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Democracy

society, primitive, social, political, basis, kinship and organized

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DEMOCRACY, History of. Introduc tory.— Some preliminary notion of what is meant by democracy will be indispensable at the outset in order to provide some logical basis for the organization of a discussion of its historical development. As a general concept it may be held that democracy is a form of social organisation in which the participation of each individual in the various phases of group activities is free from such artificial re strictions as are not indispensable to the most efficient functioning of the group, and in which group policy is ultimately determined by the will of the whole society. The procedure adopted will be to trace the evolution of democ racy in each succeeding period, as: (1) a prac tical fact in society; (2) a concept in social, political, and economic theory.

Democracy in Primitive Society.— Critical ethnologists have come into essential agree ment that the earliest type of social organiza tion among primitive men was that of the local group organized about the institutions of the family and the village, and characterized by the absence of any elaborate kinship organiza tion. It is in these small social groupings that the nearest approach is found to the so-called °primitive democracy? Here one finds small groups on a basis of intimate association, little affected by external influences, and the com ponent individuals participate in the whole cul ture of the group to a degree unknown in mod ern society. As Professor Cooley has pointed out, these circumstances provide a psychologi cal situation highly adapted to the development of intimacy and freedom in social relations. But, at the same time, as Professor Durkheins has vigorously insisted, these conditions are conducive to the maximum operation of those socio-psychological influences so familiar to the student of crowd psychology. Consequently, one finds in these primitive local groups a very considerable prevalence of customary regula tions and restrictions, some tendencies toward the development of caste, and a particular sus ceptibility to the domination of the forceful personality— all of which seriously impair the operation of a democratic type of social or ganization and functioning. Also it must be

recognized that these approximations to de mocracy in primitive society are rather inci dents of an undeveloped pre-political conditiop than the result of conscious planning of social organization on the basis of political liberal ism.

When one turns to examine what are gen erally the more advanced types of primitive so ciety organized on a kinship basis, with either maternal or paternal descent, even less appears of the alleged democratic characteristics of primitive society. Every phase of life within the group is minutely ordered by a veritable maze of customary regulations which are en forced with great rigidity and severity. Within the group the freedom of the individual is fur ther restricted by the general prevalence of so cial ranks and grades. The much vaunted tribal assemblies have been reduced by modern critical research from the °original fountain springs of political liberty,' as pictured by such writers as Maurer, Kemble and Freeman, to mere formal gatherings to grant a pre-assured acquiescence in the policies of the leaders of the group—a function strangely similar to that of the American party convention. A distin guished authority has remarked that the defi ance of the policies of the chiefs by a tribal assembly is such a rarity as to constitute no less than a political revolution, something which is even less frequent in primitive than in modern society. Finally, an individual in primitive kinship society is not free to transfer his membership from one group to another, but must remain forever in his own group, as an indbridual in primitive society has no standing outside of his kinship group, and in such a case occupies the position of an outlaw. Viewed exter• orally, then, primitive society is a 'closed shop and internally it is dominated by a mass of cus tomary regulations and is organized more or less according to a hierarchy of social classes. As primitive society approaches most closely the beginnings of real political or civil society the undemocratic features of social organization greatly increase.

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