What Is "Cultural Democracy"?

What Is

"Cultural Democracy"?

The concept of cultural democracy comprises a set of related commitments:

Much more can and will be said throughout Webster's World about the idea of cultural democracy and how it plays out in practice; but these principles are its essence. If you'd like more information about the origins of the idea of cultural democracy, check out the essays in the core resources section.

Culture as a Realm of Action

Since culture is our human creation, it is always subject to change. The powers-that-be would like us to think of culture as a given -- that whether we like it or not, we ordinary people can't change it in any significant way. We are awash in information about the enormity of the world's problems, and this can be disabling. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of racism, poverty, violence and other oppressive forces, we tend to go passive -- or to strike out in usually futile individual acts of rage. Thus the tyranny of those who benefit from the status quo is maintained.

Cultural democracy is therefore a deeply radical idea. It is the ultimate extension of the idea of democracy: that each one of us, each community, each cultural minority has rights that deserve respect, and that each must have a voice in the vital decisions that affect the quality of our lives. No one who commands a disproportionate share of power in the world is happy to hear this idea put forward, for it demands that they share this power with those who are locked out by the current order: better to keep us confused and divided.

Cultural democracy is also a beautiful idea. It inspires a vision of humanity which embraces us all. Each of us is as complex and fascinating as the multiple factors and influences which have shaped our own identities. Each of us is creative, gifted and potentially powerful. Our communities are creative organisms that dynamically change in response to the appearance of new people, ideas and circumstances. Cultural democracy calls forth our most loving selves, illuminates places where healing is needed, and challenges us to develop the best in ourselves, to be respectful of the harmonious interrelations of all life on the planet.

Webster's World of Cultural Democracy is not just about ideas, though. It's also about action. Despite the depressing news brought to us by the mainstream media, people all over the world are acting on their hopeful visions for themselves and their communities. We want Webster's World to grow to incorporate them all. You will find many practical suggestions here -- community projects, organizing campaigns, theoretical explorations grounded in activist politics -- which reveal promising ways of remaking the world according to the values of cultural democracy.

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Webster's World of Cultural Democracy
The World Wide Web center of The Institute for Cultural Democracy
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© copyright The Institute for Cultural Democracy 1995, 1998