To the Editor:
In your excellent January issue, Mr. Ray Alan’s analysis of the Algerian crisis [“Political Crisis in France”] presents a clarification of France’s wretched policy in that unhappy land; Dean Nisbet’s criticism of some new methods in political science [“Voting Practice vs. Democratic Theory”] draws our attention to some basically wrong assumptions about democracy.
I entirely agree with Dean Nisbet that liberal democracy is not as infallible or as universally applicable as the Enlightenment thought. Yet this democracy has its basis in “ideological” attitudes which arose in the 17th-century English revolutions of which the young American republic became the most prominent heir, and which found their embodiment in political and social institutions that corresponded to this new spirit of freedom of opinion, expression, and of the right to opposition and diversity. This open and pluralist society was a revolutionary venture. . . . The religious heritage of Judeo-Christianity was as much alive in Russia and Prussia, in Spain and Sicily, Armenia and Ethiopia, as in England—it nowhere else gave rise to modern democracy and liberty. . . . Dean Nisbet brilliantly points out that given certain moral, intellectual, and social conditions, it does not matter that only 50 per cent of the electorate turns out for the vote, as far as the preservation of a reasonably free society is concerned. But these conditions are the result of a unique and profound revolution of moral and intellectual attitudes which took place in a few countries during the Enlightenment.
New York City