GHDI logo

Theodor Heuss, "Democracy and Parliamentarism: Their History, Their Enemies, and Their Future" (1928)

page 2 of 4    print version    return to list previous document      next document

The emphasis remains as always on the side of political ideas. The parties are social organs of struggle based on persuasion and publicity, with fluid boundaries, whose power is subject to changing conditions, often determined by purely tactical tendencies that do not derive from the matter at hand. Would legislation and the allocation of powers not be more stable if public affairs were based on integrated corporate groupings? Then there would be no more demagogy freed from the obligations of expert knowledge, then the professional politicians would no longer make decisions that affect them very little but to which the economy reacts very sensitively; instead of the negative votes of power politics or the search for compromise, a synthesis of objective consensus would result. And in such a political order, since all are equal in their properly designated circles true democracy would come into being. The representation of the hierarchical corporate state belongs among the stirring simplifications of speculative thinking—but is it not a misjudgment? Is there a very realistic set of economic organizations, associations, leagues, and unions not behind this idea? Is it not a simple matter of legitimizing a given situation of power and interests, that it might become the structure of the state?

Certainly the facts of power are at hand; but just because it revolves around power, the picture in which the order and the procedures are so finely drawn falls apart. There simply is no formula by which the proper ratios among economic groupings can be expressed. And today nearly everyone agrees that expert is in most cases merely a charming substitute for vested interest—by which nothing is said against the latter’s rights, but only against a misconstrual of the state that declares itself a battlefield of vested interests. One need imagine only for a moment a foreign and cultural policy meant to operate on such a basis—it would necessarily succumb to the friction. We will not even mention the complex structure of present-day society, the inescapable fact that such a system would have to produce a new, completely independent type of professional politician. The construction overlooks the circumstance that political life does not rest on a static integration of corporate identities but oscillates within the dynamic of a multiplicitous, colorful, changing, and even contradictory, set of political wills.

From a different corner came and comes the purely politically formed resistance against the world of ideas and realities contained in democracy. It objects to the “right” of the majority; historical decisions have always been—this is the ideological point of departure—the work of minorities that knew what they wanted, that did not talk, persuade, negotiate, and vote, but did that what they held to be right and necessary. In this view, democracy and parliament are either sentimentalities or falsehoods, which must allow themselves to be pronounced wrong by virtue of the success of an alternative path. What, incidentally, is the meaning of “allowed”? Moral inquiry is perhaps the concern of political journalists, reasoning historians, but not that of political actors. Even if the latter take it as a technical exigency that they hoist the flags of moral objection!

first page < previous   |   next > last page