In what is a bit of a paradox, the study of politics often neglects the study of politicians – points out a great article by András Körösényi. The piece presents a descriptive-explanatory model of democracy, highlighting the role of those who actually do politics for a living.
The model of leader democracy is contrasted with generic models of the deliberative and of the aggregative/pluralist sort. It is heavily indebted to Schumpeter’s idea about political public opinion. Politics is not about finding out what public opinion is and trying to follow it; and public opinion is not the raw material but the outcome of the political process. If our model is to have empirical relevance, then we should conceive of politicians not as humble servants of the public, but as engineers of public opinion.
Schumpeter is not the only authority the author builds on; thoughts of Weber, Carl Schmitt, Oakeshott and one Aristotle are nicely bound together in the piece (or so I’d venture to say!). One thing I’d like to comment on a bit more in detail is the abstract model of deliberative democracy that is presented (for the sake of comparison with the “leader democracy” model).
In models of deliberative democracy, writes Körösényi, what motivates political action is the search for truth in deliberation. If so, says I, then these generic models of deliberative democracy are flawed; as numerous thinkers, starting with Aristotle, have suggested, deliberation is not about truth but about deciding what to do. (See this paper by Christian Kock.) I understand that the point here is that models of deliberative democracy expect politicians to be searching for a single best solution; but still I think it’s risky to confuse the truth of a proposition with the quality, excellence or adequacy of a course of action.
Körösényi, András (2005): “Political Representation in Leader Democracy,” in: Government and Opposition, 40(3), 358 – 378.