I have some vague thoughts to muse through here that aren't quite explicitly connected yet but wanted to throw out.
Richard Hofstadter asserted of the USA:
Anti-intellectualism . . . is founded in the democratic institutions and the egalitarian sentiments of this country. The intellectual class, whether or not it enjoys many of the privileges of an elite, is of necessity an elite in its manner of thinking and functioning . . . . Intellectuals in the twentieth century have thus found themselves engaged in incompatible efforts: They have tried to be good and believing citizens of a democratic society and at the same time to resist the vulgarization of culture which that society constantly produces. It is rare for an American intellectual to confront candidly the unresolvable conflict between the elite character of his own class and his democratic aspirations.
And I wonder if my own aspirations to have reasons for things, to understand my own actions so that I experience them truly as my own is a tendency towards intellectualism not as equated with intelligence but as a habit of mind which as summarized above is in conflict with my appeal to democracy.
I actually despise the sentiment that looks at the masses as inherently stupid and dangerous and simply to be manipulated.
Another implication of this transition was noted somewhat earlier, by Marx in the third of his Theses on Feuerbacb. It is clear that the Enlightenment's mechanistic account of human action included both a thesis about the predictability of human behavior and a thesis about the appropriate ways co manipulate human behavior. As an observer, if I know the relevant laws governing the behavior of others, I can whenever I observe that the antecedent conditions have been fulfilled predict the outcome. As an agent, if I know these laws, I can whenever I can contrive the fulfilment of the same antecedent conditions produce the outcome. What Marx underscood was that such an agent is forced co regard his own actions quite differently from the behavior of those whom he is manipulating. For the behavior of the manipulated is being contrived in accordance with bis intentions, reasons and purposes; intentions, reasons and purpases which he is treating, at least while he is engaged in such manipulation, as exempt from the laws which govern the behavior of the manipulated.
Although I also see what has become the breakdown between high and low culture through commercialism and that the ideal of pure and higher cultural sentiments seems to often reflect those of the educated elite.
I don't aspire to be some aristocrat but at the same time I do think in terms of the need to lift up the masses rather than denigrate them, to take people seriously as having good reasons for what they believe in even when I don't understand it personally. That the anti-democratic sentiment can be found in those who wish to control the masses and are upset when they step out of line.
At the same time though, I don't imagine it to be elitist to say that not everyone's opinion is equal in value and that a tendency to flatten things in opposition to experts who are often mistrusted as they can be tools for those in power whilst has some valid basis is destructive to developing a sound understanding of things.
It seems to me that the counterfactual element of everyone’s word having equal sway and the force of argument only carrying weight needs to be given some consideration. In real life, the word of people who have greater experience or a proven record in some domain counts for more. Is this inherently elitist? I don’t think so. For example, I have a right to make claims about activities with which I am intimately concerned over the word of others who have no such involvement.
Even on here, how many people feel the need to participate in subjects they have ventured little to understand in the first place. But then the ethics of majority vote as in a democracy is an emphasis on everyone's vote or 'say' being equal.
As remarked above, it was the principle of equality which made possible and gave rise to Majority and is expressed in the equal value of each vote. The principle of equality means the equality of all members of the collective as autonomous agents having a stake in the decision.
And all those involved with a say in something are ethically all those who are effected.
Participants in the project have a moral responsibility not to affect, or at least adversely affect, other people who are non-participants. If someone makes a claim that they are affected, then they have become participants; it’s a fait acompli. At the same time, people may be affected by the project, but have no wish to participate. But they have to know.
So I quite like the point against the lives of the many effected by something being dictated simply by an elite, people do need a say and this is where a need for collaboration and trust is to be created.
A group of people working together can come up with great decisions.
Advocates of ‘citizen juries’ have convincingly shown that a randomly chosen group of citizens, if given time and the same kind of expert advice given to elected politicians, generate better decisions than career politicians or even social movement activists. But the suggestion following from this that election of governments should be replaced by such randomly chosen focus groups is premature.
If anything, my concern when it comes to the masses of people is the conditions in which they can be thought to be effective participants in the determination of their lives.
But how much power in much of day to day life is in the hands of the people or is such participation really such a dry and boring process, that actual politics which isn't the theater on the TV isn't something people are willing to engage in or find that meaningful. They like to defer responsibility to some elite representative and such to make good decisions until things piss them off.
- Andy Blunden