It is interesting to consider George Herbert Mead’s idea that functional superiority, one’s ability to help others with their superior skills without trying to dominate, will lead to a universal democracy or a society that focuses on cooperative relations (Eadles and Appelrouth 2015). It is a lovely idea, but I do not think we can apply these ideas to the problems of democracy in our century. People seem to have a difficult time grasping the concept of working together to better society. I suspect that this extreme dividedness poses an obstacle to Mead’s idea of achieving a universal democracy.

In researching the subject, Erisen and Wiltse (2017) sought to test how destabilizing linguistic, ethnic, and religious division may be to democracy. In contrast to my suspicions, they found that highly divided communities were able to sustain democracy so long as they had a strong economic standing. So maybe the realization of Mead’s universal democracy will happen in a strong economy.

Maybe there are other ways to promote tolerance among people to encourage Mead’s cooperative relations necessary for a universal democracy. For example, Tanyel and Kiralp’s (2021) research set out to see if students would become more tolerant and hold more humanitarian values after undergoing a peace education program. The students that participated in this program showed a significant increase in tolerance, empathy, acceptance, friendship, respect, honesty, and peacefulness.

Mead’s universal democracy could be realized if society works towards a stable economy and implement programs that increase cooperative relations. Unfortunately, these things will likely not happen naturally.  


George Mead had a particular vision in his desire to create the ideal society. His “functional superiority” ideology talks about how a person or group can display their abilities without trying to control others, even if others will benefit from their superiority and leading to putting the views and ideas of other societies above their own (Edles and Appelrouth 2014). To achieve global democracy, there must be a real desire to help others, because democracy disappears when one individual seeks to force his or her will on another. The functional superiority ideology requires a society in which individuals can be tolerant, coexist happily, and embrace a national identity that is larger than their individual identities.

Meetings at the United Nations are a fantastic illustration of how nations can come together and put the needs of others first. The organization seeks to promote international collaboration, and while members may not agree on everything, they search for common ground on which to achieve a consensus.

Mead’s philosophy of putting others’ needs ahead of one’s own is a utopian one. They cannot be applied to democracy in the twenty-first century that easily. In today’s world, there are much too many disparities, and society’s drive to compete and win over others is far too individualistic. In fact, many groups encounter difficulties to equal participation and equal access to resources and a multiracial and gender inclusive coalition is needed more than (Rosino 2020). Other challenges of democracy in the 21st century that would not align with Mead’s ideology are corruption, declining levels of confidence in politics, and escalating violence throughout societies. 

One exacerbating issue endangering democracy is the notorious decline of civil rights in the United States and how other countries do not perceive it as a model of democracy. In addition, younger generations take democracy for granted because they have forgotten the long struggle against communist or authoritarian regimes. Younger votes put democracy at jeopardy because they lack the drive and the strength to vote for their own interests (Calasanti 2021). Education is vital to make sure previous mistakes are not repeated.