The Western Democratic Tradition by LJM Cooray (1985)

The academic reader may never have encountered a paper precisely like this — and may never will. Its structure and methodology are different — and it is deliberately so conceived.

I confess that the scope of that part of the paper which analyses the values and institutions of the democratic tradition in its total context is vast in the way I choose to treat it. Therefore the topic does not lend itself to development within the confines of a single paper. I have at times regretted the offer to prepare a paper on this subject. On the other hand, there is value in dealing with a vast topic and identifying basics and trends and providing an over view and a sense of perspective of a totality. Such analysis provides an easy spring board for criticism. Criticism I expect, not only for this, but for other reasons. I have chosen to swim against a very strong intellectual tide. The subject is a multi-disciplinary one involving politics, government and law and society in their total context, with an injection of the religious and spiritual dimensions. The subject therefore traverses the whole of the social sciences. Broad generalisations and statements (which can easily be misunderstood) are inevitable given the topic and qualifications and explanations are of necessity excluded by limits of space. I ask the critics to please note these factors.

The paper is novel and original (though may be not in the traditional academic sense). Originality is of fundamental importance on academic discourse. But this analysis has departed to some extent from academic parameters. It has not been my aim — but novelty and originality is the result. Novelty and originality are not uncommon in academia. In some respects it is easier in the social science disciplines to be critical, novel and original, through developing theories and concepts in the abstract or by outrageously distorting facts and opinions. Originality may derive from foolishness or wisdom or a mixture. It is more difficult to be novel and original and at the same time be constructive and relate to the reality of (as distinct from abstract notions about) life and experience in the world.

This is an unusual paper. I ask the readers to read it as it is — without thinking too much of its unusual nature and its departure in some respects from academic traditions and methodology.

There is a fair amount of repetition: my apologies. If I had more time (don't we all need more time?) a part of the repetition would have been excised or the repeated parts summarised. But a good deal of the repetition is deliberate. My subject is overlapping. When an attempt is made in a particular context, to relate to a point made in another place, I fear the connection may be obscured by a mere cross-reference. Therefore I adopt the practice of summarising what has been said in one place in the paper, in order to make a link, and thereby illustrate the particular argument I am developing in another place. So I ask the readers not only to forgive the repetition, but to read the repetitious sections, bearing in mind the reasons for the repetition.