Democracy and Apartheid

  • Anthony Butler


The brokers of public opinion in the Western world — its media, popular writers and political activists — propagate an astonishingly complacent conception of democracy and its benevolence. Democracy has been elevated to an almost unchallengeable ideal, woven into a tale of inexorable (if occasionally temporarily reversed) human advance, with the liberal democratic state as the institutional culmination of Western progress. This seemingly naive celebration of the forward march of an idea in fact masks considerable ambivalence in popular sentiment. Many people vote a great deal, and believe that their vote is both an effective action and a moral obligation. But abstention, cynicism and the retreat to cause group politics mark an increasing disenchantment with democratic politics. The past two decades have seen voter dealignment and a growth in anti-party sentiment in all Western states.l Public opinion is structured, internally consistent, persistent over time and sometimes subtle: voters recognize the constraints of political life.2 Yet the recent trend towards unpopular leaders in Western democracies indicates a potential fragility of democracy in its heartlands, even as it is supposedly running triumphant elsewhere.3


Moral Responsibility Modern State Liberal Democracy Direct Democracy Representative Democracy 
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Copyright information

© Anthony Butler 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Butler
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK

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