Saturday, June 9, 2007

ARTICLE REVIEW on MATURE DEMOCRACY: Governance in a Postmodern World by Ken White


Ken White postulated in this article “In truth, democracy is always a process of ‘becoming’, never a state of ‘being’. Democracy is created and supported by its citizens, and nurtured and developed by its leaders. It cannot be imposed ‘top-down’ by authority, nor will it emerge ‘bottom-up’ from chaos. Instead, it is a product both of form (the right structures) and function (the right purposes).” (Underscoring supplied) Some premises digress however, when set against the background of The Structure Theory.


In here, form and function appears to be two independent entities analogous to the Cartesian split of the material and the mental realm, which differs with the Spinozistic conception of reality that body and mind are inseparable in the same “holon”1. Function is embedded in the structure – and is inseparable. The postulate that “democracy is always a process of ‘becoming’, and never a state of ‘being” seems a fragmentation of the inseparable and will make democracy stay forever as a ‘verb’. Democracy is a process of a viable structure and its maturation goes along with the evolution of the form 2.

The Spinozistic conception of reality however will produce a mechanistic world. Environment is a universal variable that affects structure and produces hues of properties. “Quantum gravity, as far as we can tell, goes even further this direction, as our description of the geometry of space-time as woven together from loops and knots is a beautiful mathematical expression of the idea that the properties of any one part of the world are determined by its relationships and entanglement with the rest of the world.” Lee Smolin 3

Function equated with “the right purposes” furthermore blurs the issue. Purpose is a human enterprise 4 antecedent to artificial structures while function is the process of a structure, natural or man-made.

The degree of maturity of Western democracies followed the natural process of evolution with so much chaos and pain through wars and revolutions. “However, war's function is to pull and to push groups into nonzero solutions 5. Wright's logic is that the possibility of war pulls cultures into the technology that both supports a population of fighters and arms them for victory; fear of war also pushes peoples into alliances and cooperative exchanges with neighbors and even with potential enemies. "Non-zero-sum" games allow both parties to win through cooperation and inventiveness that keep rivalries and competition within nonlethal boundaries.” James Brody, 6

The attainment of a mature democracy certainly could not be imposed from “top-down” with a magic wand, but man can consciously create and graft a structure of government that is “self-organizing” 7 towards the consolidation 8 and strengthening of national institutions worthy of patriotism 9.

Most colonized nations did not have this natural process of evolution towards democracy. They were handed down constitutions with specific forms of governments that were shadows of the governments of the colonizers. This is a “top-down” design, which does not necessarily mean instant mature democracy. The maturation of democracy has to undergo consolidation 10.

The Philippines is an example of an instant democracy that has not attained consolidation. The presidential or the British parliamentary forms of government are paradigms of mature democracies that does not augur well with the emerging democracy of the pacific Filipinos. The case of Taiwan and South Korea differs in a way due to the threat of war that unites the people against a common enemy.

Indeed, we are born into relationships. 11 The Structure Theory posits that everything in the universe is related. The suggestion, however of Ferdinand Tonnies about ‘society’ being embedded in a country’s laws is state-centered exclusive sometimes of the individual, community and society. Society and culture are inseparable, and government is only a portion of society while laws are but part of culture. There are good laws and there are bad laws. Any law that impinges on the individual’s right to privacy or its human rights should automatically be rejected by society, and not be “embedded” in it. Governments could either favor allies or harass oppositions through the deft manipulation of the “due process of law”.

Government and the laws by which it operates have to take precedence from the dynamic cultures of societies and the customs and traditions of communities. Antiquated bonds of communities 12 like honor killing, FGM and vengeance however violate human rights and the privacy of the individual. The state, having emerged above communities, has to address these violations to establish order and provide the opportunities for the pursuit of happiness. '


The hypothetical situation of John Nash and his cronies pursuing their individual self-interest and cancel each others attention on the beautiful blonde woman is just it – good for the movie “A Beautiful Mind”. Before the group entered the bar, someone must have attained dominance, and that one has the obligation to maintain order.

All structure has a ‘self’ 13 that has attitude 14 or potentiality. Vapor, ice and the beautiful symmetry of snowflakes are the reactions of water to its environment. The hierarchical levels of structures from quantum mechanics to the United Nations have their particular selves with attitudes that produce their specific properties. Structures are selfish - including the conscious man, having proceeded from the ‘selfish gene’. 15

Bonding however restrains selfishness and produces another structure with a different self. “The mass of a nucleus is less than the sum of the masses of its component particles; (the two up-quarks and one down-quark) the lost mass becomes the binding energy holding the nucleus firmly together. This is called the ‘packing effect” - Erwin Schrodinger. 16 At this level we can already discern altruism and dominance. The need (deficiency) to relate is basic; without it, no new structure could emerge. A man and a woman must give off a certain degree of self to make the conjugal-self strong. 17 The common good is a new compound distinct from its components – personal pleasure.

Indeed, “democracy cannot emerge from the sum total of our individual wants and desires” (Ken White), otherwise salt would be doubly poisonous.18 Democracy is a property of the new structure (The State) as a result of bonded communities. Apparently the selfishness of the state is lodged with government or what Arnold Toynbee called the Creative Minority. The common good could not be served when the Creative Minority “worships its ‘former self” and becomes the Dominant Minority.19


The problem of most developing nations is how to attain mature democracy. There seems to be two choices; to let it evolve naturally or to consciously design it. Evolution though proceeds exceedingly slow with so much pain. This leaves us with the other choice. At the national level, coalitions of parties are more appropriate, 20 and the more fluid they are the more self-organizing they become. The executive branch should be shared by the majority coalition and the minority coalition to attain a pluralist political economy 21. See also “EDSA Revolutions: Wasted Opportunities? At

Self-organizing structure of government will easily adapt to the changes of environment, thus avoiding illiberal democracy. This is the structure where the political elite (group) should be situated to restrain them from reverting to their ‘former selves’ in the performance of their duties. Is enlightenment the answer? 22 Buddha achieved his through prolonged meditation under a banyan tree, while Jesus and Mohammed acquired theirs through constant reflection on top of a mountain or in a desert tent. Enlightenment comes from within not from Harvard.

The community needs politicians, while the nation needs statesmen. “When right principles of government prevail in the empire the superior man will show himself: the superior man has thoughts of unfolding his abilities.” Confucius


(1) Tim Quick: Holons or Gestalts? A Response to Wilber and Zimmerman – The Trumpeter, Volume 22, Number 2 (2006). “The structure of a thing is how the parts of it relate to each other, how it is ‘put together’, this contrasts with process’, which is how the thing works; but ‘process’ needs a viable structure.” (Wikipedia)

(2 & 6) James Brody: Logic and Human Destiny – 2/11/2000. “It is not true that any structure is possible at any time. We build at each moment on the structure that we got from the past and it's generally easier to modify or add pieces than to subtract them. We also follow mathematical, chemical, and physical laws in the structures that we develop”.

(3) Lee Smolin: A Theory of the Whole Universe – Encarta sidebar

(4) St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologica “…because natural things are explained by natural causes, while those that are done for a purpose are the products of human reason and will.”

(5) Robert Wright: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny – page 61

(7) Harold Morowitz: The Emergence of Everything (on self-organization) It is posited that a self-organizing structure is systemic and has spontaneity like a seed that restructures itself towards maturity and fruition in the proper environment.

(9) Jean Jacques Rousseau - in his advice to the Poles said: “It is the national institutions that form the genius, the character, the tastes and the mores of a people…which inspire in it this burning love of the fatherland.” This is a classic case of the ‘chicken and the egg’. However, history shows that Western state institutions were tempered through chaos and pain to evolve strong and consolidated even before the advent of democracy.

(8 & 10) Juan J. Linz & Alfred Stepan, Journal of Democracy 7.2 (1996) 14-33: Toward Consolidated Democracies
The consolidation of democracy according to Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan must have three minimal conditions: 1) No state, no democracy. 2) Transition must be brought to completion, 3) Rulers should govern democratically. (Journal of Democracy, 7.2 (1996) 14-33

(11) Lee Smolin on Liebniz: A Theory of the Whole Universe – Encarta
Indeed, for me the most important idea behind the developments of twentieth-century physics and cosmology is that things don't have intrinsic properties at the fundamental level; all properties are about relations between things. This idea is the basic idea behind Einstein's general theory of relativity, but it has a longer history; it goes back at least to the seventeenth-century philosopher Leibniz, who opposed Newton's ideas of space and time because Newton took space and time to exist absolutely, while Leibniz wanted to understand them as arising only as aspects of the relations among things.

(12) Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life (“Ritual is the bond of communities”)

(13) Christian Diehm – The Self of Stars and Stone: Ecofeminism, Deep Ecology, and the Ecological Self; The Trumpeter, Volume 19, Number 3 (2003). The Self consists of the material (structure) and the mental realm (property), which could be equated with the Spinozistic concept of “Reality”.

(14) JungHoon – Psychological Types, Chapter XI (“Attitude is the readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way”)

(15) Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene. I find no inconsistencies in accepting the premise that all structures are selfish, otherwise there would be no uniqueness and variety. Furthermore, without selfishness the need to relate would not be existent and neither structures nor properties could emerge.

- Espen Gamlund – Who Has Moral Status in the Environment? A Spinozistic Answer – The Trumpeter, Volume 23, Number 1 (2007). The Conation Theory of Baruch Spinoza is about “the striving to preserve Self”. “ He calls this ‘striving’ an appetite or need (appetitus) whether the thing is conscious of this striving or not; but if the striving is conscious, he calls it a desire (cupiditas)”. Page 8

(16) Erwin Schrodinger – What is Matter? Encarta

(17) Bond (Chemistry) – Encarta Article, The chemical bonding of Oxygen and Hydrogen has to loss certain amount of energy (heat) in order to make the new compound stable. One of the necessaries of bonding is nearness.

(18) Chemistry – both Sodium and Chlorine are poisonous but when chemically bonded produce another structure with a different property of saltiness beneficial to life

(19) Arnold Toynbee – A Study of History (A 12 volume magnum opus); He argues that the breakdown of civilizations is not caused by loss of control over the environment, over the human environment, or attacks from outside. Rather, it comes from the deterioration of the "Creative Minority," which eventually ceases to be creative and degenerates into merely a "Dominant Minority" (who forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience). He argues that creative minorities deteriorate due to a worship of their "former self," by which they become prideful, and fail to adequately address the next challenge they face.

(20) Tip O’Neil – A quotation “All politics is local”. I deduce that political parties should stay strong locally and coalesce at the national level towards the majority and minority in a self-organizing structure. This new paradigm differs with the suggestion of Samuel Huntington and other political scientists to strengthen political parties up to the national level, because the system is spontaneous.

(21) Manuel Couret Branco – The Interaction of Cultural and Economic Factors: Arguments for a Pluralist Political Economy of Development, The Trumpeter-Volume 22, Number 2 (2006). The author argues that it is not culture (religion, kinship, ethnic diversity, and the performance of authority) that is a drag to development. He pointed out that, although there is precocity of development in countries with the protestant ethic (Max Weber), it is not absolute. Accordingly, development could proceed even before the attainment of homogeneity. The Pluralist Political Economy of Development still suggests structure.

(22) Orion Perez Dumdum - Key to Social Change: Enlightenment of the Elite, posted at The elite in here is synonymous to the creative minority of Arnold Toynbee and “the few” of James Mills. The bullseye seemed to have been hit, but the bell didn’t ring. Politicians embody the selfishness of the community that interface with their individual selfishness. They have a reversible switch on enlightenment. The Philippine political apparatus is conducive to tribalism. What is needed is a structure that will automatically screen the chaff from the grain – though not so perfect.



missy said...

"There are good laws and there are bad laws. Any law that impinges on the individual’s right to privacy or its human rights should automatically be rejected by society, and not be “embedded” in it. Governments could either favor allies or harass oppositions through the deft manipulation of the “due process of law”. ..." Ken White

Yes, Democracy is a process and is founded on the basic principles of government that makes it democratic. One of these principles is as stated by Ken, the rights to privacy. And the rest of the "rights" are in themselves, founded on one basic idea; that we, as individuals, are endowed with inalienable rights, upon which all the laws imbedded therein ends. The litmus test of the laws' constitutionality is the degree in which they strengthen and secure individual freedom to participate in the governing of a country or a nation. Does Gloria Arroyo understand these principles? How about her prostituted members of the justice system?

I suggest we observe a moment of silence for all the souls of Filipinos who died from the hands of those who are protecting the right of Gloria to exercise the power of a president without authority from the Filipino people. Trillanes needs to be protected from harms way coming from Gloria Arroyo’s supporters. They do not know what democracy is.

Ernesto Posadas Jr. said...

missy,change is universal albeit on deferent timelines. society can either succumb to the natural process of war and revolution or design it to minimize the birth-pain. the non-violence of gandhi and mandela seems to take a lifetime. like you, i too am impatient. the change of leadership however must be complimented by a change of the system in order to prevent the ogre from reappearing. i have suggested a form of government at that is self-organizing to keep the political elite in line. john kennedy said, "those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable".

Tiki said...

So much for a "mature" democracy:

Ernesto Posadas Jr. said...

tiki, Interesting. Ken White - a Harvard professor - delivered this speech 5 years ago and was given to us for reflection in our graduate school class. He said he will meditate on my "critique" and was happy to receive feedbacks that enhances his knowledge - this time from "a Filipino perspective".