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Democracy as a Universal Value By Amartya Sen
Main Points • The value of democracy • A Universal Value • Arguments against • Sen’s Defense
The Value of Democracy • values, Sociology. the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group have an affective regard. These values may be positive, as cleanliness, freedom, or education, or negative, as cruelty, crime, or blasphemy. • The merits of the Value of Democracy • Democracy has an Intrinsic Importance in human life • The right to choose, speak freely, etc. • Generates political incentives • Helps with the formation of other values • tolerance, liberty, equality, etc.
A Universal Value • Sen argues that democracy is a universal value, in that it has the ability to exist within all cultures. • This is speaking strictly from a cultural standpoint • Democracy is not currently universally applicable in all parts as the world when other factors such as economics are considered.
Arguments against • “Asian Values” • Asian cultures value discipline over freedom • East Asian values are based on the authoritarian writing of Confucius • Islam • Islam intolerant of and hostile to individual freedom
Sen’s Defense • “Asian values” • Historically Asian cultures have valued political freedom, minority protection, and tolerance of pluralism. • The Indian Emperor Ashoka • East Asia • Their values are not homogenous • Their values are based on a variety of influences • Buddhism, and some Christianity
Sen’s Defense • Islam • Throughout history there are many examples of tolerance toward individual freedom • Akbar in India, many Mogul emperors, and many Turkish emperors were “more tolerant than their European counterparts” • Like Asian cultures, Islamic cultures do not hold a set of homogenous beliefs which conflict with democratic values
Sen’s Defense • No culture is based on a set of homogenous beliefs • All cultures are based on a variety of things • This creates a set of heterogeneous beliefs • No culture will have a set of beliefs that categorically conflicts with democracy
Summary • The value of democracy • A Universal Value • Arguments against • Sen’s Defense • Questions?