Nation, State, and Democracy

This weekend, I leave you with a quotation from Henry Kissinger‘s 1994 magnum opus, Diplomacy. Following a penultimate chapter on the end of the Cold War, Kissinger looks ahead to the complexities of the “New World Order” even as he contemplates the nature and origins of liberal democracy:

The growth of democracy will continue as America’s dominant aspiration, but it is necessary to recognize the obstacles at the moment of its seeming philosophical triumph. Curbing the power of the central government has been a principal concern of Western political theorists, whereas, in most other societies, political theory has sought to buttress the authority of the state. Nowhere else has there been such an insistence on expanding personal freedom. Western democracy evolved in culturally homogeneous societies with a long common history (even America, with its polyglot population, developed a strong cultural identity). The society and, in a sense, the nation preceded the state without having to be created by it. In such a setting, political parties represent variants of an underlying consensus; today’s minority is potentially tomorrow’s majority.






One thought on “Nation, State, and Democracy

  1. American society is so unique in this sense. Even when our country was only democratic for white male land owners, it was still such a novelty. As we’ve progressed, it’s incredible how much the definition of democracy has changed to include African-Americans, then women, then young people with the addition of so many amendments to our constitution. No other country at the time of abolition would have ever fathomed the possibility of emancipated slaves voting for their own leader. America’s reputation of innovation and spirit can be directly attributed to this ever-expanding idea of democracy. As uncertainties loom regarding the extent of our personal liberties and freedoms, this purely American ideal must remain essential. We started out as a people and then formed a government for ourselves. Government must remain people-driven.

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