Democracy should never be overly romanticized. To do so is to trivialize it. For every one of democracy's momentous victories, there are countless minor setbacks, and frequent catastrophic defeats. A great deal of the work of democracy is thankless, tedious, and frustrating. And the idea of "inevitable progress" may be nothing other than a double-edged myth.
Still, there is something in the human spirit that resists domination and exploitation. The question is whether this something is stronger than the will to dominate and exploit - and whether it is stronger than despair.
The enemies of democracy are many. Mostly they can be summed up in the impulse to dominate and exploit. But democracy is also threatened by our own complacency and whatever tendency we have toward despair.
Democracy is the exercise of self-control of a people over itself. In one hopeful view democracy is a force working to advance human civilization. It works both in tandem with and in opposition to the necessity to concentrate great wealth for purposes of investment and display.
The history of human civilization may be understood as a project by which our species is domesticating itself. Are we breeding ourselves to become a sullen servile mass destined to be exploited by a tiny elite?
Or are we painfully culturing communities based on hope, equality, freedom, and compassion?
And what can we do, if anything, to influence our crucial fate?