“But there is an even more radical sense in which democracy must be creative. Democracy is forever confronted with the task of creating and recreating itself. For democracy can never anticipate the contingencies and the new situations that we confront. A creative democracy is one that always faces new unexpected challenges. We see this today in what many call globalization. I sometimes think that ‘globalization’ is what everybody talks about, and nobody quite understands. But there are some noncontroversial features of what we are now living through. We are seeing how all sorts of decisions-economic, social and political-over which citizens in a given territorial nation have no control, profoundly affect their lives. It is sometimes frightening to realize the electronic speed by which these can occur. Some observers think that we are witnessing the dissolution of the nation-state. The problem we face is how to insure that new emerging global institutions are genuinely democratic, that they are responsive to the desires and needs of those who are affected by them. Clearly, once one moves beyond the local community or even the nation-state, then one is compelled to think about democratic institutions and decision procedures in new ways. We cannot appeal to the past or to any preconceived blue-prints to deal with the new forms of democratic institutions. Frankly, I think we are just beginning this endeavor, and there is a great deal of uncertain groping. But the point I want to emphasize is that a democratic polity can never simply rely on existing institutions and practices. It must strive to recreate itself, to address the issue of what ‘positive and constructive changes in social arrangements are to be instituted’ in these new conditions of risk and uncertainty in order to insure the transformation and continuation of a democratic ethos. In this sense creative democracy is not and cannot be a fixed static ideal. It is intrinsic to the very idea of such a democracy that it always a task before us, a task that demands passionate commitment and reflective flexible intelligence.
Alan Ryan, who has written a splendid book on John Dewey, concludes his study by telling us:
Dewey was a visionary. That was his appeal. He was a curious visionary, because he did not speak of a distant goal or city not built with hands. He was a visionary about the here and now, about the potentiality of the modern world, modern society, modern man, and thus, as it happened America and Americans in the twentieth century … [and] he will remain for the foreseeable future a rich source of intellectual nourishment for anyone not absolutely locked within the anxieties of his or her own heart and not absolutely despondent about the prospects of the modem world.15
At the core of Dewey’s vision was his moral ideal of a creative democracy, an ideal that becomes living reality only when it becomes ‘a personal way of individual life in which we open ourselves to the fullness of communication.’ There will always be differences, conflicts, and agonistic confrontations in a pluralistic democratic polity. ‘To cooperate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because of the belief that the expression of difference is not only a right of the other persons but is a means of enriching one’s own life-experience, is inherent in the democratic way of life.’16 Creative democracy is still the task before us!” (Bernstein 2000:226-227).
Bernstein, R. J. (2000). Creative democracy–the task still before us. American Journal of Theology & Philosophy, 21(3), 215. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212185342?accountid=28180
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