Political Ideology as a Religion: the Idolatry of Democracy
Document Type Article
Published in University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender and Class, v. 6, no. 1, spring 2006, p. 117-157.
In contemporary international law and politics, the invocation of the term “democracy” transcends both objective description and ritual symbolism. Normatively, it is deployed to delineate the good society from the pariah state. Prescriptively, it is employed to shun and coerce foes into preferred policies. In this article, I reflect on the ways in which contemporary liberalism’s faith and commitment to “democracy” have become akin to those that classically are associated with religion. By tracing the roots, rise and spread of democracy to the demands of an essentially European middle-class engaged in industrialization, commerce and colonization, and by relating that history to its current unquestioning deployment in legal and political centers of power as an universal dogma that confers benediction or absolution to friends and damnation to enemies, the essay seeks to spur some reflection on the power and force of the concept. The preliminary reflections undertaken in this essay suggests that, as is often the case with most sociological concepts, democracy’s sphere of authority, if it is to be sustained and made relevant,ultimately must be constantly revised and limited by the needs of the society over which it is intended to preside.