What Democracy is . . . and is not - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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What Democracy is . . . and is not


Modern political democracy is a system of governance in which rulers are held ... Robert Dahl's procedural minimal conditions for a polyarchy ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What Democracy is . . . and is not

What Democracy is . . . and is not
  • Ideas of Phillippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn

A general definition
  • Modern political democracy is a system of
    governance in which rulers are held accountable
    for their actions in the public realm by citizens
    acting indirectly through the competition and
    cooperation of their elected representatives

A system of governance
  • A regime or system of governance is an ensemble
    of patterns that (1) determine how people gain
    access to public office, (2) the characteristics
    of people who are allowed to gain this access,
    and the strategies they may employ, and (3) the
    rules that are followed in making publicly
    binding decisions.

To work, the ensemble must . . .
  • Be institutionalized, or habitually known,
    practiced, and accepted by most or all of the
  • A constitution is not necessary, but it often
    helps codify the institutional arrangements once
    the ensemble of patterned behavior is accepted as
    an institutionalized fact.

The public realm . . .
  • This is the making of collective norms and
    choices that are binding on the society and
    backed by state coercion.
  • In the liberal view, this public realm should be
    minimalized. In a more socialist perspective,
    the public realm is larger and extends via
    governmental intervention.

  • All regimes have rulers and a public realm, but
    only to the extent that they are democratic do
    they have citizens.
  • Modern formal criteria for participating
    citizenship are fairly standard . . . all native
    born adults.
  • Informal criteria vary.

  • Originally, democracy was built on the idea of
    dialogue leading to consensus.
  • This is obsolete. Now competition among factions
    is considered an essential ingredient of a
    successful democratic process.
  • This modifies Madisons ideas in Federalist Paper

  • The existence of elections does not guarantee
  • Merely holding elections does not guarantee
    political action into peaceful contests among
    elites and give public legitimacy to winners.
  • But democracies MUST have elections.

Democratic participation
  • Elections must happen intermittently, and voters
    choose between highly aggregated alternatives
    offered by political parties.
  • Between elections, citizens may influence public
    policy through various intermediaries, such as
    interest associations, social movements, locality
    groupings, etc.

Competitive variety
  • Modern democracy offers a variety of competitive
    processes and channels for the expression of
    interests and values associational as well as
    partisan, functional as well as territorial,
    collective as well as individual.

Majority Rule
  • Democracy does not require majority rule.
  • But all democracies must have some means of
    aggregating the equal preferences of individuals.
  • The problem with majority rule arises when
    factional sizes conflict with intensities of

Numbers meet intensities
  • When a factional minority feels very strongly and
    negatively about a decision that is adopted by a
    majority, successful democracies tend to modify
    majority rule to include the protection of
    minority rights.
  • The protection of minorities can assume a variety
    of forms.

Protecting Minorities
  • Bill of rights
  • Requirement of concurrent majorities
  • Local autonomy
  • Grand coalitions
  • Negotiating social pacts

  • This is an essential feature of all democracies.
  • Actors must voluntarily make collective decisions
    binding on the polity as a whole.
  • Actors must cooperation in order to compete.

  • Modern democracies require representation due to
    large population sizes.
  • Representatives tend to be professional
  • Democracies need professional politicians.
  • The question is how these politicians are chosen
    and held accountable for their actions.

Robert Dahls procedural minimal conditions for a
  • Control over governmental decisions about policy
    is constitutionally vested in elected officials.
  • Elected officials are chosen in frequent and
    fairly conducted elections in which coercion is
    comparatively uncommon.

Dahl, 2
  • Practically all adults have the right to vote in
    the election of officials.
  • Practically all adults have the right to run for
    elective offices in the government.
  • Citizens have a right to express themselves
    without the danger of severe punishment on
    political matters broadly defined.

Dahl 3
  • Citizens have a right to seek out alternative
    sources of information. Moreover, alternative
    sources of information exist and are protected by
  • Citizens also have the right to form relatively
    independent associations or organizations,
    including independent political parties and
    interest groups.

Schmitter and Karl additions to Dahls list
  • Popularly elected officials must be able to
    exercise their constitutional powers without
    being subjected to overriding informal opposition
    from unelected officials.
  • The polity must be self-governing. It must be
    able to act independently of constraints imposed
    by another overarching political system.

How democracies differ
  • Consensus
  • Participation
  • Access
  • Responsiveness
  • Majority rule
  • Parliamentary sovereignty
  • Party government
  • Pluralism

Democratic structural differences
  • Federalism
  • Presidentialism
  • Checks and balances

Democracies are not . . .
  • Economically more efficient than nondemocracies
  • Administratively more efficient than
  • More orderly, consensual, stable, or governable
    than nondemocracies
  • Economically open as a necessity
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