The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship

By Jeffrey Edward Green | Go to book overview

6
Putting Candor First: Plebiscitarianism
and the Politics of Candor

Be sure of it. Give me the ocular proof.

—William Shakespeare, Othello


6.1 The Practical Application of Plebiscitarianism

What is at stake when candor—the principle that leaders not be in control of the conditions of their publicity—serves as the critical standard at the heart of a plebiscitarian approach to democracy? Certain aspects of candor already have been intimated. Candor is a political value that is unusual in the sense that it rests on the People’s capacity for sight, not voice. It is, accordingly, a critical ideal responsive to the citizen-being-ruled, who is a spectator of politics rather than a decision maker and who, unlike the more familiar figure of the citizen-governor, is in fact representative of the ordinary political experience of everyday citizens in contemporary mass democracy. However, notwithstanding these general characteristics, there are issues pertaining to the practical application of a politics of candor that still need to be addressed. Most of all, there is the question of how a commitment to candor would produce a democratic politics different from existing modes of democratic progressivism. Specifically, how is candor distinct from three other, traditional democratic values: deliberation, participation, and transparency? Given that supporters of these traditional ideals would likely endorse candor to a point (and find candor at least partially implicit in their own chosen principles), it needs to be asked how putting candor first—making candor rather than deliberation, participation, or transparency the primary ideal of democracy—would lead the plebiscitarian to support a conception of democracy irreducible to the versions already endorsed by deliberationists, participationists, and those committed to transparency. In this chapter, I take up this issue and demonstrate how a plebiscitarian commitment to a politics of candor shapes a distinctive approach to reforming democratic institutions. Sections 6.2 through 6.5 explore the consequences of making candor the primary value in democratic reform by analyzing three practices of contemporary mass democracy:

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The Eyes of the People: Democracy in an Age of Spectatorship
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1- Ocular Democracy 3
  • 2- The Citizen as Spectator 32
  • 3- Overcoming the Vocal Model of Popular Power 64
  • 4- The Concept of Plebiscitary Democracy- Past, Present, and Future 120
  • 5- Max Weber’s Reinvention of Popular Power and Its Uneasy Legacy 140
  • 6- Putting Candor First- Plebiscitarianism and the Politics of Candor 178
  • 7- Popular Power in Sight 201
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 259
  • Index 275
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