Effects of Standpoint Theory on Democracy

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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The standpoint theory is post-modernistic concept that seeks to explain the perceptions of people. It highlights how day-to-day experiences influences or changes an individuals experiences. People from the same demographic group tend to have similar opinions, particularly on general issues. Notable factors that influence a persons perception of various factors include experience, traditions, and culture. The main concepts of the standpoint theory are all about understanding the viewpoint of a marginalized society, particularly women. This essay looks at the effects that the stand point theory has on democracy.

For a long time, when men were in charge of governments and controlling political policy, women had little or no influence over democratic thought or practice. However, in recent times, feminist ideas have taken center stage in an emerging debate to do with the nature of democratic politics. The traditional perception is that democracy is a means of expressing individual desires based on mutual interest. Supporters of this tradition emphasize that any effective democratic nation should have its representatives and citizens think in terms of a group rather than individual. Democracy is all about a discussion of the common issues facing people rather than merely counting the number of hands raised. When people come together to talk, the discussion can in some cases make the participants see what they have at stake in the broader interests of the society. Hence, the democratic process solves conflicts not just by the will of the majority, but also through finding solutions that incorporate the interests of minorities. Simply put, democracy is not just about recording the preferences that people already have, as it encourages them to ponder about their interests in a different way.

The feminist perception of democracy can be described from two points of view. In one viewpoint, the way women are brought up, socialized and the role they play in childbearing makes them rather fixated on the group rather than an individual. They also seek solutions to issues that incorporate diverse and often stifled desires. In most societies, females are raised in a way that they identify their own needs and desires with those of others, particularly their spouses and children. To a greater extent when compared to males, females build their identities via relations with family members and friends. It can be seen that the female ego has more penetrable boundaries; something that significantly influences their participation in democratic processes.

Feminists know very well that their inclination by women to identify themselves with others can easily be manipulated to their disadvantage. The other feminist viewpoint is all about male oppression, and cautions against deliberation acting as a cover for domination. Penetrability is a medium for intimacy as well as invasion. The democratic characteristic of preferring group over individual through political deliberation is easily capable of covering indirect forms of control. It is worth noting that even the language used by people as they deliberate about a certain issue usually favor a single way of analyzing things while discouraging others. Sometimes, marginalized groups fail to find the right words or voice to express their opinions. When they manage to do, these groups find that they are not being heard. According to feminists who analyze the inequality of power between males and females, women are silenced by encouraged to keep their opinions incipient, and understood to have said yes when they actually mean no. Other forms of domination and manipulation, such as those linked to wealth, can also interfere with the deliberative process.

While political analysts think of democracy as a form of deliberation, the opinion of feminists presents caution and encouragement in equal measures. When feminists describe deliberation, they incorporate experiences of individuals acquainted with combining their own desires with those of others, and attaining a common welfare through persuasion as opposed to manipulation. In addition, they highlight the ability of a dominant group or community to ignore or silence the voices of minorities it does not want to hear. The democratic process originally stood for a deliberative democracy. Although Aristotle was not a democrat, he was of the opinion that a group of people that engage in deliberation would come up with better ideas than a single expert. Notable authors who wrote about democracy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries perceived democracy mainly as a strategy of brainstorming together for the sake of the common good. According to James Madison, factions incited against each other were likely to cancel one another out, paving way for individuals of public virtue to discuss and come up with wise decisions.

John Stuart Mill was of the opinion that the most crucial role of a representative assembly such as parliament was to debate, whereby they bring to light various different perspectives in the interests of the public. Prior to the Second World War, Ernest Barker, who was a well-known translator of Politics by Aristotle, fronted a definition of democracy that did not involve the issue of voting. Rather, he described it as a form of government where people came together and participated in a common debate whereby they all contributed opinions. The aim was to come up with a decision that was agreed upon by as many people as possible. The political notion that arose from the war did away with this emphasis on the common good and deliberation, instead adopting recognition of conflict and power. Well-known and mutually contractor schools of thought such as those of Freud, Marx and Arthur Bentley as well as neo-classical economics were all of the opinion that democracy involved a political world operating on a basis of self-interest, competing interests, and power.

In 1942, an economist called Joseph Schumpeter came up with a rather influential theory that depicted democracy as a marketplace. According to him, there is no public interest or common good in a democratic process. Those who cast votes pursue their own interests by setting demands on political parties based on their thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, politicians are also looking after their own individual interests. This spurs them to come up with policies that are likely to appeal to voters, hence ensuring that there is accountability. For politicians to retain their elective posts and remain in office, they behave like brokers and businessmen by applying formulas that are capable of satisfying as many of their interests as possible. Any decisions that are as a result of the tradeoff between self-serving politicians and self-interested voters end up looking like a balanced sum of personal interests. Thus, democracy is depicted as involving politics as a marketplace whereby politicians seeking elective posts are perceived as commodities being sold or just selling themselves.



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Giddens, A. (2013). The third way: The renewal of social democracy. John Wiley & Sons.

Gilroy, J., & Donelly, M. (2016). Australian indigenous people with disability: Ethics and standpoint theory. In Disability in the Global South (pp. 545-566). Springer International Publishing.

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