Volume 5, 2007
Democracy, Racism, and Prisons
Karsten J. Struhl
Is Democracy a Universal Value?
I consider several related challenges to the idea of democracy as a universal value, among them the “Asian values” argument and the claim that Islam can recognize only God as sovereign. I argue specifically against each of these challenges and attempt to demonstrate that it is possible to find strands within the Confucian tradition and Islam which can be woven into a democratic fabric. I also explore several attempts to argue in favor of democracy as a universal value and then offer a political historical argument that its universality is historically contingent. Finally, I consider whether liberal democracy has a universal value and argue that it does not. My conclusion is that each culture must find a democratic version of itself and that any attempt to impose a historically specific form of democracy on another culture is a denial of the universal significance of democracy.