Many books are appearing which are concerned with the "disruptions" in advanced industrial society and the "unrest" which has become a normal part of our lives. Most of these books are about the growing revolutionary movement and speak from the perspective of the existing order. Scholars who write about radicals normally do a good job of fulfilling their roles as apologists for the status quo. Even the "sympathetic" treatments often speak in terms of agreeing with goals of the movement, but question the development of a revolutionary movement, which aims at fundamental social change. The question for any radical who has found himself teaching at the university is, Must an intellectual serve the existing order, or is there some way that his work, as a scholar, can aid in the articulation of social processes now going on?
The fundamental thesis of The New Democratic Theory is that there is a new democratic theory emerging in both the East and the West. This new democratic theory, which is developing in reaction to liberal democracy and dialectical materialism, is, above all, a product of young people. Still this theory is a part of the democratic tradition. Throughout the world a new generation is developing its view of the world in a conscious and unconscious reaction to the postwar world order, which was created by the cooperation of the United States and the Soviet Union. The new theory is often more a product of personal experiences and frustration with the existing order than it is a product of theoretical development. Traditional centers of learning and traditional scholars have played little role in developing the theory and practice of the movement. For this reason, the new theory appears to be a sudden appearance in the world.
Particularly in the United States the study of political subjects has been generally left to the practical politicians or the socalled empirical political scientists, and there has been little effort to study systematically the philosophical basis of democracy. At the same time philosophy in the United States threatens to become irrelevant to the world, not because it has nothing to say, but because it has forgotten how to speak to the affairs of man. It is perhaps best if philosophers remember Whitehead's dictum that what is important about a proposition is not whether it is true, but whether it is interesting. It is hoped that what is said here is substantially correct, but even more important, that it is interesting and relevant to the world in which we live.
What is called the new democratic theory is an attempt to clarify how democracy might be relevant today, but it is not merely a personal philosophical position. What is said is important and true only if it articulates the experience of a movement which actually exists and which actually has the possibility of establishing a democratic social and political order. There is a need to reformulate our understanding of the situation in which we live in order to understand how a new kind of democracy may be possible. What is needed is not merely a description of what is happening, nor a description of what has happened, but an articulation of tendencies present in the world, which provides real opportunity for building a genuine democracy.
The theory developed here is implicit in the actions of democratic movements in many countries today. As Marx once said of another process, "They do not know it, but they do it." No one book can speak for the movement, since movements speak through practical political activity. The revolutionary movement now developing is full of contradictions, which are beginning to be resolved. We can speak today of a new democratic theory and a new revolutionary movement which are bringing about a democratic social and economic order.
This presentation of the new democratic theory begins historically, proceeds to a systematic discussion, and ends with a consideration of the possible strategy for a revolutionary movement. The move from concrete political and historical reality to a philosophical discussion and back to political reality is deliberate, and the work can be understood only as a whole. Any attempt to isolate the philosophical discussion from the historical context and the historical context from the philosophical discussion will lead to serious misunderstanding.
A conscious effort has been made not to use footnotes or quotations except as part of the argument. At the end of each chapter, a list of references and suggestions for further reading is given. It is hoped that the short discussions of the literature will show that the conclusions stated in the text are indicated by many of the nonradical studies of sociologists and political scientists. The suggestions for further reading include some of the major sources where the new democratic theory is being developed. Of course, there is no attempt to be complete, but it is hoped that these references will serve as a starting point for further reading. Only works written in English are included, although the most interesting information is often found in another language. It is assumed that most Americans who really read another language are already aware of the works in that language; therefore a list of foreign literature would serve no useful purpose.
One of the major shortcomings of the discussion is that the experience of only the United States and Europe is considered. This view must necessarily be warped, especially since the fight against imperialism and racism is primary today. What is shown, it is hoped, is that there are significant forces within the societies of the East and West which have an interest in fundamental social change and which will support the struggle against imperialism and racism. Perhaps even more unpardonable is the failure to discuss women's liberation at length. The women's liberation movement is clearly one of the most important forces working for a democratic society. A complete democratic theory will include the experience of the most oppressed peoples, but it is important for those of us who enjoy the privileges of the industrialized nations of the world to realize that we, too, have an interest in a revolutionary transformation of society.
Two groups, it is hoped, will find the discussion to be of value --the curious and the members of the movement. No attempt has been made to write primarily for the curious, but it is hoped that the language and argument are such that those not involved in the movement can follow what is being said. For the members of the movement, I have tried to give a general picture of what has been learned to date. All publications of the movement quickly become historical, since every advance in practice requires a reformulation of the theoretical foundations. I hope to provide some understanding of the necessity for a close connection between theory and practice and to give a sense of perspective for those involved in political work.
The initial conception for this book arose during a stay in Budapest, Hungary. Much of what I have written is indebted to conversations and discussions I had there. The National Endowment for the Humanities provided financial support for the study in Hungary. The University of Florida has also provided financial assistance in various ways. Many people, in several countries, read or heard various parts of the manuscript. Their comments, suggestions, and objections have been helpful. To the members of the movement who have taught me, I owe the greatest thanks.