What is democracy? Discuss various theories of Democracy.
Question 11. What is democracy? Discuss various theories of Democracy.
Answer – Introduction
Democracy comes from the Greek word, “demo and “kratos” meaning “people” and “rule”. In democracies, it is the people who hold autonomous power over legislator and government. Democracy is a political form of government in which governing power is derived from the people, by consensus (consensus democracy), by direct referendum, or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy). A form of political organization of society based on a recognition of the people as the source of power, their right to participate in the resolution of state affairs, and the provision of a rather broad range of rights and liberties for citizens.
Theories of Democracy
Democracy has been emanated from Ancient Greece. However other cultures have considerably contributed to the development of democracy such as Ancient Rome, Europe, and North and South America. The notion of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment and in the American and French Revolutions. Democracy has been called the “last form of government” and has spread considerably across the globe. The right to vote has been expanded in many Jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups (such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), with New Zealand the first nation to grant universal suffrage for all its citizens in 1893.
Democracy first thrived in the Greek city-state, city-state in ancient Greece, Italy, and Medieval Europe, an independent political unit consisting of a city and surrounding countryside. The first city-states were in Sumer, but they reached their peak in Greece.
- Classical democracy
The classical democracy was direct democracy and Athens was the abode of such a democracy. There were, besides Athens, other Greek city states but among all the city states Athens was most prominent and powerful. Direct democracy in Athens developed in between 800-500 BCE (Before Christ Era).
- Athenian Democracy
The self-governing government of Athens were dependent on three main institutions. These three pillars of democracy were: the Assembly of the Demos, the Council of 500, and the People’s Court. These were accompanied by the Council of the Areopagus, the Archons, and the Generals. Actual legislation involved both the Assembly and the Council, and ad hoc boards of “Lawmakers.” In the 5th century BC, Athens pioneers an experiment in direct democracy, as opposed to the representative democracy of modern societies. It is imitated by her Greek allies and colonies at the time, but it has rarely been attempted anywhere else. Democracy of this kind has two preconditions. The community must be small enough for citizens to be proficient in attending debates and voting on issues. And its economy must give these citizens enough leisure to engage in politics; in the ancient world this means that there must be slaves to do most of the work. Both circumstances prevailed in Athens.
Characteristics of Athenian democracy which represent classical democracy:
- Th classical democracy of Athens assumed the form of mass meeting. The Athenians periodically met together to take stock of the situation of the state and make policies and decisions.
- All the full-time public officials were chosen by the Athenians through lottery or election.
- The arrangement was made in such a manner that every citizen could get (at least once in his lifetime) the scope of participation in the offices of the state.
- The Athenians never hesitated to participate in the affairs of state or to shoulder the responsibility.
- Official positions rotated among all the citizens and no special training was required to run the administration.
- However, there were special training arrangements for military generals. In this way the Athenian democracy – the representative of classical democracy, worked in ancient Greece.
- Modern democracy
Western governments are called democracies. Democracy only works if voters are active and informed. Now modern democracy has found deep change as and revolutions in ideal and practice. It has wide variety of elements. Modern democracy is drafted to fit the modern political life of humankind.
Major features of modern democracy
- To preserve modern democracy, a country needs to fulfil some basic requirements and they need not only be written down in its constitution but must be kept up in everyday life by politicians and authorities:
- Guarantee of basic Human Rights to every individual person vis-à-vis the state and its authorities as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other persons.
Government (Executive Power), Parliament (Legislative Power) and Courts of Law (Judicative Power)
- Freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media
- Religious liberty
- General and equal right to vote (one person, one vote)
- Good Governance (focus on public interest and absence of corruption)
The “majority rule” is labelled as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without governmental or constitutional protections of individual liberties, it is possible for a minority of individuals to be troubled by the “tyranny of the majority”. An essential process in representative democracies is competitive elections that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Additionally, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are indispensable so that inhabitants are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.
Popular dominion is common but not a universal motivating subject for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the logical principle of equal rights. Many people use the term “democracy” as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism; equality before the law; the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights; and elements of civil society outside the government.
Democracy is a perfect and a set of institutions and practices. It revealed two simple principles such as the members of any group or association should have the determining influence and control over its rules and policies, through their participation in deliberations about the common interest and in doing so they should treat each other, and be treated, as equals.
It can be said that democracy is a political system based on representative government, citizen participation in the political process, freedom and transparency of political acts and process in general. Democracies are states where the rights of the people are concerned, guaranteed and protected. Democracy enables people with a choice. People also have a choice as to whether to adopt a democratic approach in their own states.