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Political Science
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Political psychology
Voting behavior
Political economic systems
Personality aspects
Biological aspects

Biopolitics Genopolitics Neuropolitics

File:Democracy claims 2.PNG

Since World War II, democracy has gained widespread acceptance. This map displays the official self identification made by world governments with regard to democracy, as of March 2008. It shows the de jure status of democracy in the world. ██ Governments self identified as democratic ██ Governments not self identified as democratic.

File:Freedom House 2008 - electoral democracies, free, partially free and not-free countries.gif

Political ratings of countries according to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World survey, 2008:

██ Free, electoral democracies ██ Partially free, electoral democracies ██ Partially free, not electoral democracies ██ Not free, not electoral democracies

This graph shows Freedom House's evaluation of the number of nations in the different categories given above for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005

File:Polity data series map 2003.png

This is one attempted measurement of democracy called the Polity IV data series. This map shows the data presented in the polity IV data series report as of 2003. The lightest countries get a perfect score of 10, while the darkest countries (Saudi Arabia and Qatar), considered the least democratic, score -10.

File:Number of nations 1800-2003 scoring 8 or higher on Polity IV scale.png

Number of nations 1800-2003 scoring 8 or higher on Polity IV scale, another widely used measure of democracy.


Democracy Index as published in January, 2007. The palest blue countries get a score above 9.5 out of 10 (with Sweden being the most democratic country at 9.88), while the black countries score below 2 (with North Korea being the least democratic at 1.03).

Democracy is a form of government in which power is held by people under a free electoral system. It is derived from the Greek δημοκρατία ([dimokratia] ), "popular government"[1] which was coined from δήμος (dēmos), "people" and κράτος (kratos), "rule, strength" in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising in 508 BC.[2]

In political theory, democracy describes a small number of related forms of government and also a political philosophy. Even though there is no universally accepted definition of 'democracy',[3] there are two principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.[4][5][6]

There are several varieties of democracy some of which provide better representation and more freedoms for their citizens than others.[7][8] However, if any democracy is not carefully legislated to avoid an uneven distribution of political power with balances such as the separation of powers, then a branch of the system of rule is able to accumulate power in a way that is harmful to democracy itself.[9][10][11] The "majority rule" is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies are competitive elections, that are fair both substantively[12] and procedurally[13]. Furthermore, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are essential so that citizens are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.[14][15]

Popular sovereignty is common but not a universal motivating philosophy for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the philosophical 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. In the United States, separation of powers is often cited as a supporting attribute, but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant philosophy is parliamentary sovereignty (though in practice judicial independence is generally maintained). In other cases, "democracy" is used to mean direct democracy. Though the term "democracy" is typically used in the context of a political state, the principles are also applicable to private organizations and other groups.

Democracy has its origins in Ancient Greece.[16][17] However other cultures have significantly contributed to the evolution of democracy such as Ancient India[18], Ancient Rome[16], Europe[16], and North and South America.[19] Democracy has been called the "last form of government" and has spread considerably across the globe.[20] Suffrage has been expanded in many jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups (such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), but still remains a controversial issue with regard to disputed territories, areas with significant immigration, and countries that exclude certain demographic groups.


Main article: History of democracy

Ancient origins

The term democracy first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought. The philosopher Plato contrasted democracy, the system of "rule by the governed", with the alternative systems of monarchy (rule by one individual), oligarchy (rule by a small élite class) and timocracy.[21] Although Athenian democracy is today considered by many to have been a form of direct democracy, originally it had two distinguishing features: firstly the allotment (selection by lot) of ordinary citizens to government offices and courts,[22] and secondarily the assembly of all the citizens. All the male Athenian citizens were eligible to speak and vote in the Assembly, which set the laws of the city-state, citizenship was not granted to women, or slaves. Of the 250,000 inhabitants only some 30,000 on average were citizens. Of those 30,000 perhaps 5,000 might regularly attend one or more meetings of the popular Assembly. Most of the officers and magistrates of Athenian government were allotted; only the generals (strategoi) and a few other officers were elected.[2]

The island of Arwad, settled in the early 2nd millennium BC by the Phoenicians, has been cited[23] as one of the first known examples of a democracy in the world. In Arwad, the people, rather than a monarch, are described as sovereign. In Greek, Arwad was known as Arado or Arados. Another possible example of primitive democracy may have been the early Sumerian city-states.[24] Vaishali in what is now Bihar, India is also one of the first governments in the world to have elements of what we would today consider democracy, similar to those found in ancient Greece (although it was not a monarchy, ancient Vaishali is perhaps better described as an oligarchy). A similar proto-democracy or oligarchy existed temporarily among the Medes in the 6th century BC, but which came to an end after the Achaemenid Emperor Darius the Great declared that the best monarchy was better than the best oligarchy or best democracy.[25]

Even though the Roman Republic contributed significantly into certain aspects of democracy, such as Laws, it never became a democracy. The Romans had elections for choosing representatives, but again women, slaves, and the large foreign population were excluded. Also the votes of the wealthy were given more weight and almost all high officials, such as being member of Senate, come from a few wealthy and noble families.[26]

A serious claim for early democratic institutions comes from the independent "republics" of India, sanghas and ganas, which existed as early as the sixth century BCE and persisted in some areas until the fourth century CE. The evidence is scattered and no pure historical source exists for that period. In addition, Diodorus (a Greek historian at the time of Alexander the Great's excursion of India), without offering any detail, mentions that independent and democratic states existed in India.[27] However, modern scholars note that the word democracy at the third century BC had been degraded and could mean any autonomous state no matter how oligarchic it was.[28][29].

Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages, there were various systems involving elections or assemblies, although often only involving a minority of the population, such as the election of Uthman in the Rashidun Caliphate, the election of Gopala in Bengal, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Althing in Iceland, certain medieval Italian city-states such as Venice, the tuatha system in early medieval Ireland, the Veche in Novgorod and Pskov Republics of medieval Russia, Scandinavian Things, The States in Tyrol and Switzerland and the autonomous merchant city of Sakai in the 16th century in Japan. However, participation was often restricted to a minority, and so may be better classified as oligarchy. Most regions in medieval Europe were ruled by clergy or feudal lords.

A little closer to modern democracy were the Cossack republics of Ukraine in the 16th-17th centuries: Cossack Hetmanate and Zaporizhian Sich. The highest post - the Hetman was elected by the representatives from country's districts. Because these states were very militarised, the right to participate in Hetman's elections was largely restricted to those who serve in the Cossack Army and overtime was curtailed effectively limiting these rights to higher army ranks.

The Parliament of England had its roots in the restrictions on the power of kings written into Magna Carta. The first elected parliament was De Montfort's Parliament in England in 1265. However only a small minority actually had a voice; Parliament was elected by only a few percent of the population (less than 3% in 1780.[30]), and the system had problematic features such as rotten boroughs. The power to call parliament was at the pleasure of the monarch (usually when he or she needed funds). After the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English Bill of Rights was enacted in 1689, which codified certain rights and increased the influence of the Parliament.[30] The franchise was slowly increased and the Parliament gradually gained more power until the monarch became largely a figurehead.[31]

Democracy was also seen to a certain extent in bands and tribes such as the Iroquois Confederacy. However, in the Iroquois Confederacy only the males of certain clans could be leaders and some clans were excluded. Only the oldest females from the same clans could choose and remove the leaders. This excluded most of the population. An interesting detail is that there should be consensus among the leaders, not majority support decided by voting, when making decisions.[32][33] Band societies, such as the Bushmen, which usually number 20-50 people in the band often do not have leaders and make decisions based on consensus among the majority. In Melanesia, farming village communities have traditionally been egalitarian and lacking in a rigid, authoritarian hierarchy. Although a "Big man" or "Big woman" could gain influence, that influence was conditional on a continued demonstration of leadership skills, and on the willingness of the community. Every person was expected to share in communal duties, and entitled to participate in communal decisions. However, strong social pressure encouraged conformity and discouraged individualism.[34]

18th and 19th centuries

Although not described as a democracy by the founding fathers, the United States founders shared a commitment to the principle of natural freedom and equality.[35] The United States Constitution, adopted in 1788, provided for an elected government and protected civil rights and liberties. However, in the colonial period before 1776, only adult white male property owners could vote; enslaved Africans, free black people and women were not extended the franchise. On the American frontier, democracy became a way of life, with widespread social, economic and political equality.[36] However the frontier did not produce much democracy in Canada, Australia or Russia. By the 1840s almost all property restrictions were ended and nearly all white adult male citizens could vote; and turnout averaged 60-80% in frequent elections for local, state and national officials. The system gradually evolved, from Jeffersonian Democracy to Jacksonian Democracy and beyond. In Reconstruction after the Civil War (late 1860s) the newly freed slaves became citizens with (in the case of men) a nominal right to vote.

In 1789, Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and, although short-lived, the National Convention was elected by all males.[37]

New Zealand granted suffrage to (native) Maori men in 1867, white men in 1879, and women in 1893, thus becoming the first major nation to achieve universal suffrage. However, women were not eligible to stand for parliament until 1919.

Liberal democracies were few and often short-lived before the late nineteenth century, and various nations and territories have also claimed to be the first with universal suffrage.

20th century

20th century transitions to liberal democracy have come in successive "waves of democracy," variously resulting from wars, revolutions, decolonization, religious and economic circumstances. World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires resulted in the creation of new nation-states in Europe, most of them at least nominally democratic. In the 1920s democracy flourished, but the Great Depression brought disenchantment, and most of the countries of Europe, Latin America, and Asia turned to strong-man rule or dictatorships. Fascism and dictatorships flourished in Nazi Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as nondemocratic regimes in the Baltics, the Balkans, Brazil, Cuba, China, and Japan, among others.[38]

World War II brought a definitive reversal of this trend in western Europe. The successful democratization of the American, British, and French sectors of occupied Germany (disputed[39]), Austria, Italy, and the occupied Japan served as a model for the later theory of regime change. However, most of Eastern Europe, including the Soviet sector of Germany was forced into the non-democratic Soviet bloc. The war was followed by decolonization, and again most of the new independent states had nominally democratic constitutions. India, however emerged as the world's largest democracy and continues to be so.[40] In the decades following World War II, most western democratic nations had mixed economies and developed a welfare state, reflecting a general consensus among their electorates and political parties. In the 1950s and 1960s, economic growth was high in both the western and Communist countries; it later declined in the state-controlled economies. By 1960, the vast majority of nation-states were nominally democracies, although the majority of the world's populations lived in nations that experienced sham elections, and other forms of subterfuge (particularly in Communist nations and the former colonies.)

A subsequent wave of democratization brought substantial gains toward true liberal democracy for many nations. Spain, Portugal (1974), and several of the military dictatorships in South America returned to civilian rule in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Argentina in 1983, Bolivia, Uruguay in 1984, Brazil in 1985, and Chile in the early 1990s). This was followed by nations in East and South Asia by the mid- to late 1980s. Economic malaise in the 1980s, along with resentment of communist oppression, contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the associated end of the Cold War, and the democratization and liberalization of the former Eastern bloc countries. The most successful of the new democracies were those geographically and culturally closest to western Europe, and they are now members or candidate members of the European Union [How to reference and link to summary or text] . The liberal trend spread to some nations in Africa in the 1990s, most prominently in South Africa. Some recent examples of attempts of liberalization include the Indonesian Revolution of 1998, the Bulldozer Revolution in Yugoslavia, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

Currently, there are 123 countries that are democratic, and the trend is increasing[41] (up from 40 in 1972)[How to reference and link to summary or text]. As such, it has been speculated that this trend may continue in the future to the point where liberal democratic nation-states become the universal standard form of human society. This prediction forms the core of Francis Fukayama's "End of History" controversial theory. These theories are criticized by those who fear an evolution of liberal democracies to post-democracy, and other who points out the high number of illiberal democracies.


Main article: Varieties of democracy


Representative democracy involves the selection of government officials by the people being represented. It is more properly called a democratic republic. The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.

Representatives may be elected or become diplomatic representatives by a particular district (or constituency), or represent the entire electorate proportionally proportional systems, with some using a combination of the two. Some representative democracies also incorporate elements of direct democracy, such as referendums. A characteristic of representative democracy is that while the representatives are elected by the people to act in their interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do so.


Parliamentary democracy where government is appointed by parliamentary representatives as opposed to a 'presidential rule' by decree dictatorship. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.[42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49]


A Liberal democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities (see civil liberties).


See: Constitutional democracy


Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens participate in the decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives. The supporters of direct democracy argue that democracy is more than merely a procedural issue (i.e. voting).[50] Most direct democracies to date have been weak forms, relatively small communities, usually city-states. However, some see the extensive use of referenda, as in California, as akin to direct democracy in a very large polity with more than 20 million in California, 1898-1998 (2000) (ISBN 0-8047-3821-1). In Switzerland, five million voters decide on national referendums and initiatives two to four times a year; direct democratic instruments are also well established at the cantonal and communal level. Vermont towns have been known for their yearly town meetings, held every March to decide on local issues. No direct democracy is in existence outside the framework of a different overarching form of government.


Socialist thought has several different views on democracy. Social democracy, democratic socialism, and the dictatorship of the proletariat (usually exercised through Soviet democracy) are some examples. Many democratic socialists and social democrats believe in a form of participatory democracy and workplace democracy combined with a representative democracy.

Within Marxist orthodoxy there is a hostility to what is commonly called "liberal democracy", which they simply refer to as parliamentary democracy because of its often centralized nature. Because of their desire to eliminate the political elitism they see in capitalism, Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists believe in direct democracy implemented though a system of communes (which are sometimes called soviets). This system ultimately manifests itself as council democracy and begins with workplace democracy. (See Democracy in Marxism)


The only form of democracy considered acceptable to many anarchists is direct democracy. Some anarchists, however, oppose it. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon argued that the only acceptable form of direct democracy is one in which it is recognized that majority decisions are not binding on the minority, even when unanimous.[51] However, anarcho-communist Murray Bookchin criticized individualist anarchists for opposing democracy,[52] and says "majority rule" is consistent with anarchism.[53] Some anarcho-communists oppose the majoritarian nature of direct democracy, feeling that it can impede individual liberty and opt in favour of a non-majoritarian form of consensus democracy, similar to Proudhon's position on direct democracy.[54]


Iroquois society had a form of participatory democracy and representative democracy.[55] Iroquois government and law was discussed by Benjamin Franklin[55] and Thomas Jefferson.[56] Though some disagree[57], some scholars regard it to have influenced the formation of American representative democracy.[56]


Sometimes called "democracy without elections", sortition is the process of choosing decision makers via a random process. The intention is that those chosen will be representative of the opinions and interests of the people at large, and be more fair and impartial than an elected official. The technique was in widespread use in Athenian Democracy and is still used in modern jury selection.


Consensus democracy requires varying degrees of consensus rather than just a mere democratic majority. It typically attempts to protect minority rights from domination by majority rule.


Interactive Democracy seeks to utilise information technology to involve voters in law making. It provides a system for proposing new laws, prioritising proposals, clarifying them through parliament and validating them through referendum.


Qualified majority voting (QMV) is designed by the Treaty of Rome to be the principal method of reaching decisions in the European Council of Ministers. This system allocates votes to member states in part according to their population, but heavily weighted in favour of the smaller states. This might be seen as a form of representative democracy, but representatives to the Council might be appointed rather than directly elected. Some might consider the "individuals" being democratically represented to be states rather than people, as with many other international organizations.

European Parliament members are democratically directly elected on the basis of universal suffrage, may be seen as an example of a supranational democratic institution.


Aside from the public sphere, similar democratic principles and mechanisms of voting and representation have been used to govern other kinds of communities and organizations.

  • Many non-governmental organizations decide policy and leadership by voting.
  • Most trade unions choose their leadership through democratic elections.
  • Cooperatives are enterprises owned and democratically controlled by their customers or workers.


File:Election MG 3455.JPG

Voting is an important part of the formal democratic process.


Aristotle contrasted rule by the many (democracy/polity), with rule by the few (oligarchy/aristocracy), and with rule by a single person (tyranny or today autocracy/monarchy). He also thought that there was a good and a bad variant of each system (he considered democracy to be the degenerate counterpart to polity).[58][59]

For Aristotle the underlying principle of democracy is freedom, since only in a democracy the citizens can have a share in freedom. In essence, he argues that this is what every democracy should make its aim. There are two main aspects of freedom: being ruled and ruling in turn, since everyone is equal according to number, not merit, and to be able to live as one pleases.

But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must of necessity be sovereign and the decision of the majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share; so that it results that in democracies the poor are more powerful than the rich, because there are more of them and whatever is decided by the majority is sovereign. This then is one mark of liberty which all democrats set down as a principle of the constitution. And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave. This is the second principle of democracy, and from it has come the claim not to be governed, preferably not by anybody, or failing that, to govern and be governed in turns; and this is the way in which the second principle contributes to equalitarian liberty.[4]


Among political theorists, there are many contending conceptions of democracy.

  • Aggregative democracy uses democratic processes to solicit citizens’ preferences and then aggregate them together to determine what social policies society should adopt. Therefore, proponents of this view hold that democratic participation should primarily focus on voting, where the policy with the most votes gets implemented. There are different variants of this:
    • Under minimalism, democracy is a system of government in which citizens give teams of political leaders the right to rule in periodic elections. According to this minimalist conception, citizens cannot and should not “rule” because, for example, on most issues, most of the time, they have no clear views or their views are not well-founded. Joseph Schumpeter articulated this view most famously in his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.[60] Contemporary proponents of minimalism include William H. Riker, Adam Przeworski, Richard Posner.
    • Direct democracy, on the other hand, holds that citizens should participate directly, not through their representatives, in making laws and policies. Proponents of direct democracy offer varied reasons to support this view. Political activity can be valuable in itself, it socializes and educates citizens, and popular participation can check powerful elites. Most importantly, citizens do not really rule themselves unless they directly decide laws and policies.
    • Governments will tend to produce laws and policies that are close to the views of the median voter – with half to his left and the other half to his right. This is not actually a desirable outcome as it represents the action of self-interested and somewhat unaccountable political elites competing for votes. Downs suggests that ideological political parties are necessary to act as a mediating broker between individual and governments. Anthony Downs laid out this view in his 1957 book An Economic Theory of Democracy.[61]
    • Robert A. Dahl argues that the fundamental democratic principle is that, when it comes to binding collective decisions, each person in a political community is entitled to have his/her interests be given equal consideration (not necessarily that all people are equally satisfied by the collective decision). He uses the term polyarchy to refer to societies in which there exists a certain set of institutions and procedures which are perceived as leading to such democracy. First and foremost among these institutions is the regular occurrence of free and open elections which are used to select representatives who then manage all or most of the public policy of the society. However, these polyarchic procedures may not create a full democracy if, for example, poverty prevents political participation.[62] Some see a problem with the wealthy having more influence and therefore argue for reforms like campaign finance reform. Some may see it as a problem that the majority of the voters decide policy, as opposed to majority rule of the entire population. This can be used as an argument for making political participation mandatory, like compulsory voting or for making it more patient (non-compulsory) by simply refusing power to the government until the full majority feels inclined to speak their minds.
  • Deliberative democracy is based on the notion that democracy is government by discussion. Deliberative democrats contend that laws and policies should be based upon reasons that all citizens can accept. The political arena should be one in which leaders and citizens make arguments, listen, and change their minds.
  • Radical democracy is based on the idea that there are hierarchical and oppressive power relations that exist in society. Democracy's role is to make visible and challenge those relations by allowing for difference, dissent and antagonisms in decision making processes.


Main article: Republicanism

In contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative.[63] The term republic has many different meanings, but today often refers to a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, serving for a limited term, in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.[64]

The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy; James Madison argued, especially in The Federalist No. 10, that what distinguished a democracy from a republic was that the former became weaker as it got larger and suffered more violently from the effects of faction, whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger and combats faction by its very structure. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted,[65] was that the government be "bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend." Also, as Benjamin Franklin was exiting after writing the U.S. constitution, a woman asked him Sir, what have you given us?. He replied A republic ma'am, if you can keep it[66]

Constitutional monarchs and upper chambers

Initially after the American and French revolutions the question was open whether a democracy, in order to restrain unchecked majority rule, should have an elitist upper chamber, the members perhaps appointed meritorious experts or having lifetime tenures, or should have a constitutional monarch with limited but real powers. Some countries (as Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavian countries and Japan) turned powerful monarchs into constitutional monarchs with limited or, often gradually, merely symbolic roles. Often the monarchy was abolished along with the aristocratic system (as in the U.S., France, China, Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Egypt). Many nations had elite upper houses of legislatures which often had lifetime tenure, but eventually these senates lost power (as in Britain) or else became elective and remained powerful (as in the United States).


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Voter irrationality

Economists since Milton Friedman have strongly criticized the efficiency of democracy. They base this on their premise of the irrational voter. Voters are highly uninformed about many political issues, especially relating to economics, and have a strong bias about the few issues on which they are fairly knowledgeable. For example, members of labor unions are most passionate and informed about labor policies. They will organize themselves and lobby the government to adopt policies beneficial to labor unions but not necessarily to the rest of the population. As a result, politicians are unaware of voters' actual desires.

Furthermore, some have argued that voters may not be well educated enough to exercise their democratic right. A population with low intellect may not be capable of making correct decisions. While this view today is increasingly regarded by advocates of democracy as an attempt to maintain or revive traditional hierarchy in order to justify autocratic rule (Source =, extensions have been made to develop the argument further. One such variant of the argument is that the benefits of a specialised society may be compromised by democracy. As ordinary citizens are encouraged to take part in the political life of the country, they have the power to directly influence the outcome of government policies through the democratic procedures of voting, campaigning and the use of press. The result is that government policies may be more influenced by non-specialist opinions and thereby the effectiveness compromised, especially if a policy is very technically sophisticated and/or the general public inadequately informed. For example, there is no guarantee that those who campaign about the government's economic policies are themselves professional economists or academically competent in this particular discipline, regardless of whether they were well-educated.

Chicago economist, Donald Wittman, has written numerous works attempting to counter these common views of his colleagues. He argues democracy is efficient based on the premise of rational voters, competitive elections, and relatively low political transactions costs. Economist Bryan Caplan argues, while Wittman makes strong arguments for the latter two points, he cannot overcome the insurmountable evidence in favor of voter irrationality. It still remains the Achilles heel of democratic government. The problem is not mere lack of information; it is that voters badly interpret and judge the information they do have.[67]

Mob rule

Plato's the Republic presents a critical view of democracy through the narration of Socrates: "Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike."[68] Assuming that the Republic was intended to be a serious critique of the political thought in Athens, Plato argues that only Kallipolis is a just form of government, believing that a majority is too irrational to make decisions for the entire populace, thus degrading to mob rule.

The Founding Fathers of the United States intended to address this criticism by combining democracy with republicanism. A constitution would limit the powers of what a simple majority can accomplish.[69] However, anarchists and other critics of large governments find this to be a poor solution, as there is nothing inherent in a constitution that will prevent democratic abuses.

Moral decay

Traditional Asian cultures, in particular that of Confucian and Islamic thought believe that democracy results in the people's distrust and disrespect of governments or religious sanctity. The distrust and disrespect pervades to all parts of society whenever and wherever there is seniority and juniority, for example between a parent and a child, a teacher and a student. This in turn is suggested to be the cause of frequent divorces, teenage crimes, vandalism, hooliganism and low education attainment in Western societies, in particular the United States. It is argued (also by some psychologists) that moral decay occurs when there is no longer a respectable leader (or God as in the case of Islam) who sets high moral standards and when a politically free environment creates excessive individuality.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Further, Islamists argue that only an Islamic republic is truly compatible with the will of God.[70]

Political instability

More recently, democracy is criticised for not offering enough political stability. As governments are frequently elected on and off there tends to be frequent changes in the policies of democratic countries both domestically and internationally. Even if a political party maintains power, vociferous, headline grabbing protests and harsh criticism from the mass media are often enough to force sudden, unexpected political change. Frequent policy changes with regard to business and immigration are likely to deter investment and so hinder economic growth. For this reason, many people have put forward the idea that democracy is undesirable for a developing country in which economic growth and the reduction of poverty are top priority.[71]

See also

  • List of types of democracy
  • Civil rights
  • Democracy Index
  • Democratic Peace Theory
  • Democratization
  • Direct democracy
  • E-democracy
  • Election
  • Foucault/Habermas debate
  • Freedom deficit
  • Freedom House, Freedom in the World report
  • Liberal democracy
  • Majority rule
  • Media democracy
  • Netocracy
  • Poll
  • Polyarchy
  • Sociocracy
  • Sortition
  • Democracy subversion
  • Voting


The United Nations has declared Sept. 15 as the International Day of Democracy.[72]


  1. Demokratia, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  2. 2.0 2.1 Democracy is people who rule the government directly.BBC History of democracy
  3. Liberty and justice for some at
  4. 4.0 4.1 Aristotle, Politics.1317b
  5. R. Alan Dahl, I. Shapiro, J. A. Cheibub, The Democracy Sourcebook, MIT Press 2003, ISBN 0262541475, Google Books link
  6. M. Hénaff, T. B. Strong, Public Space and Democracy, University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 0816633878
  7. G. F. Gaus, C. Kukathas, Handbook of Political Theory, SAGE, 2004, p. 143-145, ISBN 0761967877, Google Books link
  8. The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 26, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  9. A. Barak, The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 40, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  10. T. R. Williamson, Problems in American Democracy, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 36, ISBN 1419143166, Google Books link
  11. U. K. Preuss, "Perspectives of Democracy and the Rule of Law." Journal of Law and Society, 18:3 (1991). pp. 353-364
  12. Substantively fairness means equality among all citizens in all respects i.e. equality in chances, in starting point etc.
  13. Procedural fairness means that the rules of the elections are clear and set in advance
  14. A. Barak,The Judge in a Democracy, Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 27, ISBN 069112017X, Google Books link
  15. H. Kelsen, Ethics, Vol. 66, No. 1, Part 2: Foundations of Democracy (Oct., 1955), pp. 1-101
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 John Dunn, Democracy: the unfinished journey 508 BC - 1993 AD, Oxford University Press, 1994, ISBN 0198279345
  17. Kurt A. Raaflaub, Josiah Ober, Robert W. Wallace, Origin of Democracy in Ancient Greece, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0520245628, Google Books link
  19. Weatherford, J. McIver (1988). Indian givers: how the Indians of the America transformed the world, 117–150, New York: Fawcett Columbine.
  20. "The Global Trend" chart on Freedom in the World 2007: Freedom Stagnation Amid Pushback Against Democracy published by Freedom House
  21. Political Analysis in Plato's Republic at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  22. Aristotle Book 6
  23. Bernal, p. 359
  24. Jacobsen, T. (July 1943), "Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 2(3): 159-72
  25. Snell, Daniel C. (2001), Flight and Freedom in the Ancient Near East, Brill Publishers, p. 18, ISBN 9004120106 
  27. Dio. 2.39
  28. Larsen, J. A. O., Demokratia, Classical Philology, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Jan., 1973), p. 45-46
  29. de Sainte Croix G. E. M., The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, Ithaca, 1981
  30. 30.0 30.1 The National Archives | Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Struggle for democracy
  31. The National Archives | Exhibitions & Learning online | Citizenship | Rise of Parliament
  32. Activity Four
  33. Omdirigeringsmeddelande
  34. "Melanesia Historical and Geographical: the Solomon Islands and the New Hebrides", Southern Cross n°1, London: 1950
  35. Jacqueline Newmyer, "Present from the start: John Adams and America", Oxonian Review of Books, 2005, vol 4 issue 2
  36. Ray Allen Billington, America's Frontier Heritage (1974) 117-158. ISBN 0826303102
  37. The French Revolution II
  39. Did the United States Create Democracy in Germany?: The Independent Review: The Independent Institute
  40. BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Country profiles | Country profile: India
  41. Tables and Charts
  42. Keen, Benjamin, A History of Latin America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
  43. Kuykendall, Ralph, Hawaii: A History. New York: Prentice Hall, 1948.
  44. Mahan, Alfred Thayer, "The United States Looking Outward," in The Interest of America in Sea Power. New York: Harper & Bros., 1897.
  45. Brown, Charles H., The Correspondents' War. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1967.
  46. Taussig, Capt. J. K., "Experiences during the Boxer Rebellion," in Quarterdeck and Fo'c'sle. Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1963
  47. Hegemony Or Survival, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 0-8050-7400-7
  48. Deterring Democracy, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 0374523495
  49. Class Warfare, Noam Chomsky Black Rose Books ISBN 1-5675-1092-2
  50. Article on direct democracy by Imraan Buccus
  51. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. General Idea of the Revolution See also commentary by Graham, Robert. The General Idea of Proudhon's Revolution
  52. Bookchin, Murray. Communalism: The Democratic Dimensions of Social Anarchism. Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left: Interviews and Essays, 1993-1998, AK Press 1999, p. 155
  53. Bookchin, Murray. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm
  54. Graeber, David and Grubacic, Andrej. Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century
  55. 55.0 55.1 Iroquois Contributions to Modern Democracy and Communism. Bagley, Carol L.; Ruckman, Jo Ann. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v7 n2 p53-72 1983
  56. 56.0 56.1 Native American Societies and the Evolution of Democracy in America, 1600-1800 Bruce E. Johansen Ethnohistory, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Summer, 1990), pp. 279-290
  57. Political Theory and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples By Duncan Ivison, Paul Patton, Will Sanders. Page 237
  58. Aristotle, The Politics
  59. [ Aristotle (384-322 BCE): General Introduction Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  60. Joseph Schumpeter, (1950). Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-133008-6.
  61. Anthony Downs, (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. Harpercollins College. ISBN 0-06-041750-1.
  62. Dahl, Robert, (1989). Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300049382
  63. democracy - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  64. republic - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  65. Novanglus, no. 7, 6 Mar. 1775
  66. Republican Government: Introduction
  67. Caplan, Bryan. "From Friedman to Wittman: The Transformation of Chicago Political Economy" (April 2005). [1]
  68. Plato, the Republic of Plato (London: J.M Dent & Sons LTD.; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc.), 558-C.
  69. James Madison, Federalist No. 10
  70. Abdul Qadir Bin Abdul Aziz, The Criticism of Democracy and the Illustration of its Reality

Further reading

  • Appleby, Joyce, Liberalism and Republicanism in the Historical Imagination (1992)
  • Becker, Peter, Juergen Heideking and James A. Henretta, eds. Republicanism and Liberalism in America and the German States, 1750-1850. Cambridge University Press. 2002.
  • Benhabib, Seyla, ed., Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political (Princeton University Press, 1996)
  • Charles Blattberg, From Pluralist to Patriotic Politics: Putting Practice First, Oxford University Press, 2000, ch. 5. ISBN 0-19-829688-6
  • Birch, Anthony H., The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy, (London: Routledge, 1993)
  • Castiglione, Dario. "Republicanism and its Legacy," European Journal of Political Theory (2005) v 4 #4 pp version
  • Copp, David, Jean Hampton, and John E. Roemer, eds. The Idea of Democracy Cambridge University Press (1993)
  • Caputo, Nicholas America's Bible of Democracy, SterlingHouse Publisher, Inc. (ISBN 1-58501-092-8)
  • Dahl, Robert A. Democracy and its Critics, Yale University Press (1989)
  • Dahl, Robert A. On Democracy Yale University Press (2000)
  • Dahl, Robert A. Ian Shapiro, and Jose Antonio Cheibub, eds, The Democracy Sourcebook MIT Press (2003)
  • Dahl, Robert A. A Preface to Democratic Theory, University of Chicago Press (1956)
  • Davenport, Christian. State Repression and the Domestic Democratic Peace Cambridge University Press (2007) ISBN 9780521864909
  • Diamond, Larry and Marc Plattner, The Global Resurgence of Democracy, 2nd edition Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996
  • Diamond, Larry and Richard Gunther, eds. Political Parties and Democracy (2001)
  • Diamond, Larry and Leonardo Morlino, eds. Assessing the Quality of Democracy (2005)
  • Diamond, Larry, Marc F. Plattner, and Philip J. Costopoulos, eds. World Religions and Democracy (2005)
  • Diamond, Larry, Marc F. Plattner, and Daniel Brumberg, eds. Islam and Democracy in the Middle East (2003)
  • Elster, Jon (ed.). Deliberative Democracy Cambridge University Press (1997)
  • Fotopoulos, Takis, "Liberal and Socialist “Democracies” versus Inclusive Democracy", The International Journal Of Inclusive Democracy, Vol.2 No.2 (January 2006)
  • Fotopoulos, Takis, "Direct and Economic Democracy in Ancient Athens and its Significance Today", Democracy & Nature, Vol.1 No.1 (Issue 1), 1992
  • Gabardi, Wayne. "Contemporary Models of Democracy," Polity 33#4 (2001) pp 547+.
  • Griswold, Daniel, Trade, Democracy and Peace: The Virtuous Cycle
  • Hansen, Mogens Herman, The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991)
  • Held, David. Models of Democracy Stanford University Press, (1996), reviews the major interpretations
  • Inglehart, Ronald. Modernization and Postmodernization. Cultural, Economic, and Political Change in 43 Societies Princeton University Press. 1997.
  • Khan, L. Ali, A Theory of Universal Democracy. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers(2003)
  • Hans Köchler ed., The Crisis of Representative Democracy, (Frankfurt a. M./Bern/New York: Peter Lang, 1987) (ISBN 3-8204-8843-X)
  • Lijphart, Arend. Patterns of Democracy. Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries Yale University Press (1999)
  • Lipset, Seymour Martin. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy”, American Political Science Review, (1959) 53 (1): 69-105. online at JSTOR
  • Macpherson, C. B. The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford University Press (1977)
  • Morgan, Edmund. Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America (1989)
  • Plattner, Marc F. and Aleksander Smolar, eds. Globalization, Power, and Democracy (2000)
  • Plattner, Marc F. and João Carlos Espada, eds. The Democratic Invention (2000)
  • Putnam, Robert. Making Democracy Work Princeton University Press. (1993)
  • Raaflaub, Kurt A.; Ober, Josiah; Wallace, Robert W. Origins of democracy in ancient Greece. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007 (hardcover, ISBN 0520245628).
  • Riker, William H., The Theory of Political Coalitions (1962)
  • Sen, Amartya K. “Democracy as a Universal Value”, Journal of Democracy (1999) 10 (3): 3-17.
  • Tannsjo, Torbjorn. Global Democracy: The Case for a World Government (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008), argues that not only is world government necessary if we want to deal successfully with global problems it is also, pace Kant and Rawls, desirable in its own right.
  • Weingast, Barry. “The Political Foundations of the Rule of Law and Democracy”, American Political Science Review, (1997) 91 (2): 245-263. online at JSTOR
  • Weatherford, Jack. Indian Givers: How the Indians Transformed the World. New York: Fawcett Books, (1990)
  • Whitehead, Laurence ed. Emerging Market Democracies: East Asia and Latin America (2002)
  • Wood, E.M., Democracy Against Capitalism, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1993), examines democratic dimensions of republicanism

External links


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