The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 12, 2001

Intercultural Philosophy

Jay L. Garfield
Pages 157-172

Buddhism and Democracy

What is the relation between Buddhism and liberal democracy? Are they compatible frameworks for social value that can somehow be joined to one another to gain a consistent whole? Or, are they antagonistic, forcing those who would be Buddhist democrats into an uncomfortable choice between individually attractive but jointly unsatisfiable values? Another possibility is that they operate at entirely different levels of discourse so that questions regarding their relationship simply do not arise. I suggest that not only are Buddhism and liberal democracy compatible, but that they are complementary in a deep sense. Democracy, it is argued here, can be strengthened by values drawn from Buddhist moral and social theory, and Buddhist moral and social theory would gain concrete institutional and procedural specificity when it is articulated through the framework of liberal democratic theory.