Democracy and Diversity
Throughout history, diversity has been an integral part of most human populations through communal, tribal, social, cultural, and economic encounters and exchanges. Democracy, defined here as the will and power of people to freely govern themselves, however, has been an invention of the "West" and has found its true forms in twentieth century Europe, thus the terms, Western style, liberal, and/or majoritarian democracy. It has brought with it the sheer necessity of individuals living in harmony with one another for society to meet their individual and collective needs. It is at this juncture that the spirit and principles of democracy have required all citizens of such a state/country to be fully aware of its population make-up and diversity dynamics. In those "Western" and "Westernized" states/countries where homogeneous populations are more the norm, democratic principles and dynamics have fared well for its citizens. However, in those states where there is a substantial amount of cultural and ethnic diversity, democracy has been challenged not only as to its ability to meet the citizenship rights and needs of the total population but also as to its favoritism of majority members of the population. The purpose of this paper is to explore the intricate relationship between Western democracy and diversity in human populations of states/ countries. More specifically, the paper will first focus on the conceptualizations of both democracy in liberal and multicultural contexts, and cultural and ethnic diversity as they appear in contemporary literature. Secondly, contradictions between Western style democracies with majoritarian and liberal foundations and the practice of cultural and ethnic diversity as dictated by the principles of social justice and egalitarianism will be highlighted. And, finally, a working "consociational" model of democracy more realistically fitting to the multicultural and multiethnic population characteristics of many states/countries of the contemporary world, both in the Western and Eastern hemispheres, will be presented for further study and consideration by the public and private "civil society" individuals, groups, and organizations (i.e., NGOs) playing key roles in the structuring of political, social, and economic systems for their states and/or countries.
Keywords: Democracy, Diversity
Dr. Muammer Cetingok
College of Social Work, University of Tennessee