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La Educación
Número: (116) III
Año: 1993

Theoretical Propositions

From the experiences documented and the reflections presented above, a number of propositions comprising a theory of democracy can be mounted. Theory here will be defined as “a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action” (Webster 1984). The emphasis therefore will not be merely on explaining a given reality but also on creating a new practice. It is a theory with both empirical and normative dimensions—something unorthodox yet entirely plausible.6 The following propositions are offered:

1. Identities and norms are forged through personal interaction in daily practices. As Klein (1984) observes, support for abstract commitments to social justice and equality is diffuse, whereas support based on personal experience and solidarity with the experience of others creates a stronger commitment.

2. Practices engaged in on a daily basis create habits in individuals. To develop stable democratic norms, these must be internalized through everyday practices.

3. Everyday practices involve personal interactions which occur in micro settings such as the family, classroom, and workplace. At present, many authoritarian practices are produced in such places.

These settings must be targeted spaces for the creation and maintenance of democratic norms.7 A corollary of this is that all educational practices unavoidably contain a political dimension, whether or not there is consciousness of it (Saviani 1988). An ethical corollary is that education cannot be for the redistribution of resources within society but for the transformation of social inequalities and power relations within it (Arnot 1991).

4. Women’s experiences with democratic practices in public institutions have been limited because society has placed such great emphasis on the private dimensions of women. On the other hand, private dimensions have not been politicized because motherhood calls for submission and obedience. Women’s democratic practices will tend to emerge first as counter-hegemonic practices at intermediate levels such as community and neighborhood, places that are under relative autonomy from state and patriarchal surveillance.

5. It is perhaps easier to infuse a polity with democratic ideas from below than from above. Forms of democratic participation in local groups affect democratic norms at both lower and higher levels of society. Women’s acquisition of new political identities in group and community mobilizations is likely to be reflected in family practices and subsequently in the widening of demands presented to macro-level institutions.

6. Democracy builds upon a network of social relations. The more stable democracies will have denser micro-networks than will the unstable ones.

7. Democratic nation-states that are supported by diffuse democratic norms in lower levels of society will find it difficult to revert to authoritarian modes.