Unitary versus Adversary Democracy Essay (Book Review)

June 8, 2021 by Essay Writer


This chapter begins by attributing invention of democracy to the western world. The invention encompasses relevant institutions such as parliament, representation, and common suffrage. Democracy demands that citizens should elect representatives after a certain period. In democracy, voting settles any instance of disagreement.

This combination of factors sums up the integral tenets of democracy. Thus, the author calls it “adversary” democracy. This model of democracy contradicts the old democratic order. In the old democratic order, people who disagreed reasoned together as opposed to voting. They congregated with their friends with a view to reaching an amicable solution.

This order had no provision for election of representatives. This democratic order encouraged consensus based on mutual respect in pursuit of the common good of society. This model assumed that citizens had a common interest on all matters. It encouraged direct interaction among citizens.

The author calls it “unitary” democracy. According to the author, these models are contradictory in their nature. The author notes that many scholars are oblivious of this contradictory nature of the democratic models. According to the author, both models have distinct ideals that suit different contexts of democratic discourse.

The author uses case studies to demonstrate the importance and essence of the two democratic models. This chapter seeks to convince readers that democracy has a role to play in society, despite its shortcomings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It also shows that unitary democracies fail due to their inability to recognize conflicting interests and their timely resolution. The author observes that such conflicts resolve easily by consociational democracy as opposed to majority rule.

To decipher the contradictions of both models, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of competing interests. This will help in diluting stereotypes about democracy and its related institutions. This also helps us to understand institutions that serve the democratic systems. Through such understanding, citizens interrogate institutions such as the Supreme Court and congress.

Unitary versus Adversary Democracy

In this chapter, the author conducts a critical analysis of the unitary model of democracy. The unitary model incorporates the traditional understanding of friendship into the political arena. This chapter asserts the view that unitary democracy has a long history in the field of human organization.

The adversary model replaced the unitary approach in the seventeenth century. This resulted from the popularization of mercantilism and the spread of market relations. Since then, political scholars and theorists view adversary democracy as the only viable model of democracy. They consider unitary ideals as borne out of ignorance and lack of clear understanding on matters related to democracy.

Several theorists have initiated efforts to retrieve the unitary model from its abyss of neglect and isolation. This chapter interrogates the metamorphosis of unitary ideals since the ouster by adversary model.

Unitary democracy derives its strength from the simple nature of its ideals and values. It demystifies the values of friendship by formalising them through political involvement. The author alludes to Aristotle’s reference to friendship as being a critical ingredient for peaceful co-existence between city-states.

Aristotle praises the unity among citizens in a unitary state. Friendship is synonymous with love, thus its desirable and critical value and importance. Friends enjoy spending time together and sharing experiences that help to cement their bond of communion. Therefore, any state built on friendship must be pertinent in upholding democratic principles and ideals.

This applies because it anchors on presumed equality among its members. According to the author, unitary democracy upholds consensus in solving conflicts that arise within a polity. This emphasizes on the ideals of friendship since consensus only works among individuals with rhyming interests.

The author marvels at how ancient Greeks endeavoured to strike a balance between unitary and adversary models of democracy. The city of Athens allowed practice of both models in its governance of citizens. Adversary democracy has received criticism for its mode of operation.

It leans towards personal interests, as opposed to common interests. Such a model is prone to criticism and negative reaction since it ignores the common agenda of citizens. Previous studies indicate that unitary democracy may not be popular, but it has a degree of consistency and sustainability.

The Inner Logic of Unitary Democracy

To proponents of adversary democracy, the idea of unitary democracy appears illogical and misplaced. They assume those individuals are always conflicting with disregard for equality of all. They further claim that consensus is superficial in its approach to solving conflicts in a polity.

According to them, consensus presents a situation whereby some people shy away from expressing their views for fear of retribution. In order to demystify these assumptions, it is necessary to understand certain concepts that relate to democracy. One such a concept is interests. In unitary democracy, members need assurance for their interests. Being in the polity makes them united with little regard for personal interests.

In fact, they replace personal interests with common interests that aim towards fulfilment of common goals. The author defines “interest” as enlightened preferences among policy choices. The author notes that this is not the sole definition of the term, arguing that readers should endeavour to consider other forms of definitions and insights on the matter.

The author argues that unitary democracy can sometimes create false consensus by manipulating members’ feelings to make unnecessary decisions. The author argues that fulfilment of personal interests is fundamental. The author asserts that no collectivity of individuals can have identical interests.

He argues that groups can agree on certain issues but certainly not all. According to the author, an ideal unitary democracy would require people to cultivate a common interest on all policy matters. It is impossible to forge a perfect unitary system of democracy.

The author concurs that success of a democracy model depends on the extent to which members cultivate a platform for common interests. The unitary model requires members to have respect for each other. According to the author, members work together to achieve goals and aspirations that contribute to their common good. This equality helps to fuel the sustenance of a democratic system by ensuring that members have maximum regard for interests of other members.

The author concurs that unitary democracy is prone to intimidation and coercion in an effort to force members into conformity. The author demonstrates that both models of democracy have flaws and shortcomings. However, such weaknesses should neutralize by pursuing their positive attributes. This ensures a just and free society devoid of oppression and human conflict.

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