阿玛蒂亚·森:民主价值观放之四海而皆准

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阿玛蒂亚·森  

1997年夏天,一家日本的主要报纸请我就二十世纪中发生的最重要的事谈谈自己的看法。我发现这是个很少遇到的引人深思的问题,毕竟在过去的百年当中发生了那么多重大的历史事件。欧洲的帝国,特别是在十九世纪中居于支配性地位的英、法帝国,终于没入了历史。我们亲历了两次世界大战,看到法西斯主义和纳粹主义的兴起和衰亡。二十世纪目睹了共产主义的崛起,以及它的没落(如在前苏联阵营)或大幅度的变革(如在中国)。我们也注意到,西方世界的经济支配地位已被一种新的经济格局所取代,在这一新的经济格局中,日本、东亚和东南亚有着更大的影响力。虽然东亚和东南亚地区现在正面临一些金融和经济问题,但这并不会改变上述的世界经济格局过去几十年来的演变态势(若观察日本在世界经济格局中地位的变化,则其重要性的提升几可追溯至百年前)。过去的这一百年确实不乏重要的历史事件。

然而,若要在二十世纪里发生的诸多进步当中选择一项最重要的,那么,我会毫无困难地指出,那就是民主的兴盛。我这样讲,并无意否认其他同样具重要性的历史事件,但我想指出的是,到了遥远的将来,当人们回首这个世纪的历程时,他们就会发现,民主制度出现后被广泛地接纳为政府的组成方式,除此之外恐怕没有比这意义更重大的事了。

当然,民主的理念实源于两千多年前的古希腊,此后各国都尝试过零星的致力于民主化的努力,印度也是如此[1]。在古希腊,确实形成并认真地实施过民主的理念(尽管范围有限),而此后这一实验却瓦解了,被更专制、缺乏制衡的政权取而代之了;而那时在其他地方则尚未出现过其他任何形式的民主制度。

所以,我们所了解的民主制度是经过了很长时期才出现的。民主制度作为一种有效的统治方式,它逐渐成长直至最终居于支配地位的过程是由一系列历史发展进程所组成的。这些事件包括1215年英国的大宪章的签署,十八世纪的法国大革命和美国革命,以及十九世纪在欧洲和北美选举权的扩大等等。然而,直到二十世纪,民主的理念才被确立为在任何国家都适用的“常规的”政府形式──无论在欧洲、美洲、还是亚洲或非洲皆然。

关于民主的思想是一种放之四海而皆准的理念,它是崭新的、典范式的二十世纪的产物。当年通过宪章运动强制性地限制英国君主权力的反叛者们,把民主完全视为单纯地为其本地需要服务的理念。相比之下,为美国独立而战的志士们和法国大革命中的革命者则作出了巨大的贡献,是他们帮助人类懂得了,必须把民主变成在人类社会里通行的制度。不过,他们在实践中提出的要求之重点,也仍然有相当的地域局限性,实际上限于北大西洋的两岸,而且是以该地区特殊的经济、社会和政治历史为基础的。

在整个的十九世纪里,民主思想的理论家们觉得,议论一个国家或另一个国家是否“适合于民主制度”是十分自然的事情。直到二十世纪,这一看法才发生了变化,人们开始承认,这样提问题本身就是错误的:根本不需要去判定一个国家是否适合于民主制度,相反,每个国家都必然在民主化的过程中变成适应民主制度的社会。这一变化的确是个重大的变化,它把民主理念潜在的影响扩展到了历史和文化各不相同、富裕程度千差万别的数十亿人当中。

也正是在本世纪,人们最终接受了这样的理念,所谓的“成人的普选权”必须包括所有的成年人──不仅仅包括男性,而且也包括女性。今年一月我有幸会见了一位享有盛名的杰出女性、瑞士总统露丝.德雷福斯女士(RuthDreyfuss)。这次会见令我浮想连翩,仅仅在二十五年前,瑞士的妇女还没有选举权呢。我们终于在本世纪达成了这样的共识,民主的举世普适性就象善行一样,是不应对之加以限制的。

我不否认,民主价值观的普适性这一诉求受到着各种挑战,这些挑战形式各异,来自不同的方向。实际上,这正是本文要讨论的主题之一。在下文中,我将回顾民主的价值观放之四海而皆准的诉求,并分析围绕着这一诉求的种种争论。但在进一步讨论之前,有必要明确地把握这样一个概念,即在当今的世界上民主已经成为支配性的信念。

在任何时代、任何社会环境中,都有一些占优势的信念,它们似乎被尊为一种普遍性规则,就象在计算机程序中预设(default)的安排一样;除非这些信念提出的要求以某种方式被完全否定了,否则,在一般情况下这些信念往往被视为是正确的。尽管民主制度尚未成为在所有国家都施行的制度,虽然民主的理念也确实还未被所有国家一致接受,但按照世界上通行的一般看法,现在民主政治已被视为大体上是正确的选择。只有那些想抵制民主政治、以便为非民主制度辩护的人们,还在那里竭力排斥民主的理念。

当年那些在亚洲或非洲倡导民主的人们曾处于极为艰难的困境当中,这并非年代久远之事。但自从那时以来,历史已经发生了巨大的变化。现在,虽然我们有时仍然不得不与那些含蓄或公开地排斥民主政治的人士争辩,我们也应该非常清醒地认识到,在政治问题的理解方面,整个的大气候已经与上个世纪完全不同了。我们再也不用每每辩识,某个国家(比如南非,或柬埔寨、智利)是否“适合于民主政治”(而在十九世纪的话语当中这是个非常典型的问题);现在我们早就把这一点视为理所当然的了。人类社会已经公认,民主制度是普遍适用于各国的,民主的价值观也被视为是放之四海而皆准的;这是思想史上的一场重大革命,也是二十世纪的主要贡献之一。在这样的背景下,现在我们来讨论为什么民主的价值观放之四海而皆准。

“印度经验”  

究竟民主制度成效如何呢?虽然没有人真会去质疑民主政治在美国或英国、法国的作用,但是,民主政治在世界上的许多贫穷国家里成效如何,却仍然是个引起争论的问题。在本文中,我不可能详细地检视历史记录,不过,我想指出,民主制度的成效相当不错。

如果谈到民主政治在贫穷国家里的成效,当然,常常会涉及到印度的例子。当年,英国殖民当局拒绝印度的独立要求时,就处处怀疑印度人管理自己的国家和社会的能力。1947年,当印度独立的时候,这个国家确实处在某种混乱当中。独立后的印度政府毫无政治经验,印度过去各自分治的地区之间尚未融合一体,政治上各种力量的分野模糊不清,同时还广泛存在着社区性暴力事件和社会失序。那时,对印度未来是否能成为一个统一的、民主的国家,还真缺乏信心。然而,半个世纪过去了,我们现在可以看到,印度的民主政治历经甘苦,已卓有成效地奠定了巩固的基础。在这段时间里,政治上出现的分歧大体上都按照宪法的准则来处理,并且坚持根据选举结果和国会的规则来组织历届政府。虽然当年印度这个国家是由各个差异极大的地区马马虎虎、勉勉强强地仓促组合而成的,但它不但存活了下来,而且,作为一个建立在民主制度基础上的政治体,运转得相当良好。确实,印度的各个部份正是通过有效的民主政治体制而结为一体的。

印度的各邦操各种不同的语言、有着多样化的宗教,在国家的发展中如何处理这些问题,也构成了对印度的生存的巨大挑战。当然,由于宗教和社区间的差异,印度的政治具有某种特殊的脆弱性,这往往会被宗派政治家所利用,而他们也确实数次这样做过(包括在最近的几个月里),由此导致了群众的极大恐惧。不过,当宗派性暴力活动乘机兴风作浪时,全国各界都会一致谴责这样的暴力活动,从而最终维护着民主制度的基石,以反对狭隘的派系摩擦。印度不仅是居于多数地位的印度教的故乡,也是世界上第三大的信奉伊斯兰教的人口之家乡,还拥有数百万的基督教徒和佛教徒,世界上大多数的锡克教徒、印度祆教和耆那教徒也都住在印度。对于印度这样一个差异极大的国家的生存和繁荣来说,这样的社会共识当然是至关重要的。

民主与经济发展的关系 

人们经常会听到这样一种观点,即不民主的体制能更有效地推动经济发展。这种想法有时被称为“李氏假设”,因为新加坡的领导人、前总统李光耀是它的鼓吹者。确实,有一些实行威权体制的国家(如韩国、李光耀自己的新加坡以及改革后的中国)的经济增长率高于许多非威权体制的国家(包括印度、牙买加和哥斯达黎加),从这个意义来讲,李光耀当然是对的。然而,这个“李氏假设”是以零星的经验观察为基础的,是根据高度选择性的、有限的信息归纳出来的,它并未经过任何以现有的大范围数据为基础的一般性统计检验。要证明威权体制和经济高增长的关系具有普遍性意义,就不能用高度选择性的资料去论证。例如,博茨瓦纳是非洲经济增长纪录最好的国家,也是全世界经济增长纪录最好的国家之一,它几十年来一直是非洲大陆上的一块民主制度的“沙漠绿洲”;如果要把新加坡或中国的高经济增长当做威权主义体制在促进经济增长方面做得更好的“确凿证据”,那我们就不能回避从博茨瓦纳之例中得出的相反结论。我们需要做更系统的经验研究,以便从中分辨出支持和反驳“李氏假设”的证据。

实际上,并没有任何令人信服的普遍性证据能证明,威权主义的统治和对政治及公民权利的压制真的对经济发展有益处。确实,从普遍的统计资料中不可能归纳出这样的结论。系统性的经验研究(比如由罗伯特.巴若(Robert Barro)或亚当.普热沃斯基(AdamPrzeworski)所主持的研究)的结果从未真正支持过这样的观点,即在政治权利和经济表现之间存在着普遍性的冲突。[2]究竟政治权利对经济表现的影响为何,似乎取决于许多其他因素的作用;某些统计调查发现在两者之间存在着微弱的负相关,而另外一些统计研究却发现两者之间有很强的正相关。如果把所有的比较研究的结果放在一起,关于经济增长与民主之间没有明显的彼此影响的假设还是相当有说服力的。既然民主和政治自由本身非常重要,所以与上述研究相关的努力决不会遭到忽视。[3]

这个问题也涉及到经济研究方法的一个基本要点。我们不仅应当从统计上看相关程度之大小,还应当考察和分析关系到经济增长和发展的因果性过程。现在,学者们已经对导致东亚地区各国经济成功的经济政策和环境因素有相当多的了解。虽然不同的经验性研究所关心的重点不一样,但目前学者们已经就一份对经济发展“有助的政策”清单形成了广泛的共识。在这个政策清单上有开放竞争、利用国际市场、由公共部门对投资和出口提供激励、高识字率和中小学入学率、成功的土地改革以及其他促进广泛参与经济扩张活动的社会条件等。我们完全没有理由假设,这些政策中的任何一项会与更广泛的民主制度不一致、而只能由象在韩国、新加坡或中国那样的威权体制来强力支撑。实际上,有一项强有力的证据表明,要形成更快的经济增长,所需要的是一个更宽松的经济气氛,而不是一个更严酷的政治体制。

要完成这一研究,就必须超越狭隘的关于经济增长的观察,而应更宽泛地分析经济发展需要些什么,包括经济和社会保障方面的需要。从这样的角度出发,我们就要一方面看政治与公民权利,另一方面看主要经济灾难的预防,以及两者之间的关系。政治与公民权利能给予人民必要的机会,以要求政府注意社会上的需要并采取相应的行动去满足这些需要。政府对其人民遭受苦难时的反应往往取决于人民施加的压力。而人民能否行使其政治权利(如投票、批评、抗议以及其他的类似权利),确实直接关系到政府是否有足够的激励去关心人民的苦难。

我在别的地方也提到过一个明显的事实,回顾世界上可怕的饥馑史,在任何一个独立、民主、拥有相对的新闻自由的国家里,从来没有发生过重大的饥馑。[4]不管我们观察哪个国家,是埃塞俄比亚、索马里最近的饥馑,还是其他独裁政权下的饥馑;是苏联三十年代的饥馑,还是中国1958年至1961年大跃进失败后的饥馑;或更早一些,爱尔兰或印度在外族统治下的饥馑;在这个规律面前,我们找不到任何例外。虽然中国在经济的许多方面做得比印度好,但中国仍然出现过大范围的饥馑(而印度却从未如此),这场饥馑实际上是世界史上有记录的饥馑中最大的一次,在1958年至1961年间差不多饿死了三千万人民,而导致这场饥馑的错误的政府政策却被延续不变达三年之久。这些导致人民饿死的政策被推行下去而未受到批评,因为议会里没有反对党,没有新闻自由,也没有多党制下的选举。事实上,恰恰是因为缺少对执政党的挑战,才使得严重错误的政策虽然每年杀害了上千万人,也仍然能够持续下去。在世界上此刻正发生的两场大饥馑中,一场在北朝鲜,另一场在苏丹,可以说,也出现了同样的情形。

饥馑经常看上去与自然灾害有关,而新闻记者也常常把饥馑的原因简单地归结为自然灾害:在失败了的大跃进期间中国出现了洪水灾害,在埃塞俄比亚有旱灾,而在北朝鲜则是谷物歉收。然而,许多同样遭受到类似自然灾害的国家,甚至其灾情更重,却能有效地避免饥馑的发生。因为,对选民负责的政府必须积极地采取措施以帮助人民、减轻饥饿的威胁。在一场饥馑中,主要的受害者是穷人,所以政府可以通过创造收入(例如,通过就业计划等)、让潜在的受饥馑威胁的受害者获取食物,从而使穷人免于饿死。即使是在那些最穷的民主国家里,万一遇到了严重的旱灾、水灾或其他自然灾害(如印度在1973年,或津巴布韦和博茨瓦纳在八十年代前期),政府也能让人民得到食物而从未出现过饥馑。

如果采取认真的努力,要避免饥馑其实是很容易的。而一个民主政府由于必须面对选举和反对党及独立的报纸的批评,所以除了积极努力地避免饥馑以外别无选择。处于英国殖民统治下的印度直到独立之时都饥馑不断(最后的一次饥馑发生在1943年,是印度独立前四年的事,那时我还是个孩子,曾目睹了饥馑时期);然而,自从印度建立了多党民主政治和实现了新闻自由之后,饥馑就突然消失了,这样的结果其实一点也不奇怪。

我在其他书着中,特别是在我与让.德热兹(Jean Dreze)合作研究的成果中,也谈到过这些问题,在这里就不再赘述。[5]避免饥馑实际上只不过是民主政治可以解决的诸多问题之一,当然举这个例子是最容易的。一般而言,政治和公民权利的积极作用表现在它有助于防止出现经济和社会性灾难。如果一个国家诸事顺利、一切都走上了轨道,人们或许不会特别注意到民主的这种工具性作用。但当形势因种种原因变坏时,民主政治所提供的政治激励机制就显现出巨大的现实意义。

我相信,从中可以得出一个重要的教训,即许多经济技术官僚主张使用由市场经济提供的经济激励机制,但却忽视由民主政治所保证的政治激励机制,这意味着实行一种极不平衡的制度基础。当一个国家运气不错、未经历严重的灾难、一切顺利时,民主政治对弱势群体的保护性功能可能未必引起人们的重视。然而,当经济或其他环境发生变化,或者发生政策失误而未予纠正时,由此会产生不安全的危险,这时哪怕一个国家看上去十分正常,其中也可能潜伏着这类危险。

最近东亚和东南亚发生的问题就是实行不民主的政治制度的一系列惩罚,这在两个方面表现得特别明显。首先,在这一地区的某些国家(包括韩国、泰国、印度尼西亚)里,金融危机的发展与商业上缺乏透明度有极为密切的关系,特别是在金融运作方面缺乏由公众参与的监督。没有有效的民主制度下的舆论监督是导致这场金融危机的核心原因。其次,一旦这场金融危机导致经济全面衰退时,在印度尼西亚这样的国家里,民主制度对弱势群体的保护性功能方面的真空就显得极为突出了,这与民主国家可避免饥馑是同样的道理。在印度尼西亚,很多人被这场经济衰退剥夺而生机困难,当权者却根本不理睬他们的诉求。

这些国家在过去的几十年里年平均经济增长率都达到了百分之五至十,也许在金融危机中国民生产总值跌落百分之十看上去并没有什么大不了的,但是若经济收缩的负担不是由全社会分担,而是集中压在承受力最低的失业者或社会上的过剩劳工身上,那么,哪怕经济增长率只下降百分之十,也会使数百万人陷入悲惨境地,甚至夺去人们的生命。在印度尼西亚的情势一帆风顺时,这些社会地位脆弱的人们或许不觉得没有民主会如何影响他们的生活,但在没有民主的社会里他们的声音被压抑住了,而危机来临时所带来的沉重代价就会轻易地压倒他们。在最需要民主政治对弱势群体的保护性功能发挥作用时,他们才体会到了没有民主政治的悲哀。

民主的各种功能 

以上讨论主要是回应对民主政治的批评,特别是回答了经济中心论者的批评。下面,我将回到与民主政治的批评者的争论,侧重于回答文化差异论。不过,现在我准备先从正面进一步分析民主政治的特点,并说明为什么民主的价值观放之四海而皆准。

究竟什么是民主呢?我们不能把民主等同于多数人的统治。民主政治所提出的要求是多方面的,其中当然包括投票以及尊重选举结果,但民主也要求保护各种自由权利、尊重立法机构、保障言论自由以及发布新闻和公正评论而不受政府检查。如果在选举中不同党派未能得到充份机会表达自己的立场,或者选民没有获得新闻的自由、也无法自由地考虑不同候选人的观点,那么即使有例行的选举,这样的选举也是弊端重重的。民主政治需要一整套机制,它并非一个孤立的、机械的由多数人实行统治之类的原则。

从这一角度来看,民主政治的优点以及它放之四海而皆准的价值观反映出人类社会中一些独到的德行,这在其充份的实践中得到了体现。事实上,我们可以提出,民主政治从三个方面丰富了民主社会公民的生活。首先,政治自由是人类一般自由的组成部份,而作为社会成员的个人的幸福生活当中,关键的一个部份就是行使公民和政治权利。政治和社会参与在人类的生存和生活里具有内在的价值。而阻挠人们参与社会政治生活实际上是对人们的一大剥夺。其次,如上所言(我曾与那种认为民主与经济发展相互冲突的观点争论过),民主具有一种重要的工具性价值,能促使当政者倾听民众所表达出来的要求(包括经济方面的要求)。再次,民主的实践给公民们一个互相学习的机会,从而有助于在社会中形成价值观、并明确各类问题的优先顺序,这个问题尚待进一步探讨。即使是“需求”这样一个简单的概念(包括对“经济方面的需求”的理解),也需要在公众中展开讨论,需要交换不同的信息、观点和判断。由此可见,民主除了是公民生活中的内在价值、在政治决策中具有工具性价值外,它还具有重要的建设性价值。当我们讲到民主是放之四海而皆准的价值观时,必须同时考虑到民主在这三方面的贡献。

若要把“需求”(包括“经济需求”)所包含的内容加以概念化、甚至综合化,本身就需要行使政治和公民权利。欲恰当地了解经济需求的涵义(其内容及影响),就需要在社会成员之间展开讨论并彼此交换意见。在产生资讯充份、深思熟虑之选择的过程里,政治和公民权利,特别是那些与保障言论、争辩、批评及持异议的自由有关的权利,是核心的条件。在社会的价值形成和决定各项需要的优先顺序时,上述过程是至关重要的;一般来说,我们不能把大众的各种偏好视为既定的、与公众的讨论无关,不能无视在一个社会中当局是否允许有公开的意见交换和争论。

实际上,在评估社会和政治问题时,公开对话的范围和效用常常被低估了。例如,许多发展中国家都存在着生育率过高的问题,在公众中组织相关讨论可以卓有成效地降低生育率。在印度有大量证据证明,在识字率较高的邦,组织公众讨论高生育率对社区、特别是对青年妇女的生命的不良影响,对这些地区生育率的大幅度下降有明显作用。如果说,在印度的克拉拉邦或塔米尔.那都邦,现在出现了小型家庭是现代社会的幸福家庭这样的观念,这无疑要归功于一系列相关的公众讨论和争辩。克拉拉邦现在的生育率是1.7(与英国和法国相同,比中国的1.9还低),实现这一目标完全未使用任何强制性手段,而是主要依靠一种新的价值观的出现──在这一价值观的形成过程中政治和社会对话扮演了重要的作用。而克拉拉邦的高识字率(比中国的任何省份都高),特别是妇女识字率,则是这种社会和政治对话的重要的前提条件。

人类社会里曾出现过各种各样的苦难和剥夺现象,其中有一些可以比较容易地通过社会手段而消除掉。当我们衡量人类自身的“需求”时,应该充份考虑到人类社会中仍然存在着的种种困苦境遇。例如,我们会觉得世界上有许多东西值得追求,一旦可行的话我们也会把这些视为一种需求。我们甚至会想到“长生不老”,就象西天的佛那样用上三千年时间去探讨经书中的奥秘。但是,我们毕竟不会把“长生不老”看成是自己的“需求”,因为那很明显是不可能的。我们了解有些剥夺现象是可以预防的,也懂得如何这样做,而我们关于需求的概念是与此密切相关的。在关于哪些事是可行的(特别是从社会的角度来看是否可行)这类问题上,我们要形成共识和信念,就需要借重公众讨论。政治权利,包括言论和讨论的自由,不仅在产生对需求的社会认知时是关键性的,而且在确定经济需求的含义时也是至关重要的。

民主价值观的普适性 

如果以上的分析是对的,那么,民主的诉求之所以有高度的价值,就不仅仅是基于它具有某一特殊的优点。民主的优长是多方面的:首先,自由和政治参与在人类生活中具有内在的重要性;其次,民主是一种重要的工具,能产生激励而令政府面向其公民并对他们负责;再次,在形成价值观念以及形成民众对需求、权利和责任的理解的过程中,民主具有建设性的作用。根据这一判断,现在我们可以提出本文欲表达的核心问题,即为什么说民主的价值观放之四海而皆准。

在关于这一问题的争论中,有一种看法认为,并非人人都认同民主的绝对重要性,若把民主与其他我们关心和忠于之事相比,尤其如此。这确实是事实,在此问题上人类并无完全的共识。而在有些人看来,这种缺乏共识的现象就充份证明,民主的价值观并不具普适性。

显然,我们必须从方法论方面的问题入手讨论下去:到底什么是具普适性的价值呢?若有一种价值被视为有普适性,那么这是否就意味着人人都得对此价值表示赞同呢?如果确实必得如此,则世界上恐怕就没有什么具普适性的价值了。据我所知,世界上没有哪种价值未曾被人反对过,即便是对母爱大概也不例外。我认为,如果某些理念具有普适性意义,那并不需要所有的人都一致赞同,所谓的价值的普适性,其实就是指任何地方的人都有理由视之为有价值的理念。

当甘地宣扬他的非暴力理念是普适价值时,他并不认为世界各地的人们都已按此理念行事,而是相信人们有充份的理由承认这一理念是有价值的。同样地,当泰戈尔提出“思想自由”是普适价值时,他并没有说人人都接受了这一观念,他的意思是,人人都有足够的理由去接受这一理念,而泰戈尔毕生都在为探求、表述和传播这样的理由而努力。[6]从这一角度去理解,任何关于某理念具普适价值的主张都会涉及到一些反事实的分析(counterfactualanalysis)。特别是当人们对这样的主张尚未充份思考之时,他们未必会从中发现其价值。不光是在民主的价值普适性问题上,所有关于普适性价值的主张都有这样的隐含性前提假设。

我想说明的是,在二十世纪里所发生的最大的对民主的态度之转变,正是与这个常见的隐含性前提假设相关的。当考虑到一个国家尚未实行民主政治、那里的民众也没有机会实践它时,现在通常会假定,一旦民主政治在那里变成现实时,人民就会认同它。而在十九世纪,典型的情况是不会采用这样的假设,而那时被视为很自然的看法(恰如我前面提到的那种预设式(default))在二十世纪里却发生了急剧的变化。

同时也应注意到,这一变化在很大程度上是建立在观察二十世纪历史的基础之上的。随着民主的扩展,民主制度的支持者就必然越来越多,而不是日益减少。民主制度从欧洲和美洲发源,伸展到世界上的许多遥远的角落,在那里人民积极地参与到民主政治当中去并接受了这一制度。不仅如此,一旦某一现存的民主制度被推翻,即使抗议这一政治变化的活动常常遭到粗暴的镇压,广泛的抗议活动也仍然会此起彼伏地出现,许多人宁可冒着生命危险也要为恢复民主而战。

有一些人质疑民主的价值普适性,其理由并不是民主未得到所有人的赞同,而是各国的国情不同。他们所讲的不同国情有时是指一些国家的贫穷状态。他们的观点是,穷人感兴趣的和关心的是面包而不是民主。这种时常听得到的说法有两大层面的错误。

首先,正如以上所言,对穷人来说,民主的保护性作用显得特别重要。当饥荒的受害者面临饥饿的威胁时,这是非常明显的;对那些被金融危机从经济阶梯上甩下来的贫民来说,也是如此。有经济方面需要的人民同样需要在政治上发出自己的声音。民主并不是一种非得达到普遍富裕后才可享用的奢侈品。

其次,几乎没有证据能证明,如果穷人有选择的话,他们宁可拒绝民主。有一个值得引起注意的事例,七十年代中期的印度政府曾试图用同样的观点为它宣布的“紧急状态”(以及对政治和公民权利的压制)辩护,在随后的选举中选民们围绕着这一问题分成了两个阵营。对印度的民主制度来说,这是一场命运攸关的选举,选举中主要的争议就是实施“紧急状态”的问题。结果,虽然印度也许是世界上最贫穷的国家之一,但印度选民们的多数坚定地拒绝了政府压制政治和公民权利的企图,他们挺身抗议政府忽视民众的自由和权利的做法,并未把注意力放在抱怨经济剥夺方面。

印度的现实完全驳斥了这种穷人不在乎公民和政治权利的说法。若观察韩国、泰国、孟加拉、巴基斯坦、缅甸、印度尼西亚以及亚洲其他国家争取民主自由的斗争,结论也并无二致。同样地,虽然非洲的许多政府排拒政治自由,一旦条件允许,那里就会出现反对政治压迫的各种运动和抗议活动。

关于文化差异问题的争论 

还有一种观点也强调民主有明显的地区差异性,它谈的不是经济条件,而是文化上的差异,或许其中最著名的就是所谓的“亚洲价值观”。这种观点认为,亚洲人传统上高度评价纪律,而不重视自由;所以,与其他国家的人相比,亚洲人不可避免地会对民主制度持更为怀疑的态度。我在卡内基基金会关于伦理和国际事务的摩根索纪念讲座中曾比较详细地谈过这个问题。[7]

从亚洲文化的历史中,特别是考察印度、中东、伊朗和亚洲其他国家的古典传统,很难找到任何支持这一观点的根据。例如,在公元前三世纪的印度帝王Ashoka的铭文中,就可以发现主张容忍多元主义和国家有责任保护少数的最早、最明确的记载。

当然,亚洲面积广袤,人口占世界人口的百分之六十,很难就这样一个地区的不同民族下一个一般性的结论。有时,“亚洲价值”的鼓吹者往往会主要把东亚当作这一观点的适用地域,一般是把泰国以东的亚洲国家与西方作对比,不过也有人提出过更令人怀疑的观点,即亚洲的其他国家也是十分“相似”的。我们应当感谢李光耀,因为他明确地解释了下述观点(也就相关的纷乱杂陈、表述含混的说法清晰地提出了他的说明)。当李光耀说明“西方和东亚在社会和政府的概念上完全不同”时,他解释说,“当我提到东亚时,我指的是韩国、日本、中国、越南,它们与东南亚不同,后者是一个中国和印度文化的混合物,不过印度文化本身也强调同样的价值观”。[8]

然而,即便只考虑到东亚地区,这一地区也是千差万别的,不仅在日本、中国、韩国及这一地区的其他国家之间存在着许多差异,而且在每个国家内部也有很多差异。在诠释“亚洲价值”时,学者们往往引用孔子的话,但在这些国家里对文化产生过影响的并不止孔子一人(例如,在日本、中国、韩国,佛教的文化传统既古老且深远,其强大的影响曾绵延达一千五百多年,此外,这些国家还受到了包括基督教在内的其他影响)。在所有这些文化传统中,没有哪一种曾一贯如一地鼓吹对秩序的崇尚比对自由的崇尚更重要。

更进一步看,孔子本人也并不主张对国家的盲目崇拜。当子路问孔子,“应当如何为君王服务”时,孔子回答说,“告诉君王真话,别管是不是会冒犯他”。(【译者注】《论语.宪问篇》云,子路问事君,子曰:“勿欺也而犯之”。)[9]孔子的这一回答可能值得威权政权的新闻检查官深思。孔子并不反对谨慎从事、讲究策略,但(如果策略上必要的话)却不会姑息一个坏政府。他说:“如果政府的表现良好,就要大胆地说话行事;如果政府的表现不好,要行事勇敢但说话温和。”(【译者注】《论语.宪问篇》云,“邦有道,危言危行;邦无道,危行言逊”。)[10]

想象中的所谓亚洲价值这座大厦的两大支柱是对家庭的忠诚(【译者注】即“孝”)和对国家的服从(【译者注】即“忠”),而孔子的确曾明确地指出这样的事实,即这两者彼此之间可能发生严重的冲突。许多亚洲价值的鼓吹者把国家的作用视为家庭作用的延伸,但正如孔子所说的,这两者其实是相互矛盾的。叶公对孔子说:“我的族人中有一个人刚直不阿,他父亲偷了一只羊,于是他就谴责父亲。”孔子答道:“在我的族人中,正直的人行事方法不同:父亲为儿子遮掩,儿子为父亲遮掩,这样做也是正直的。”(【译者注】《论语.子路篇》:叶公语孔子曰:“吾党有直躬者,其父攘羊,而子证之。”孔子曰:“吾党之直者异于是,父为子隐,子为父隐,直在其中矣。”)[11]

把亚洲价值笼而统之地说成是反对民主和政治权利的,其实经不起严格推敲。我想,既然提出所谓的亚洲价值的那些人并不是学者,而是些政治领导者,他们经常扮演着威权政府的官方或非官方发言人,所以我不应该对这种缺乏学术论据的观点过于苛求。不过,有趣的是,我们学者考虑现实政治问题时可能会不那么实际,而现实政治家则用不实事求是的态度来对待学术问题。

当然,要在亚洲的传统中找到威权主义式的说法并非难事。但是,在西方的经典文献中也不难发现这样的论述。只要查一下柏拉图(Plato)和阿奎那(Aquinas)的著作就会发现,崇尚纪律并非亚洲国家独有的主张。若仅仅因为亚洲国家的一些述着中强调了纪律和秩序,就否认民主的价值观所可能具有的普适性,就好比仅仅根据柏拉图和阿奎那的著作(姑且不提大量的欧洲中世纪文献曾支持天主教审判异端的宗教法庭),就要否定民主制度是欧洲和美国政府的一种自然形式。

人们基于当代、特别是中东地区政治摩擦的经验,往往把伊斯兰文化描绘成根本不容忍个人自由、甚至排拒个人自由的一种传统。但是,正象在其他文化传统中一样,伊斯兰文化其实也充满了差异性和多样性。在印度,阿克巴(Akbar)和大多数莫卧尔王朝(Moghul)的其他帝王在理论和实践上所表现出的政治和宗教方面的宽容就可算是个典范(只有Aurangzeb是个明显的例外)。土耳其的帝王们常常比他们同时代的欧洲帝王们宽容得多。在开罗和巴格达的统治者那里也可以发现大量的例子。实际上,十二世纪伟大的犹太学者Maimonides曾被迫逃离毫无宽容精神的欧洲(那里本是他的出生地),以逃避欧洲对犹太人的迫害,最后在萨拉丁(Saladin)苏丹的庇护下,这个犹太学者才在宽容礼貌的开罗找到了避风港。

多样性是世界上多数文化的一个特徵,西方的文明亦非例外。民主的实践之所以能在现代的西方国家赢得胜利,很大程度上是自文艺复兴和工业革命以来、特别是过去的一个世纪中所出现的共识之硕果。若把这一进步理解成过去一千年来西方社会追求民主的一项历史使命,然后再把它与非西方社会的传统相比(并笼而统之地看待每个非西方的传统),那将是个极大的错误。这种过于简单化的倾向不仅仅存在于亚洲国家一些政府发言人的表述当中,也存在于某些西方的著名学者的著作当中。

下面,让我举一位重要学者的文章为例,塞谬尔.杭廷顿(SamuelHuntington)的著作曾在许多方面给人留下了深刻的印象,但他关于文明之冲突的论文却未充份注意到每一种文化内部的差异。他的研究导出了明确的结论,西方国家“对个体主义的偏好以及追求权利及自由的传统”是“文明社会所独有的”。[12]杭廷顿还认为,“西方社会核心特徵的存在决定了西方的现代化的出现,而这些特徵与其他的文明显然不同”。他的看法是,“早在西方进入现代化之前,西方就表现出其不同于其他文明的特徵”。[13] 我认为,从历史的角度来看,这篇论文显然漏洞百出。

每当我们看到有亚洲国家的政府发言人试图把所谓的“亚洲价值”拿来与所谓的西方观念对比时,似乎就也有西方的知识分子试图从另一端作相同的比较。即使每次亚洲国家对“亚洲价值”的强调都能与西方知识分子的对应诠释相匹配,这也丝毫不能削弱民主的价值普适性。

结语

我在本文中曾涉猎了不少与民主的价值普适性相关的问题。民主的价值观包括这样一些内容,民主在人类的生活中具有内在的重要性,民主在产生政治激励方面具有工具性作用,民主在形成社会价值体系(以及关于需求、权利和责任的力量与可行度的理解)的过程中具有建设性功能。这些非常宝贵的特徵并不受地域的局限,也不会被鼓吹纪律和秩序的主张所抑制。差不多所有的主要文化其内部都具有价值体系方面的多样性。所以,关于文化上的差异之争论并不能阻止我们、也不能约束我们去选择当今的政治制度。

考虑到当代世界赖以生存的民主制度的种种功能性作用,选择这样的政治制度应该是时不我待的。我一直强调,民主制度的生命力确实非常强盛,绝不是在某些地区偶然出现的个案。民主的价值观之所以放之四海而皆准,其影响力最终来源于民主制度的生命力。这就是关于民主价值的普适性所强调的根本之点。任何想象出来的文化上的清规戒律,或者根据人类复杂多样的过去而假设出来的各种文明当中的预设框架,都不可能抹杀民主制度及其价值。

 

【编者注】

本文以作者去年二月在印度新德里举行的关于“建立全球范围的民主运动”会议上的主题演讲为基础,也采用了他去年的新着《自由:发展的目的和手段(Development asFreedom)》一书中的观点。原文载于Journal of Democracy(Vol.10, No.3(July 1999):3-17(The John Hopkins University Press and the National Endowment forDemocracy's International Forum for DemocraticStudies)。本刊编辑部获该刊许可翻译转载,并将于下期杂志刊登介绍该作者新着《自由:发展的目的和手段》的书评。

 

【注释】 

[1] 在Aldous Huxley的小说PointCounterPoint中,在近代的印度,一位丈夫告诉妻子,他必须远行去伦敦的大英博物馆,以便到那里的图书馆里学习民主,而实际上他却是去与情妇会面。那时在印度一个对妻子不忠的丈夫就已知道,出门去学习民主是个欺骗妻子的巧妙理由。

[2] Adam Przeworski, et al.,Sustainable Democracy(可支撑的民主)(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1995);Robert J. Barro, Getting It Right: Markets and Choices in a FreeSociety(促其归正:自由社会中的市场和选择)(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996).

[3] 在我的新书Development as Freedom当中,我也考察了有关这一问题的经验性证据和因果关联的某些细节。

[4] 见我的文章"Development: Which Way Now?" Economic Journal 93 (December1983);Resources, Values, and Development (Cambridge, Mass.:HarvardUniversity Press, 1984);及我的文章"Rationality and Social Choice,"我作为学会主席在美国经济学会年会上的报告,发表于American Economic Review (March, 1995)。也参见JeanDreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: ClarendonPress, 1987);Frances D'Souza, ed., Starving in Silence: A Report onFamine and Censorship (London: Article 19 International Center onCensorship, 1990);Human Rights Watch, Indivisible Human Rights: TheRelationship between Political and Civil Rights to Survival,Subsistence and Poverty (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992);andInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, WorldDisaster Report 1994 (Geneva: Red Cross, 1994).

[5] Dreze and Sen, Hunger and Public Action.

[6] 见我的文章“泰戈尔和他的印度(Tagore and His India)”,载New York Review of Books, 26 June, 1997.

[7] Amartya Sen, “Human Rights and Asian Values," Morgenthau MemorialLecture(New York: Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs,1997), published in a shortened form in The New Republic, 14-21 July1997.

[8] Fareed Zakaria, “Culture is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew," Foreign Affairs 73(March-April 1994): 113.

[9] 《论语.宪问篇第十四》(The Analects of Confucius, Simon Leys, trans.(New York: Norton, 1997), 14.22, 70)。

[10] 《论语.宪问篇第十四》(The Analects of Confucius, 14.3, 66)。

[11] 《论语.子路篇第十三》(The Analects of Confucius, 13.18, 63。

[12] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 71.

[13] Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, 69.

  

当代中国研究 [2000年] [第2期(总第69期)] 

Democracy as a Universal Value

Amartya Sen

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In the summer of 1997, I was asked by a leading Japanese newspaperwhat I thought was the most important thing that had happened in thetwentieth century. I found this to be an unusually thought-provokingquestion, since so many things of gravity have happened over the lasthundred years. The European empires, especially the British and Frenchones that had so dominated the nineteenth century, came to an end. Wewitnessed two world wars. We saw the rise and fall of fascism andNazism. The century witnessed the rise of communism, and its fall (asin the former Soviet bloc) or radical transformation (as in China). Wealso saw a shift from the economic dominance of the West to a neweconomic balance much more dominated by Japan and East and SoutheastAsia. Even though that region is going through some financial andeconomic problems right now, this is not going to nullify the shift inthe balance of the world economy that has occurred over many decades(in the case of Japan, through nearly the entire century). The pasthundred years are not lacking in important events.

Nevertheless, among the great variety of developments that haveoccurred in the twentieth century, I did not, ultimately, have anydifficulty in choosing one as the preeminent development of the period:the rise of democracy. This is not to deny that other occurrences have[End Page 3] also been important, but I would argue that in the distantfuture, when people look back at what happened in this century, theywill find it difficult not to accord primacy to the emergence ofdemocracy as the preeminently acceptable form of governance.

The idea of democracy originated, of course, in ancient Greece, morethan two millennia ago. Piecemeal efforts at democratization wereattempted elsewhere as well, including in India.1 But it is really inancient Greece that the idea of democracy took shape and was seriouslyput into practice (albeit on a limited scale), before it collapsed andwas replaced by more authoritarian and asymmetric forms of government.There were no other kinds anywhere else.

Thereafter, democracy as we know it took a long time to emerge. Itsgradual--and ultimately triumphant--emergence as a working system ofgovernance was bolstered by many developments, from the signing of theMagna Carta in 1215, to the French and the American Revolutions in theeighteenth century, to the widening of the franchise in Europe andNorth America in the nineteenth century. It was in the twentiethcentury, however, that the idea of democracy became established as the"normal" form of government to which any nation is entitled--whether inEurope, America, Asia, or Africa.

The idea of democracy as a universal commitment is quite new, and itis quintessentially a product of the twentieth century. The rebels whoforced restraint on the king of England through the Magna Carta saw theneed as an entirely local one. In contrast, the American fighters forindependence and the revolutionaries in France contributed greatly toan understanding of the need for democracy as a general system. Yet thefocus of their practical demands remained quite local--confined, ineffect, to the two sides of the North Atlantic, and founded on thespecial economic, social, and political history of the region.

Throughout the nineteenth century, theorists of democracy found itquite natural to discuss whether one country or another was "fit fordemocracy." This thinking changed only in the twentieth century, withthe recognition that the question itself was wrong: A country does nothave to be deemed fit for democracy; rather, it has to become fitthrough democracy. This is indeed a momentous change, extending thepotential reach of democracy to cover billions of people, with theirvarying histories and cultures and disparate levels of affluence.

It was also in this century that people finally accepted that"franchise for all adults" must mean all--not just men but also women.When in January of this year I had the opportunity to meet RuthDreyfuss, the president of Switzerland and a woman of remarkabledistinction, it gave me occasion to recollect that only a quartercentury ago Swiss women could not even vote. We have at last reachedthe point of recognizing that the coverage of universality, like thequality of mercy, is not strained. [End Page 4]

I do not deny that there are challenges to democracy's claim touniversality. These challenges come in many shapes and forms--and fromdifferent directions. Indeed, that is part of the subject of thisessay. I have to examine the claim of democracy as a universal valueand the disputes that surround that claim. Before I begin thatexercise, however, it is necessary to grasp clearly the sense in whichdemocracy has become a dominant belief in the contemporary world.

In any age and social climate, there are some sweeping beliefs thatseem to command respect as a kind of general rule--like a "default"setting in a computer program; they are considered right unless theirclaim is somehow precisely negated. While democracy is not yetuniversally practiced, nor indeed uniformly accepted, in the generalclimate of world opinion, democratic governance has now achieved thestatus of being taken to be generally right. The ball is very much inthe court of those who want to rubbish democracy to providejustification for that rejection.

This is a historic change from not very long ago, when the advocatesof democracy for Asia or Africa had to argue for democracy with theirbacks to the wall. While we still have reason enough to dispute thosewho, implicitly or explicitly, reject the need for democracy, we mustalso note clearly how the general climate of opinion has shifted fromwhat it was in previous centuries. We do not have to establish afresh,each time, whether such and such a country (South Africa, or Cambodia,or Chile) is "fit for democracy" (a question that was prominent in thediscourse of the nineteenth century); we now take that for granted.This recognition of democracy as a universally relevant system, whichmoves in the direction of its acceptance as a universal value, is amajor revolution in thinking, and one of the main contributions of thetwentieth century. It is in this context that we have to examine thequestion of democracy as a universal value.

The Indian Experience

How well has democracy worked? While noone really questions the role of democracy in, say, the United Statesor Britain or France, it is still a matter of dispute for many of thepoorer countries in the world. This is not the occasion for a detailedexamination of the historical record, but I would argue that democracyhas worked well enough.

India, of course, was one of the major battlegrounds of this debate.In denying Indians independence, the British expressed anxiety over theIndians' ability to govern themselves. India was indeed in somedisarray in 1947, the year it became independent. It had an untriedgovernment, an undigested partition, and unclear political alignments,combined with widespread communal violence and social disorder. It washard to have faith in the future of a united and democratic India. [EndPage 5] And yet, half a century later, we find a democracy that has,taking the rough with the smooth, worked remarkably well. Politicaldifferences have been largely tackled within the constitutionalguidelines, and governments have risen and fallen according toelectoral and parliamentary rules. An ungainly, unlikely, inelegantcombination of differences, India nonetheless survives and functionsremarkably well as a political unit with a democratic system. Indeed,it is held together by its working democracy.

India has also survived the tremendous challenge of dealing with avariety of major languages and a spectrum of religions. Religious andcommunal differences are, of course, vulnerable to exploitation bysectarian politicians, and have indeed been so used on severaloccasions (including in recent months), causing massive consternationin the country. Yet the fact that consternation greets sectarianviolence and that condemnation of such violence comes from all sectionsof the country ultimately provides the main democratic guaranteeagainst the narrowly factional exploitation of sectarianism. This is,of course, essential for the survival and prosperity of a country asremarkably varied as India, which is home not only to a Hindu majority,but to the world's third largest Muslim population, to millions ofChristians and Buddhists, and to most of the world's Sikhs, Parsees,and Jains.

Democracy and Economic Development

It is often claimed thatnondemocratic systems are better at bringing about economicdevelopment. This belief sometimes goes by the name of "the Leehypothesis," due to its advocacy by Lee Kuan Yew, the leader and formerpresident of Singapore. He is certainly right that some disciplinarianstates (such as South Korea, his own Singapore, and postreform China)have had faster rates of economic growth than many less authoritarianones (including India, Jamaica, and Costa Rica). The "Lee hypothesis,"however, is based on sporadic empiricism, drawing on very selective andlimited information, rather than on any general statistical testingover the wide-ranging data that are available. A general relation ofthis kind cannot be established on the basis of very selectiveevidence. For example, we cannot really take the high economic growthof Singapore or China as "definitive proof" that authoritarianism doesbetter in promoting economic growth, any more than we can draw theopposite conclusion from the fact that Botswana, the country with thebest record of economic growth in Africa, indeed with one of the finestrecords of economic growth in the whole world, has been an oasis ofdemocracy on that continent over the decades. We need more systematicempirical studies to sort out the claims and counterclaims.

There is, in fact, no convincing general evidence that authoritarian[End Page 6] governance and the suppression of political and civilrights are really beneficial to economic development. Indeed, thegeneral statistical picture does not permit any such induction.Systematic empirical studies (for example, by Robert Barro or by AdamPrzeworski) give no real support to the claim that there is a generalconflict between political rights and economic performance.2 Thedirectional linkage seems to depend on many other circumstances, andwhile some statistical investigations note a weakly negative relation,others find a strongly positive one. If all the comparative studies areviewed together, the hypothesis that there is no clear relation betweeneconomic growth and democracy in either direction remains extremelyplausible. Since democracy and political liberty have importance inthemselves, the case for them therefore remains untarnished.3

The question also involves a fundamental issue of methods ofeconomic research. We must not only look at statistical connections,but also examine and scrutinize the causal processes that are involvedin economic growth and development. The economic policies andcircumstances that led to the economic success of countries in EastAsia are by now reasonably well understood. While different empiricalstudies have varied in emphasis, there is by now broad consensus on alist of "helpful policies" that includes openness to competition, theuse of international markets, public provision of incentives forinvestment and export, a high level of literacy and schooling,successful land reforms, and other social opportunities that widenparticipation in the process of economic expansion. There is no reasonat all to assume that any of these policies is inconsistent withgreater democracy and had to be forcibly sustained by the elements ofauthoritarianism that happened to be present in South Korea orSingapore or China. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence to show thatwhat is needed for generating faster economic growth is a friendliereconomic climate rather than a harsher political system.

To complete this examination, we must go beyond the narrow confinesof economic growth and scrutinize the broader demands of economicdevelopment, including the need for economic and social security. Inthat context, we have to look at the connection between political andcivil rights, on the one hand, and the prevention of major economicdisasters, on the other. Political and civil rights give people theopportunity to draw attention forcefully to general needs and to demandappropriate public action. The response of a government to the acutesuffering of its people often depends on the pressure that is put onit. The exercise of political rights (such as voting, criticizing,protesting, and the like) can make a real difference to the politicalincentives that operate on a government.

I have discussed elsewhere the remarkable fact that, in the terriblehistory of famines in the world, no substantial famine has everoccurred [End Page 7] in any independent and democratic country with arelatively free press.4 We cannot find exceptions to this rule, nomatter where we look: the recent famines of Ethiopia, Somalia, or otherdictatorial regimes; famines in the Soviet Union in the 1930s; China's1958-61 famine with the failure of the Great Leap Forward; or earlierstill, the famines in Ireland or India under alien rule. China,although it was in many ways doing much better economically than India,still managed (unlike India) to have a famine, indeed the largestrecorded famine in world history: Nearly 30 million people died in thefamine of 1958-61, while faulty governmental policies remaineduncorrected for three full years. The policies went uncriticizedbecause there were no opposition parties in parliament, no free press,and no multiparty elections. Indeed, it is precisely this lack ofchallenge that allowed the deeply defective policies to continue eventhough they were killing millions each year. The same can be said aboutthe world's two contemporary famines, occurring right now in NorthKorea and Sudan.

Famines are often associated with what look like natural disasters,and commentators often settle for the simplicity of explaining faminesby pointing to these events: the floods in China during the failedGreat Leap Forward, the droughts in Ethiopia, or crop failures in NorthKorea. Nevertheless, many countries with similar natural problems, oreven worse ones, manage perfectly well, because a responsive governmentintervenes to help alleviate hunger. Since the primary victims of afamine are the indigent, deaths can be prevented by recreating incomes(for example, through employment programs), which makes food accessibleto potential famine victims. Even the poorest democratic countries thathave faced terrible droughts or floods or other natural disasters (suchas India in 1973, or Zimbabwe and Botswana in the early 1980s) havebeen able to feed their people without experiencing a famine.

Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so,and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms fromopposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but makesuch an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have faminesunder British rule right up to independence (the last famine, which Iwitnessed as a child, was in 1943, four years before independence),they disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multipartydemocracy and a free press.

I have discussed these issues elsewhere, particularly in my jointwork with Jean Dr'eze, so I will not dwell further on them here.5Indeed, the issue of famine is only one example of the reach ofdemocracy, though it is, in many ways, the easiest case to analyze. Thepositive role of political and civil rights applies to the preventionof economic and social disasters in general. When things go fine andeverything is routinely good, this instrumental role of democracy maynot be particularly missed. It is when things get fouled up, for one[End Page 8] reason or another, that the political incentives providedby democratic governance acquire great practical value.

There is, I believe, an important lesson here. Many economictechnocrats recommend the use of economic incentives (which the marketsystem provides) while ignoring political incentives (which democraticsystems could guarantee). This is to opt for a deeply unbalanced set ofground rules. The protective power of democracy may not be missed muchwhen a country is lucky enough to be facing no serious calamity, wheneverything is going quite smoothly. Yet the danger of insecurity,arising from changed economic or other circumstances, or fromuncorrected mistakes of policy, can lurk behind what looks like ahealthy state.

The recent problems of East and Southeast Asia bring out, amongother things, the penalties of undemocratic governance. This is so intwo striking respects. First, the development of the financial crisisin some of these economies (including South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia)has been closely linked to the lack of transparency in business, inparticular the lack of public participation in reviewing financialarrangements. The absence of an effective democratic forum has beencentral to this failing. Second, once the financial crisis led to ageneral economic recession, the protective power of democracy--notunlike that which prevents famines in democratic countries--was badlymissed in a country like Indonesia. The newly dispossessed did not havethe hearing they needed.

A fall in total gross national product of, say, 10 percent may notlook like much if it follows in the wake of a growth rate of 5 or 10percent every year over the past few decades, and yet that decline candecimate lives and create misery for millions if the burden ofcontraction is not widely shared but allowed to be heaped on those--theunemployed or the economically redundant--who can least bear it. Thevulnerable in Indonesia may not have missed democracy when things wentup and up, but that lacuna kept their voice low and muffled as theunequally shared crisis developed. The protective role of democracy isstrongly missed when it is most needed.

The Functions of Democracy

I have so far allowed the agenda ofthis essay to be determined by the critics of democracy, especially theeconomic critics. I shall return to criticisms again, taking up thearguments of the cultural critics in particular, but the time has comefor me to pursue further the positive analysis of what democracy doesand what may lie at the base of its claim to be a universal value.

What exactly is democracy? We must not identify democracy withmajority rule. Democracy has complex demands, which certainly [End Page9] include voting and respect for election results, but it alsorequires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legalentitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and uncensoreddistribution of news and fair comment. Even elections can be deeplydefective if they occur without the different sides getting an adequateopportunity to present their respective cases, or without theelectorate enjoying the freedom to obtain news and to consider theviews of the competing protagonists. Democracy is a demanding system,and not just a mechanical condition (like majority rule) taken inisolation.

Viewed in this light, the merits of democracy and its claim as auniversal value can be related to certain distinct virtues that go withits unfettered practice. Indeed, we can distinguish three differentways in which democracy enriches the lives of the citizens. First,political freedom is a part of human freedom in general, and exercisingcivil and political rights is a crucial part of good lives ofindividuals as social beings. Political and social participation hasintrinsic value for human life and well-being. To be prevented fromparticipation in the political life of the community is a majordeprivation.

Second, as I have just discussed (in disputing the claim thatdemocracy is in tension with economic development), democracy has animportant instrumental value in enhancing the hearing that people getin expressing and supporting their claims to political attention(including claims of economic needs). Third--and this is a point to beexplored further--the practice of democracy gives citizens anopportunity to learn from one another, and helps society to form itsvalues and priorities. Even the idea of "needs," including theunderstanding of "economic needs," requires public discussion andexchange of information, views, and analyses. In this sense, democracyhas constructive importance, in addition to its intrinsic value for thelives of the citizens and its instrumental importance in politicaldecisions. The claims of democracy as a universal value have to takenote of this diversity of considerations.

The conceptualization--even comprehension--of what are to count as"needs," including "economic needs," may itself require the exercise ofpolitical and civil rights. A proper understanding of what economicneeds are--their content and their force--may require discussion andexchange. Political and civil rights, especially those related to theguaranteeing of open discussion, debate, criticism, and dissent, arecentral to the process of generating informed and considered choices.These processes are crucial to the formation of values and priorities,and we cannot, in general, take preferences as given independently ofpublic discussion, that is, irrespective of whether open interchangeand debate are permitted or not.

In fact, the reach and effectiveness of open dialogue are oftenunderestimated in assessing social and political problems. For example,[End Page 10] public discussion has an important role to play inreducing the high rates of fertility that characterize many developingcountries. There is substantial evidence that the sharp decline infertility rates in India's more literate states has been muchinfluenced by public discussion of the bad effects of high fertilityrates on the community at large, and especially on the lives of youngwomen. If the view has emerged in, say, the Indian state of Kerala orof Tamil Nadu that a happy family in the modern age is a small family,much discussion and debate have gone into the formation of theseperspectives. Kerala now has a fertility rate of 1.7 (similar to thatof Britain and France, and well below China's 1.9), and this has beenachieved with no coercion, but mainly through the emergence of newvalues--a process in which political and social dialogue has played amajor part. Kerala's high literacy rate (it ranks higher in literacythan any province in China), especially among women, has greatlycontributed to making such social and political dialogue possible.

Miseries and deprivations can be of various kinds, some moreamenable to social remedies than others. The totality of the humanpredicament would be a gross basis for identifying our "needs." Forexample, there are many things that we might have good reason to valueand thus could be taken as "needs" if they were feasible. We could evenwant immortality, as Maitreyee, that remarkable inquiring mind in theUpanishads, famously did in her 3000-year old conversation withYajnvalkya. But we do not see immortality as a "need" because it isclearly unfeasible. Our conception of needs relates to our ideas of thepreventable nature of some deprivations and to our understanding ofwhat can be done about them. In the formation of understandings andbeliefs about feasibility (particularly, social feasibility), publicdiscussions play a crucial role. Political rights, including freedom ofexpression and discussion, are not only pivotal in inducing socialresponses to economic needs, they are also central to theconceptualization of economic needs themselves.

Universality of Values

If the above analysis is correct, thendemocracy's claim to be valuable does not rest on just one particularmerit. There is a plurality of virtues here, including, first, theintrinsic importance of political participation and freedom in humanlife; second, the instrumental importance of political incentives inkeeping governments responsible and accountable; and third, theconstructive role of democracy in the formation of values and in theunderstanding of needs, rights, and duties. In the light of thisdiagnosis, we may now address the motivating question of this essay,namely the case for seeing democracy as a universal value. [End Page11]

In disputing this claim, it is sometimes argued that not everyoneagrees on the decisive importance of democracy, particularly when itcompetes with other desirable things for our attention and loyalty.This is indeed so, and there is no unanimity here. This lack ofunanimity is seen by some as sufficient evidence that democracy is nota universal value.

Clearly, we must begin by dealing with a methodological question:What is a universal value? For a value to be considered universal, mustit have the consent of everyone? If that were indeed necessary, thenthe category of universal values might well be empty. I know of novalue--not even motherhood (I think of Mommie Dearest)--to which no onehas ever objected. I would argue that universal consent is not requiredfor something to be a universal value. Rather, the claim of a universalvalue is that people anywhere may have reason to see it as valuable.

When Mahatma Gandhi argued for the universal value of non-violence,he was not arguing that people everywhere already acted according tothis value, but rather that they had good reason to see it as valuable.Similarly, when Rabindranath Tagore argued for "the freedom of themind" as a universal value, he was not saying that this claim isaccepted by all, but that all do have reason enough to accept it--areason that he did much to explore, present, and propagate.6 Understoodin this way, any claim that something is a universal value involvessome counterfactual analysis--in particular, whether people might seesome value in a claim that they have not yet considered adequately. Allclaims to universal value--not just that of democracy--have thisimplicit presumption.

I would argue that it is with regard to this often implicitpresumption that the biggest attitudinal shift toward democracy hasoccurred in the twentieth century. In considering democracy for acountry that does not have it and where many people may not yet havehad the opportunity to consider it for actual practice, it is nowpresumed that the people involved would approve of it once it becomes areality in their lives. In the nineteenth century this assumptiontypically would have not been made, but the presumption that is takento be natural (what I earlier called the "default" position) haschanged radically during the twentieth century.

It must also be noted that this change is, to a great extent, basedon observing the history of the twentieth century. As democracy hasspread, its adherents have grown, not shrunk. Starting off from Europeand America, democracy as a system has reached very many distantshores, where it has been met with willing participation andacceptance. Moreover, when an existing democracy has been overthrown,there have been widespread protests, even though these protests haveoften been brutally suppressed. Many people have been willing to risktheir lives in the fight to bring back democracy. [End Page 12]

Some who dispute the status of democracy as a universal value basetheir argument not on the absence of unanimity, but on the presence ofregional contrasts. These alleged contrasts are sometimes related tothe poverty of some nations. According to this argument, poor peopleare interested, and have reason to be interested, in bread, not indemocracy. This oft-repeated argument is fallacious at two differentlevels.

First, as discussed above, the protective role of democracy may beparticularly important for the poor. This obviously applies topotential famine victims who face starvation. It also applies to thedestitute thrown off the economic ladder in a financial crisis. Peoplein economic need also need a political voice. Democracy is not a luxurythat can await the arrival of general prosperity.

Second, there is very little evidence that poor people, given thechoice, prefer to reject democracy. It is thus of some interest to notethat when an erstwhile Indian government in the mid-1970s tried out asimilar argument to justify the alleged "emergency" (and thesuppression of various political and civil rights) that it haddeclared, an election was called that divided the voters precisely onthis issue. In that fateful election, fought largely on this oneoverriding theme, the suppression of basic political and civil rightswas firmly rejected, and the Indian electorate--one of the poorest inthe world--showed itself to be no less keen on protesting against thedenial of basic liberties and rights than on complaining about economicdeprivation.

To the extent that there has been any testing of the propositionthat the poor do not care about civil and political rights, theevidence is entirely against that claim. Similar points can be made byobserving the struggle for democratic freedoms in South Korea,Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Indonesia, and elsewhere inAsia. Similarly, while political freedom is widely denied in Africa,there have been movements and protests against such repression whenevercircumstances have permitted them.

The Argument from Cultural Differences

There is also anotherargument in defense of an allegedly fundamental regional contrast, onerelated not to economic circumstances but to cultural differences.Perhaps the most famous of these claims relates to what have beencalled "Asian values." It has been claimed that Asians traditionallyvalue discipline, not political freedom, and thus the attitude todemocracy must inevitably be much more skeptical in these countries. Ihave discussed this thesis in some detail in my Morganthau MemorialLecture at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.7

It is very hard to find any real basis for this intellectual claimin the history of Asian cultures, especially if we look at theclassical [End Page 13] traditions of India, the Middle East, Iran, andother parts of Asia. For example, one of the earliest and most emphaticstatements advocating the tolerance of pluralism and the duty of thestate to protect minorities can be found in the inscriptions of theIndian emperor Ashoka in the third century B.C.

Asia is, of course, a very large area, containing 60 percent of theworld's population, and generalizations about such a vast set ofpeoples is not easy. Sometimes the advocates of "Asian values" havetended to look primarily at East Asia as the region of particularapplicability. The general thesis of a contrast between the West andAsia often concentrates on the lands to the east of Thailand, eventhough there is also a more ambitious claim that the rest of Asia israther "similar." Lee Kuan Yew, to whom we must be grateful for beingsuch a clear expositor (and for articulating fully what is often statedvaguely in this tangled literature), outlines "the fundamentaldifference between Western concepts of society and government and EastAsian concepts" by explaining, "when I say East Asians, I mean Korea,Japan, China, Vietnam, as distinct from Southeast Asia, which is a mixbetween the Sinic and the Indian, though Indian culture itselfemphasizes similar values."8

Even East Asia itself, however, is remarkably diverse, with manyvariations to be found not only among Japan, China, Korea, and othercountries of the region, but also within each country. Confucius is thestandard author quoted in interpreting Asian values, but he is not theonly intellectual influence in these countries (in Japan, China, andKorea for example, there are very old and very widespread Buddhisttraditions, powerful for over a millennium and a half, and there arealso other influences, including a considerable Christian presence).There is no homogeneous worship of order over freedom in any of thesecultures.

Furthermore, Confucius himself did not recommend blind allegiance tothe state. When Zilu asks him "how to serve a prince," Confuciusreplies (in a statement that the censors of authoritarian regimes maywant to ponder), "Tell him the truth even if it offends him."9Confucius is not averse to practical caution and tact, but does notforgo the recommendation to oppose a bad government (tactfully, ifnecessary): "When the [good] way prevails in the state, speak boldlyand act boldly. When the state has lost the way, act boldly and speaksoftly."10

Indeed, Confucius provides a clear pointer to the fact that the twopillars of the imagined edifice of Asian values, loyalty to family andobedience to the state, can be in severe conflict with each other. Manyadvocates of the power of "Asian values" see the role of the state asan extension of the role of the family, but as Confucius noted, therecan be tension between the two. The Governor of She told Confucius,[End Page 14] "Among my people, there is a man of unbending integrity:when his father stole a sheep, he denounced him." To this Confuciusreplied, "Among my people, men of integrity do things differently: afather covers up for his son, a son covers up for his father--and thereis integrity in what they do."11

The monolithic interpretation of Asian values as hostile todemocracy and political rights does not bear critical scrutiny. Ishould not, I suppose, be too critical of the lack of scholarshipsupporting these beliefs, since those who have made these claims arenot scholars but political leaders, often official or unofficialspokesmen for authoritarian governments. It is, however, interesting tosee that while we academics can be impractical about practicalpolitics, practical politicians can, in turn, be rather impracticalabout scholarship.

It is not hard, of course, to find authoritarian writings within theAsian traditions. But neither is it hard to find them in Westernclassics: One has only to reflect on the writings of Plato or Aquinasto see that devotion to discipline is not a special Asian taste. Todismiss the plausibility of democracy as a universal value because ofthe presence of some Asian writings on discipline and order would besimilar to rejecting the plausibility of democracy as a natural form ofgovernment in Europe or America today on the basis of the writings ofPlato or Aquinas (not to mention the substantial medieval literature insupport of the Inquisitions).

Due to the experience of contemporary political battles, especiallyin the Middle East, Islam is often portrayed as fundamentallyintolerant of and hostile to individual freedom. But the presence ofdiversity and variety within a tradition applies very much to Islam aswell. In India, Akbar and most of the other Moghul emperors (with thenotable exception of Aurangzeb) provide good examples of both thetheory and practice of political and religious tolerance. The Turkishemperors were often more tolerant than their European contemporaries.Abundant examples can also be found among rulers in Cairo and Baghdad.Indeed, in the twelfth century, the great Jewish scholar Maimonides hadto run away from an intolerant Europe (where he was born), and from itspersecution of Jews, to the security of a tolerant and urbane Cairo andthe patronage of Sultan Saladin.

Diversity is a feature of most cultures in the world. Westerncivilization is no exception. The practice of democracy that has wonout in the modern West is largely a result of a consensus that hasemerged since the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, andparticularly in the last century or so. To read in this a historicalcommitment of the West--over the millennia--to democracy, and then tocontrast it with non-Western traditions (treating each as monolithic)would be a great mistake. This tendency toward oversimplification canbe seen not only in the writings of some governmental spokesmen [EndPage 15] in Asia, but also in the theories of some of the finestWestern scholars themselves.

As an example from the writings of a major scholar whose works, inmany other ways, have been totally impressive, let me cite SamuelHuntington's thesis on the clash of civilizations, where theheterogeneities within each culture get quite inadequate recognition.His study comes to the clear conclusion that "a sense of individualismand a tradition of rights and liberties" can be found in the West thatare "unique among civilized societies."12 Huntington also argues that"the central characteristics of the West, those which distinguish itfrom other civilizations, antedate the modernization of the West." Inhis view, "The West was West long before it was modern."13 It is thisthesis that--I have argued--does not survive historical scrutiny.

For every attempt by an Asian government spokesman to contrastalleged "Asian values" with alleged Western ones, there is, it seems,an attempt by a Western intellectual to make a similar contrast fromthe other side. But even though every Asian pull may be matched by aWestern push, the two together do not really manage to dent democracy'sclaim to be a universal value.

Where the Debate Belongs

I have tried to cover a number ofissues related to the claim that democracy is a universal value. Thevalue of democracy includes its intrinsic importance in human life, itsinstrumental role in generating political incentives, and itsconstructive function in the formation of values (and in understandingthe force and feasibility of claims of needs, rights, and duties).These merits are not regional in character. Nor is the advocacy ofdiscipline or order. Heterogeneity of values seems to characterizemost, perhaps all, major cultures. The cultural argument does notforeclose, nor indeed deeply constrain, the choices we can make today.

Those choices have to be made here and now, taking note of thefunctional roles of democracy, on which the case for democracy in thecontemporary world depends. I have argued that this case is indeedstrong and not regionally contingent. The force of the claim thatdemocracy is a universal value lies, ultimately, in that strength. Thatis where the debate belongs. It cannot be disposed of by imaginedcultural taboos or assumed civilizational predispositions imposed byour various pasts.

Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, is Masterof Trinity College, Cambridge, and Lamont University Professor Emeritusat Harvard University. The following essay is based on a keynoteaddress that he delivered at a February 1999 conference in New Delhi on"Building a Worldwide Movement for Democracy," cosponsored by theNational Endowment for Democracy, the Confederation of Indian Industry,and the Centre for Policy Research (New Delhi). This essay draws onwork more fully presented in his book Development as Freedom, to bepublished by Alfred Knopf later this year.

Notes

1. In Aldous Huxley's novel Point Counter Point, this wasenough to give an adequate excuse to a cheating husband, who tells hiswife that he must go to London to study democracy in ancient India inthe library of the British Museum, while in reality he goes to see hismistress.

2. Adam Przeworski et al., Sustainable Democracy (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1995); Robert J. Barro, Getting It Right:Markets and Choices in a Free Society (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press,1996).

3. I have examined the empirical evidence and causal connections insome detail in my book Development as Freedom, forthcoming from Knopfin 1999.

4. See my "Development: Which Way Now?" Economic Journal 93(December 1983); Resources, Values, and Development (Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press, 1984); and my "Rationality and SocialChoice," presidential address to the American Economic Association,published in American Economic Review in March 1995. See also JeanDr'eze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action (Oxford: ClarendonPress, 1987); Frances D'Souza, ed., Starving in Silence: A Report onFamine and Censorship (London: Article 19 International Centre onCensorship, 1990); Human Rights Watch, Indivisible Human Rights: TheRelationship between Political and Civil Rights to Survival,Subsistence and Poverty (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1992); andInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, WorldDisaster Report 1994 (Geneva: Red Cross, 1994).

5. Dr'eze and Sen, Hunger and Public Action.

6. See my "Tagore and His India," New York Review of Books, 26 June 1997.

7. Amartya Sen, "Human Rights and Asian Values," Morgenthau MemorialLecture (New York: Carnegie Council on Ethics and InternationalAffairs, 1997), published in a shortened form in The New Republic,14-21 July 1997.

8. Fareed Zakaria, "Culture is Destiny: A Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew," Foreign Affairs 73 (March-April 1994): 113.

9. The Analects of Confucius, Simon Leys, trans. (New York: Norton, 1997), 14.22, 70.

10. The Analects of Confucius, 14.3, 66.

11. The Analects of Confucius, 13.18, 63.

12. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 71.

13. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, 69.

阿玛蒂亚·森,1998年诺贝尔经济学奖获得者英国剑桥大学三一学院院长、哈佛大学退休教授

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