Sociology Index

DEMOCRACY

Theocracy, Plutocracy, Oligarchy, Monarchy

The term 'democracy' in Greek is literally ‘rule by the people’. In the Greek world, political organization was usually centered around ‘city states’ and male citizens had equal rights to participate in government.

The Greek concept of citizenship in 'democracy' implied that citizens must become actively involved in government, not just vote for representatives. In modern usage the term 'democracy' has become narrowed to mean a system of government where citizens have equal legal rights to vote in free elections.

Most studies of the origin of democracy focus on one or a number of important factors and circumstances that seem to be associated with its emergence. A more comprehensive approach that views all the contributing factors as expressions of a more fundamental process of change in the society is necessary. Society must acquire the capability to promote the successful adoption of democratic institutions in different social and cultural contexts.

A survey of nations that refer to themselves as ‘democratic’ makes it evident that the term is applied to widely divergent forms of government. There is not and may never be a single formula for what constitutes democracy. However, underlying these different forms is a common principle. Democratic governments are those in which fundamental human rights of individual citizens are protected by the collective and in which the views of the population-at-large, not just a ruling elite, are reflected in the actions of government.

The genesis of democracy can be traced back to the Greek city-state of Athens. The democratic idea of a government responsible to the governed, of trial by jury and of civil liberties of thought, speech, writing and worship have been stimulated by Greek history. Emphasis on liberty and the studies related to man were the main tenets of ancient Greece. It was their sense of liberty and independence, individual and collective, which inspired them to accomplishments in philosophy, politics and science. The Greeks gave to mankind the idea of politics as the business of citizens as against the arbitrary rule of the despots. 

The democracy propounded by the Greeks enjoyed a short span of life. The Romans, successor to Greek ideas and institutions, at first seemed to embrace Athenian democratic principles. The regime of the Romans was a mixture of kingship, aristocracy and democracy. - Social Origins of Democracy - icpd.org/democracy/index.htm

Democracy, Plutocracy, and Liberalism in William Graham Sumner - Byrne, William. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the MPSA Annual National Conference
Abstract: This paper examines William Graham Sumner's views on plutocracy and democracy, tensions within those views, and their relationship to his understanding of liberalism, in an effort to better inform contemporary political-philosophical discourse.

Democracy or Plutocracy? The Case for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Buckley v. Valeo  - JONATHAN BINGHAM - The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 486, No. 1, (1986)
In the early 1970s the U.S. Congress made a serious effort to stop the abuses of campaign financing by setting limits on contributions and also on campaign spending. In the 1976 case of Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court upheld the regulation of contributions, but invalidated the regulation of campaign spending as a violation of the First Amendment. Since then, lavish campaigns, with their attendant evils, have become an ever more serious problem. Multimillion-dollar campaigns for the Senate, and even for the House of Representatives, have become commonplace. Various statutory solutions to the problem have been proposed, but these will not be adequate unless the Congress—and the states—are permitted to stop the escalation by setting limits. What is needed is a constitutional amendment to reverse the Buckley holding, as proposed by several members of Congress. This would not mean a weakening of the Bill of Rights, since the Buckley ruling was a distortion of the First Amendment. Within reasonable financial limits there is ample opportunity for that "uninhibited, robust and wide-open" debate of the issues that the Supreme Court correctly wants to protect.

Human Rights and Global Democracy - Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 22.4 (Winter 2008) - Michael Goodhart, December 30, 2008
Abstract: Human rights and global democracy are widely assumed to be compatible, but the conceptual and practical connection between them has received little attention. As a result, the relationship is under-theorized, and important potential conflicts between them have been neglected or overlooked. This essay attempts to fill this gap by addressing directly the conceptual relationship between human rights and global democracy. It argues that human rights are a necessary condition for global democracy. Human rights constrain power, enable meaningful political agency, and support and promote democratic regimes within states, all of which are fundamental elements in any scheme for global democracy. The essay explores the normative and conceptual bases of these functions and works out some of their institutional implications.

Democracy, deliberation and design: the case of online discussion forums, Scott Wright, De Montfort Univ, New Media & Society, Vol. 9, No.5 (2007)
Within democratic theory, the deliberative variant has assumed pre-eminence. It represents for many the ideal of democracy, and in pursuit of this ideal, online discussion forums have been proposed as solutions to the practical limits to mass deliberation. Critics have pointed to evidence which suggests that online discussion has tended to undermine deliberation. This article argues that this claim, which generates a stand-off between the two camps, misses a key issue: the role played by design in facilitating or thwarting deliberation. It argues that political choices are made both about the format and operation of the online discussion, and that this affects the possibility of deliberation. Evidence for the impact of design (and the choices behind it) is drawn from analysis of European Union and UK discussion forums. This evidence suggests that we should view deliberation as dependent on design and choice, rather than a predetermined product of the technology.

Democracy and Fascism: Class, Civil Society, and Rational Choice in Italy
E. SPENCER WELLHOFER, Professor of Political Science, University of Denver - American Political Science Review (2003), 97:1:91-106 American Political Science Association
Abstract: The origins of fascism remain a major concern to social scientists. Because fascism emerged in societies seeking transitions to democracy, a better understanding of these failed attempts at democratic transitions improves our understanding of both democracy's possibilities and the strengths and weakness of democratic theory. Indeed, theoretical arguments employed to explain fascism have their analogues in theories of democracy. Three arguments have been advanced to explain both democracy and fascism: class, civil society, and rational choice.

Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination
SCOTT MAINWARING, University of Notre Dame
Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, 198-228 (1993)
Starting from recent analyses that have argued that presidentialism is less favorable for building stable democracy than parliamentary systems, this article argues that the combination of a multiparty system and presidentialism is especially inimical to stable democracy. None of the world's 31 stable (defined as those that have existed for at least 25 consecutive years) democracies has this institutional configuration, and only one historical example—Chile from 1933 to 1973—did so. There are three reasons why this institutional combination is problematic. First, multiparty presidentialism is especially likely to produce immobilizing executive/legislative deadlock, and such deadlock can destabilize democracy. Second, multipartism is more likely than bipartism to produce ideological polarization, thereby complicating problems often associated with presidentialism. Finally, the combination of presidentialism and multipartism is complicated by the difficulties of interparty coalition building in presidential democracies, with deleterious consequences for democratic stability.

Deliberative Politics. The Public Sphere, Democracy and Political Participation - Bettina Lösch
Abstract: In present debate modern theories of democracy prevalently appear to define conceptions of democracy by stressing adjectives as for example elitist, participatory, economic or associative suggesting that this may also be the case for a conception of ‘deliberative democracy’.
This raises the question whether deliberative democracy can claim to be more than only a recent trend in political theory and whether a conception of deliberative democracy can rightly be described as substantial and contributing to an understanding of the political which focuses on emancipation and participation.