Difficulties upon understanding the true essence of democracy prevail nowadays as the said concept can be perceived in numerous ways. Democracy’s beginning was traced first from the Greek city states with the system of direct democracy, and to the European’s popular struggle to achieve freedom on 1500’s as the monarchical rule was still the strongest prevailing system on the land at that time.
Kings, Feudal lords, Military elites and Aristocrats’ domination over the ordinary individual is prevalent as they take advantage of the latter using their power, lands, and wealth, leaving him dependent, unsecured and living selflessly in favor of his masters. Then finally, the present times wherein more than majority of the countries in the globe applies representative democracy as the system of their government.
Upon searching for the most appropriate reflection for understanding Democracy, Thomas Hobbes, proposed an absolutist government headed by The Leviathan- as the sovereign which has the authority to subject the people under his will as the latter consented to the covenant for the humans to be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries from one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man (Hobbes, The Leviathan, XVII) for them to escape the conditions laid down in the State of Nature as described by Hobbes as State of War. The Leviathan now, in exchange of the overall rights submitted by the people to him, has to provide and protect the latter’s preservation of being as they won’t have the right to self preservation anymore. But, the sovereign is not accountable to the citizens compared from the latter’s responsibility to subject to the former’s rule over them makes it more of a government for the sovereign rather than for the people as from the main purpose of the covenant which is to prevent people from subjugating each other and to establish peace and order for the state.
John Locke, known as the father of modern democracy promoted a different political theory than Hobbes, which started the feat of democracy. Citizens, in his concept of the state of nature, are all men equally living together without an authoritative entity supervising them. But because of men’s freedom, the possession of property becomes unsecured hence making the enjoyment of it uncertain and constantly exposed to the invasion of others (Locke, Two Treatises of Government). To prevent such happening, the people concluded into public consent to establish a government that was divided into two braches- the Legislative and the Executive separately. However, despite of establishing an institution, the true power still resides within the hands of the people as they are the ones who select the Legislative officials and they also possess the right to revolt if the said institutions act against their purpose. Hence, Locke formulated a people- centered society wherein the people are capable of self governance without submitting their inalienable rights to a superior. His notions of people’s rights and the role of civil government provided strong support for the intellectual movements of both revolutions. For this reason he is called the father of modern democracy (Literary Articles, Locke as the Father of Modern Democracy).
On the other hand, According to Jean Jacques Rousseau, a man is not isolated as he conceivably would be in the ‘state of nature’, but one among any others of the same kind of forming a society (Betts, 1994). The overall theory by Rousseau presents new set of ideas as it was clearly different with Hobbes and Locke but aims the same ends- to achieve social equality. In his version of the State of Nature, the citizens lived in peace and isolation but when they came to know the society, greed and envy came into play and made the people’s properties not secured. In order to fix the situation, the public came before a compact and people subject their individual likes in accordance with the general will to abolish any form of inequality and hierarchy in the society. The mass public remained equal from each other but not allowed to think outside the ideas depicted by the general will.
As equality now prevail in the society, incompatibilities and problems within the political system lingered despite the fact that the people fought hard for it for over hundred years just to overcome the hierarchy of the elites over them. Democracy spread throughout the world with the promise of equality that has never seen before was embraced by the people who are thirsty for such. America was said to be the country wherein equality’s condition is more developed than to any other place in the world based from Alexis de Tocqueville’s analysis as he studied the said country’s society in a short span of visit.
Tocqueville argued that the people prefer equality over freedom or any other trait for two reasons; first, the situation at these people’s era gave the equality great importance as it made its bearer distinguishable among the rest. Second, is the fact that equality had deeply clenched into the way of life of the people including the customs, laws, and thoughts made the trait hard to disrupt. But this equality also served as a threat to the American society upon mixing it with freedom as the Americans became unproductive and apathetic for caring too much for their equal standing between one another than knowing if they’re still free or not, free to pursue without any control from the government the unwillingness to participate with state’s affairs and the worst is that even the brightest of thoughts in the state is ignored to maintain such equality over the land. Tocqueville showed through his literary work- Democracy in America the difficulty of reconciling Democratic Equality and Individual Liberty as it will result to isolation and sterile government that will later result to poverty and worst, taking them back to where they started.
Liberty, as coined by Baron de Montesquieu, is a right of doing whatever the laws permit (Spirit of the Laws, 1748). The citizens are now called to act in accordance with the rules constructed by the law in order for them to be protected against any harm imposed by the other people in the society as a result of having freedom to do whatever he wants. The imposition of liberty to cure the impurities caused by having freedom and equality at the same time in the society indicates that the two said traits are difficult to reconcile. But, it should be remembered that imposing liberty is same as imposing control. Hence, absolute freedom and equality present in a state is also demanding too much from the order of the society.
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