Monday, October 10, 2005

"Making Democracy Work"

Mr. Leonardi,

I wish to ask you what do you think about this ideas:

1. Popper defines two categories of culture: the open and the closed society
2. It seems to me that in your book "Making Democracy Work" you suggest that a community appears around a culture which is difficult to change later, during the life of the community, from one of the above mentioned categories to the other one. Indeed, it seems that one community must briefly disappear before a new community can appear under a culture from the other category.
Community - a group of people that solve public problems in common, according with some social rules named "culture"
3. Daniel Goleman, in his "Emotional Intelligence" book, in chapter 16, describes a program that was successful in American ghettos. If you want, I can try to summarize for you the information about this very promising program. Of course, I do not know from any other source about this program, but the rest of the book makes sense to me, both from a scientific point of view, and also from the author's target point of view. And, anyway, the solution to the problem of modernization of traditionalist societies without using violence (which is pretty ineffective, as one can see in any former colony), passes through education. I believe this should be obvious.

Note: Popper confesses that he never met any person who lived only under democratic regimes who understood his theory about the open society. You will realize that it was vital to explain to westerners what is at stake. The main problem in a totalitarian society is not that you are starving, literally, but that you are dehumanized. If you become a human, than you are tortured and killed.

Now I shall try to summarize Popper, for point #1:

According to Popper, in his book "The Open Society And Its Enemies", we can divide cultures into two categories: the totalitarian one, in which people do not cooperate to solve common problems, but wait the solution to come from a superman savior who should put everybody to work, and the democratic one, in which citizens care about public matters, being, by the contrary, suspicious about their momentary leaders. The first culture is collectivistic, which means that the interests of the group (nation, tribe, family) have precedence over those of the individuals, the second one is individualistic, which means that the state institutions have the main function of protecting the individual rights of the citizens. The first culture is always at war or revolution, the second is usually liberal and tries to solve problems one by one in a rational way. The first culture is essentialist (the nation has a soul and it is eternal), the second one is more formalistic: it establishes common targets which are verified using statistics. The first culture is specific to feudalism, the second is specific to technologically advanced societies. (There have been original touches :))

So: are these common rules a possible culprit for lasting poverty in otherwise advantaged regions (no foreign threats, some material and know how transfers from wealthy regions etc.?)
And could education for students between 14 and 19 years old provide a solution?

As a comment, have you noticed, like Popper, how closed are most intelectuals to new ideas, even when they should be most interested, according to their profession and published articles? I can explain this through fear of retaliation from their narrow group of interests. Anyway ...