The Nature of Democratic Decision Making and the Democratic Panacea

Policy Futures in Education 7 (3):340-348 (2009)
'Democracy thrives because it helps individuals identify with the society of which they are members and because it provides for legitimate decision-making and exercise of power.' With this statement, the Council of Europe raises for us some fundamental questions: what is the practice of democracy, its merits and its limitations? A phenomenological insight into democracy as it displays itself indicates that its essence is decision making by vote. The strength of this mechanism is that it operates without a requirement for rationality on the part of the participants, and its imperative is always to achieve a decision - any decision. Thus, the mechanism enables decisions in situations of incommensurable choice. The history of the engagement of Maori with local government in Aotearoa New Zealand makes apparent the limitations of democracy and challenges democracy itself. Maori have no tradition of democracy and they aspire to the exercise of their traditional decision-making practices. As a minority in a democratic country, Maori find themselves always at the mercy of the vote. Democracy is a tool of colonisation. The situation of Maori provides lessons for those who would applaud the Council of Europe and their belief in coexistence by way of democratic decision making.
Keywords Democracy  Phenonmenology  Government  Voting
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