<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Preliminaries</b> <p> <p> I. Preliminaries <p> <b>Politics, in large part,</b> is a response to diversity. It reflects a seemingly incontrovertible condition—any imaginable human population is heterogeneous across multiple, overlapping dimensions, including material interests, moral and ethical commitments, and cultural attachments. The most important implication of this diversity is that disagreement and conflict are unavoidable. This is, in part, not only because the individuals and groups who constitute any population are diverse in the ways just suggested but because that diversity is irreducible. There simply is no neutral institutional arrangement that will accommodate their competing demands and projects without leaving some remainder over which they still disagree. But the inevitability of disagreement and conflict also partly reflects the fact that precisely as members of a relevant population, those individuals and groups are commonly, as it were, stuck with one another. Their fates are highly, irrevocably interdependent. Thus, despite their diversity and the discord to which it gives rise, they require some means of coordinating their ongoing social and economic interactions. For this, they need, most importantly, social institutions. More specifically, in their efforts to coordinate in mutually beneficial ways, they require a set of institutional arrangements consisting of everything from the most decentralized institutional mechanisms, like informal norms, practices, and conventions, to a wide range of decentralized (e.g., markets) and centralized (e.g., government) formal institutions. Under these circumstances of discord and interdependence, politics largely consists in deep, persistent contests over the contours and distributive implications of these shared institutional arrangements. <p> Institutions are sets of rules that emerge from and subsequently structure social and political interaction. They are persistent means of coordinating ongoing social, economic, and political activity. And typically they have a systemic quality such that in any particular circumstances, what we call an institutional arrangement will hang together in a more or less coherent, if more or less arbitrary, and more or less contested fashion. Institutional rules often demand that individuals act in ways that run, wholly or partly, counter to their immediate or even longer-term interests, commitments, and attachments. They therefore must specify not simply what can be done, by and to whom, for what purposes, and when but also what happens when the rules are breached and who decides whether a breach has occurred. <p> On this account, institutions ultimately must be self-enforcing—that is, they must rest on the mutual expectations of the relevant participants. For most forms of social interaction, there will typically be several, perhaps many, alternative and feasible ways to institutionalize that interaction. For example, if we want to establish an institutional framework to coordinate the multiplicity of social interactions involved in the production and distribution of health care, there are several types of arrangements that could accomplish it. Each will differ in the degree to which they rely on decentralized, as opposed to centralized, mechanisms. In such situations, we encounter further unavoidable sources of disagreement. Institutional arrangements are indeterminate in at least two ways. They are indeterminate in the sense that they represent arbitrary outcomes of strategic interactions. Given that there are alternative ways of institutionalizing social and economic affairs, relevant individuals and groups will endorse arrangements that they expect to operate over time in ways that favor their own interests, commitments, and attachments. They also are indeterminate in their operation insofar as the individuals and groups for whom they are relevant will differ over time about what the rules mean, whether and when they are being followed or breached, who is to decide such matters, and so on. Here again, involved parties will seek to resolve such interpretive disputes to their own advantage. <p> The view we sketch here clearly converges with the way others portray "the circumstances of politics." It just as clearly departs from the views of others who hope to distance themselves from the sort of "political theory that presumes conflict and competition as characteristic modes of interaction." That said, people confronting the "circumstances of politics" on our view share a judgment or recognition or assessment that even as violence, coercion, and force constitute the ubiquitous backdrop to politics, they do not afford effective means of coordinating ongoing interactions. In this sense, these circumstances are themselves something of a tenuous achievement in the absence of which social actors might adopt one of (at least) two broad alternative strategies. The first would be <i>exit</i>, whether individual (via emigration) or collective (via secession). The second is <i>violence</i> (e.g., "ethnic cleansing," genocide) aimed at eliminating or expelling others whose interests, commitments, and attachments animate projects that appear threatening or even just inconvenient. <p> At this juncture, a skeptic might respond by noting that the historical record is replete with instances in which people adopted either of these two alternatives. We concede the point but suggest the views we advance hardly are unique in being susceptible to the challenge posed by the well-documented willingness of individuals and groups to fundamentally abandon politics in favor of exit or violence. The skeptical view is a challenge to any general argument about the normative significance of political-economic institutional arrangements. It raises a general question: What might persuade people to eschew direct recourse to violence and coercion and to accept institutionalized ways of resolving conflict and achieving cooperation? Our answer to this question is that democratic politics, and especially reliance on democratic institutional arrangements, afford the best prospect for doing so. <p> John Dewey's perspective on the relationship between the use of force and the use of democratic arrangements is especially informative in this regard. Dewey acknowledged that force was a fundamental characteristic of social activity, asserting that "[n]o ends are accomplished without the use of force." From this premise, he argued that the important social questions involved how force is marshaled and employed in the pursuit of social cooperation. The relevant criterion was "the relative efficiency and economy of the expenditure of force as a means to an end." Thus, "what is justly objected to as violence or undue coercion is a reliance upon wasteful and destructive means of accomplishing results." <p> For Dewey, institutional arrangements like democracy and the rule of law offered a practical and collectively beneficial alternative to the use of violence. "If law or rule is simply a device for securing such a distribution of forces as keeps them from conflicting with one another, the discovery of a new social arrangement is the first step in substituting law for war." In fact, the benefits of institutional solutions to conflict that avoid the use of violence play a fundamental role in Dewey's argument in support of democracy: <p> Democracy is the belief that even when needs and ends or consequences are different for each individual, the habit of amicable cooperation—which may include, as in sport, rivalry and competition—is itself a priceless addition to life. To take as far as possible every conflict which arises—and they are bound to arise—out of the atmosphere and medium of force, of violence as a means of settlement into that of discussion and of intelligence is to treat those who disagree—even profoundly—with us as those from whom we may learn, and in so far, as friends. A genuinely democratic faith is faith in the possibility of conducting disputes, controversies and conflicts as cooperative undertakings in which both parties learn by giving the other a chance to express itself, instead of having one party conquer by forceful suppression of the other—a suppression which is none the less one of violence when it takes place by psychological means of ridicule, abuse, intimidation, instead of by overt imprisonment or in concentration camps. <p> <p> Yet, few if any have followed Dewey's lead in adopting this relatively unromantic view of democratic politics. Normative political theorists tend to ignore or assume away the challenge posed by those who would repudiate politics. There tends to be a common assumption that our debates about the normative legitimacy of democratic decision making, as well as other types of institutions, take place exclusively among participants already committed to the nonviolent resolution of disagreements and differences. And even here we admit that this challenge will not be the primary focus of our argument. Nonetheless, we feel that our emphasis on the persistence and ubiquity of disagreement and conflict gives politics more room in our discussion than is to be found in most normative theories. And it will allow us to return later, in the spirit of Dewey's analysis, to the question of whether the institutional argument we advance—if successfully implemented—would diminish the likelihood that significant actors would opt for nonpolitical means and, crucially, what would happen if it did not. <p> <p> II. Institutional Pluralism <p> As we have said, any population inhabiting the circumstances of politics as we have sketched them can avail itself of a plurality or range of feasible institutional forms. In addition to markets and democratic decision-making procedures, this includes, but is not limited to, bureaucracy, adjudication through courts, private associations, economic hierarchies, and social norms. And, of course, these institutional mechanisms, which themselves come in different varieties or forms, also need to be combined in various ways into what we will call "institutional arrangements." Once we recognize this plurality, the task of choosing which institutions would best coordinate our social interactions in any particular setting appears quite daunting. This in turn raises the difficult task of discerning how, in such circumstances, any heterogeneous constituency, with its diverse and often conflicting interests, values, and commitments, might determine which array of institutional forms to use to coordinate ongoing interactions across various social domains. We offer some examples in the next section. It is, in any case, likely that members of the population in question will disagree pointedly and legitimately on this matter. In other words, the choice of which institutional form or combination of forms to rely on in which domains is a political problem whose resolution in any given circumstances will be contested. <p> Determining which institutional arrangement is appropriate for which purposes turns out to be a very complex task. As standard textbook accounts make clear, in the case of markets, for example, any form of institution will operate effectively and thus generate normatively attractive outcomes only under particular (and, in principle, specifiable) conditions. Not only will the effectiveness with which any institution operates be a function of the extent to which these conditions in fact obtain (e.g., the structural and participatory conditions necessary for effective market competition), it may well be a function of social and cultural norms that characterize any particular society. Thus, in any particular context, the task of institutional creation involves not only the selection of one among several available institutional forms but also the identification of mechanisms needed to monitor whether the conditions necessary for effective institutional performance are being adequately fostered and sustained. <p> This point is general. It does not apply only to the selection or design of economic institutions. The effectiveness of any type of institution will be largely a function of the conditions in which it operates. This remains obscured because social scientists have undertaken considerably less systematic analysis of the preconditions for the effective performance of institutions of democratic, bureaucratic, or judicial decision making than has been undertaken on economic transactions in markets. Nonetheless, the task of institutionalizing more centralized arrangements requires that we make a commitment to establishing and maintaining our best understanding of the conditions that make bureaucracy or democratic governance or courts effective in achieving the goals we impute to them. <p> This obviously places a considerable burden on the members of any society in terms of information and knowledge about institutional performance and effects. On our account, this is where experimentalism emerges as central to politics. Institutional experimentation is a useful instrument for generating knowledge about the effectiveness of institutions in various social contexts. Theoretical analysis can make important contributions to our understanding of issues of institutional performance, but it alone cannot provide definitive answers to questions regarding the actual effects of adopting one or another institution. Such knowledge will reliably emerge only from the cumulative experience of using for various purposes the various institutions at our disposal. We thus need to be able to rely on the lessons such experience affords us. In the end, we will trust or value experimental outcomes insofar as they emerge under proper conditions, and we must therefore expend considerable effort in establishing and monitoring those conditions. <p> The importance of "proper conditions" highlights the fact that experimentalism is itself an institutional choice. Institutional experimentalism will generate useful knowledge only insofar as the conditions are in place to let the experimental process itself operate in effective ways. To foster and maintain these conditions, we require some kind of institutional framework of monitoring and assessment. Here the logic of institutional experimentation starts to resemble an infinite regress of institutions and conditions and meta-institutions and meta-conditions, and so forth. Yet, in this way, it nonetheless clarifies the task before us: to avoid the regress, we must identify some institutional arrangement (or set of arrangements) that can serve as a mechanism for (1) coordinating effective institutional experimentation, (2) monitoring and assessing effective institutional performance for the range of institutions available in any society, and, most importantly, (3) monitoring and assessing its own ongoing performance. Our argument, unsurprisingly, is that we should accord priority to democracy precisely to the extent to which it is adept at performing these tasks. <p> <p> III. Examples and Comparisons <p> We speak throughout this book of institutional pluralism or diversity. On the view that we advance, institutions consist of sets of rules that emerge from and subsequently structure social and political interaction. They are persistent, systematic means of coordinating ongoing social, economic, and political activity. Institutions specify what can be done, by and to whom, for what purposes, and when, as well as what happens when the rules are breached and who decides whether they are. Recognizing institutional pluralism simply means grasping that in any given instance, there may well be various ways to structure ongoing social, economic, or political interaction. Moreover, there typically is no general criterion for deciding among the sets of institutional rules on offer. <p> Given the problem of establishing, monitoring, and assessing ways of coordinating ongoing interactions in various domains, consider just a small handful of the institutional arrangements we might adopt for just a limited number of purposes. <p> <b><i>Economic Exchange.</i></b> In many instances, a population will confront the choice between trying to regularize commercial transactions by creating and sustaining a market for particular goods and services or trying to block such transactions. For instance, the population might confront the problem of dealing with the selling and buying of votes. It might create a market in votes, or it might adopt the secret ballot as an institutional mechanism that can effectively block such exchanges by preventing voters from revealing to potential buyers how they cast their vote. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>THE PRIORITY OF DEMOCRACY</b> by <b>Jack Knight James Johnson</b> Copyright © 2011 by Princeton University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.