This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
The general or public phase of larger consciousness is what we call Democracy. I mean by this primarily the organized sway of public opinion. It works out also in a tendency to humanize the collective life, to make institutions express the higher impulses of human nature, instead of brutal or mechanical conditions. That which most inwardly distinguishes modern life from ancient or mediaeval is the conscious power of the common people trying to effectuate their instincts. All systems rest, in a sense, upon public opinion; but the peculiarity of our time is that this opinion is more and more rational and self-determining. It is not, as in the past, a mere reflection of conditions believed to be inevitable, but seeks principles, finds these principles in human nature, and is determined to conform life to them or know why not. In this all earnest people, in their diverse ways, are taking part.
... A right democracy is simply the application on a large scale of principles which are universally felt to be right as applied to a small group - principles of free cooperation motived by a common spirit, which each serves according to his capacity. . . .
Discussion regarding the comparative merits of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy has come to be looked upon as scholastic. The world is clearly democratizing; it is only a question of how fast the movement can take place, and what, under various conditions, it really involves. Democracy, instead of being a single and definite political type, proves to be merely a principle of breadth in organization, naturally prevalent wherever men have learned how to work it, under which life will be at least as various in its forms as it was before.
It involves a change in the character of social discipline not confined to politics, but as much at home in one sphere as another. With facility of communication as its mechanical basis, it proceeds inevitably to discuss and experiment with freer modes of action in religion, industry, education, philanthropy and the family. ... - Cooley, Social Organization, pp. 118-120.
Democracy has two different though related meanings. The original and narrower meaning is the one the Greeks gave to it who coined the word twenty-four hundred years ago: government by the people (demos, the people, kratein, to rule). The newer and broader meaning, expressed with fine shading in the above quotation, is keeping the door of opportunity open before every man - opportunity to share in all the good things of life as well as in government, to develop his latent powers and to use them for the promotion of his own welfare and that of such societies as he wishes to serve. This broader social democracy, of course, includes the narrower political democracy.
. . . From her nobles Europe has received much valuable public service for which she never paid, while America has paid her officeholders for much public service which she never received. Still the Europeans have paid infinitely more than the Americans for such service. We now see that to have faithful, high-minded public servants you do not need to maintain a landed aristocracy; what you have to do is to open attractive careers for trained men. In a word, the hereditary leisured have never rendered society a service which cannot now be had on far better terms from salaried, qualified workers.
... In truth, the leading element in a healthy democracy, recruited, as it is, from every stratum, more nearly comprises "the best people" than a titular nobility. A society following an elite made up of those who have met successfully all tests, of many who have come up under heavy handicap, is more truly "aristocratic" than one ruled by a privileged order. - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, pp. 82, 67, Ross, " Class and Caste: Equalization."
... A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. The extension in space of the number of individuals who participate in an interest so that each has to refer his own action to that of others, and to consider the action of others to give point and direction to his own, is equivalent to the breaking down of those barriers of class, race, and national territory which kept men from perceiving the full import of their activity. . . . - Dewey, Democracy and Education, p. 101.
Democracy, therefore, appears as a principle, deeply seated in human nature. It springs out of each individuars instinct to achieve as corrected by the kindly instinct to allow his neighbor to achieve. It effectuates itself through public opinion in the government of institutions. It harmonizes the interests of all in proportion as communication is open between the diverse classes composing the population, some perhaps in remote localities. It is the Christ-like spirit that accepts as a neighbor the slave, the millionaire, or the Chinaman, for each, if given a chance, will toil for the common benefit in ways that are possible to him alone. Mechanisms of communication have so far annihilated space that the people of France are now our neighbors whose orphans we adopt. It is physically possible to bring the world into one neighborhood, as it were, to make of it a single primary group; the difficulties in the way are psychological - those of the social mind.