Original Research

Disillusionment and the dilemma of ‘the Democratic Type’: From Plato (Athenian populism), to Helen Zille (constitutional democracy), Cyril Ramaphosa (cooperative democracy) and Jesus Christ (compassionate democracy)

Daniël J. Louw
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2516 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2516 | © 2020 Daniël J. Louw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 July 2019 | Published: 27 February 2020

About the author(s)

Daniël J. Louw, Department of Practical Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Worldwide democratic institutions are threatened by right-wing reactions. The fear for a loss of power brings about a paradigm shift from democratic sensitivity to autocratic control. Political leaders tend to become more reactionist, populistic and despotic. Conservative reactions hamper processes of democratisation. Besides the migrant crisis, democracy in South Africa staggers under escalating forms of state capture, fraud, violence, mismanagement and undisciplined social behaviour. Plato’s exposition of the ‘democratic type’ and his criticism of Athenian populism are used to reveal possible weaknesses in our current democratic dispensation. Within the political arena, voices for a new and fresh approach to processes of democratisation is assessed and discussed. Thus, the reference to a plea for constitutional democracy (Helen Zille), and cooperative democracy that should include radical attitudinal change (Cyril Ramaphosa). It is argued that an anthropology, based on the passio Dei, can provide a spiritual basis for a new ethos and thus contribute to the establishment of a compassionate habitus of caring. In this regard, practical theology should focus on an ecclesial presence that is ‘redemptively pervasive’ and directed by the bowel categories of ta splanchna.


Democratic type; Compassionate type; Constitutional democracy; Common-wealth democracy; Theology of the intestines; passio Dei; Practical theology.


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