The Study of Man: Voting Practices versus Democratic Theory
THE relation of man to state is a timeless problem, one that provides a sturdy bridge from Plato to the Michigan Survey on elections. But in our day, we tend to deal with this problem very differently from our more philosophically-minded forebears. We see man not as an abstract moral being, but as voting man, electoral man. And the state, instead of being conceived as an essentially constitutional or legal structure, is approached as an enclosure of voting interests, each based upon some overriding social, economic, or ethnic objective. The consequences of this change in perspective are enormous.
I think it can fairly be said that Plato or Aristotle would have found no great difficulty in conversing with any subsequent Western political thinker down through the first decade or two of the present century. Even in the early 1930′s when, as an undergraduate, I studied political theory, the mental passage from such men as Harold Laski, Ernest Barker, and A. D. Lindsay back to the Attican philosophers was not a difficult one. There was still a common area of discourse. But how different the picture has now become!
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