11/03/2008

Shuk Democracy

As I mentioned in the last post, there is a third type of democracy emerging in the world, which is based neither on the American nor the European models. Although other countries have toyed with it (Iraq, Lebanon), the country that really is beginning to employ it best is Israel, much to the chagrin of the Israeli WASPS (White Ashkenazi Secular Protectionists). This type of democracy understands that in highly diverse and potentially volatile situations, the political arena is the best place for the varying needs of different groups to be negotiated.

Shas is, to my mind, the greatest example of this type of democratic thinking. Your average Shas voter pines away for the restoration of the monarchy, but instead of viewing the democratic process as a vehicle for that restoration (as R. Kook did), or as an illegitimate impediment to that restoration, it views democracy as a shuk – an arena for negotiation where one must play by certain rules and in which everyone is trying to get the best deal for himself and eventually settles in a place which is acceptable to all. It represents a way of building a begrudging consensus.

This, I believe, accounts for an attitude which sees voting as an obligation, but one which is completely bereft of any sanctity or glory.

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