioritise different matters. Yet, many of them have also common experiences, organised in shared histories that advise outlining targets for remedying current surroundings. This kind of collective elevation of different kinds of ingredients into objectives for political action is what is needed for constructing democracy.
Free citizenry consists of groups with conflicting views on present circumstances. During the last two centuries this discord was organised by the political parties. Today, when democracy is in need of a new construction the crucial challenge is to ensure that politics is based on the recognition of groups with conflicting demands for good life and the endorsement of the following dissension.