Hope and Democratic Dispositions

"Hope, as the political philosopher Hannah Arendt insisted, is the human capacity that sustains political being. Should hopelessness triumph, then and only then will it be rightly said that democracy is forlorn... Unlike Saint-Just and Robespeirre, the American Founders were realists, aware that human beings will always fall short of an absolute ideal. It follows, according to Arendt, that the 'only reasonable hope for salvation from evil and wickedness at which men might arrive even in this world and even by themselves, without any divine assistance,' must be the imperfect workings of government, the flawed actions of citizens among citizens... American democracy held out for a partial redemption only: political hope in contrast to earthly salvation." ~ Jean Bethke Elshtain, "Democracy on Trial" pp 119-20 Where is hope coming from these days? Where are we gleaning hope from? Elshtain is responding here to the political theorists' debates going on at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of 19th century. In that era as opposed to now, democratic dispositions were against the international norm. At that time, many utopian dreamers were criticizing a democratic republic as chaotic, debasing, and unorganizeable.


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