Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview

the general purposes approved by the electorate can be put into practice, translated into laws and administrative regulations. But that is only possible if the service is regarded, and regards itself, as an instrument, fit to carry out policies whose general character has been decided on by other people. The civil servant is therefore rightly limited in his political activities, and the good civil servant will often say, "But that is politics," in something of the same tone as the soldier will refer to "those damned politicians." But if the tradition that the organs of power must be taught to regard themselves as only organs—services in the strictest sense of the term— prevents a democratic community from being dominated by its own instruments, if the services think of themselves entirely as instruments and not as citizens, they may be tools in the hands of a government which is trying to subvert the constitution. One of the most sinister things which happened in the Spanish Civil War was the employment of Moroccan troops in a dispute between Spanish parties. How are we to ensure that the services are instruments, with no policy of their own to push, and yet citizens, ready to resist any attempt to use them as instruments to subvert the constitution? We seldom discuss these questions in either England or the United States, but the failure to keep the armed force of the state as loyal servants of the constitution was a major cause of the failure of democracy in Italy, in Germany, and in Spain.

The problem is made more difficult by the new tasks which modern conditions have put upon government. In early nineteenth-century democracy, i.e. the democracies of the United States and Switzerland, where society being mainly agricultural was naturally democratic, there was little need for any functions of government except the function of keeping order. A naturally democratic society had to be protected from violence from within and without. "Administrative nihilism plus the policeman" was an exaggerated but not hopelessly false description of the government required for such a society. The Industrial Revolution has entirely altered the situation. If government is to serve the community, and to help to make it more of a community, it has to take on, as it has taken on, all kinds of more positive and constructive functions. If it is true to say that the purpose of organized force is negative, to keep off forces which would disturb the free life of society, there is no such clear line to be drawn between the many other functions performed by a modern government and those performed by voluntary associations. There is a corresponding approach in the methods by which a government department performs these functions to the methods followed by voluntary associations. Compulsion fades into the background: consultation and deliberation takes its place. With this difference in the methods by which government performs its functions may go a corresponding difference in the methods of democratic control.


83
Changes in the Structure of Democracy

José Medina Echavarría


Changes in the Structure of Democracy

At the risk of being tiresome, we would repeat that it is only possible here to touch rapidly on essential points. It is generally acknowledged that—

pending the appearance of a work transcending it— the best description extant of the changes that have taken place in the structure of democracy over the past few decades is that given by G. Leibholz, 1 which, despite an understandable emphasis on the experiences of his own country (Germany), is generally applicable to all other countries. To avoid the temptation of examining some of the technical questions that crop up, I prefer not to take this

____________________
From José Medina Echavarria, "Changes in the Structure of Democracy," in José Medina Echavarria and Benjamin H. Higgins, Social Aspects of Economic Development in Latin America (Paris: Unesco, 1963), pp. 124-137. Reprinted by permission of Unesco.

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