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C LASS N OTES FOR : POLI S CI 3Y03
McMaster University, Winter 2014
T UESDAY , MARCH 11, Y
- Definition of democracy is a conditional definition,
- It only makes sense if other conditions are fulfilled
o 5 CONDITIONS TO BE FULFILLED TO ARRIVE AT POLITICAL DECISION MAKING
- Schumpeter influenced the way in which people have gone to develop democratic institutios
- Definition of democracy and explanation will be referred to as a “minimalist” definition of
o Democracy, according to Schumpeter is reduced to the competition
o Relationship between the politicians and citizens
o Some people not content with the minimalist definition of democracy and went on to
o Took shape under pluralist theories of democracy!
o In a model people are organized according to their religion, economic interests, etc.
Articulate demands of citizens
Then put pressures on the government
Pluralist Theories LIBERAL / CAPITALIST democracy
1. It is common to assume that Schumpeter’s theory is the antecedent of the so-called pluralist
conception of democracy. Pluralist theories of democracy dominated the literature in the 1950s
and 1960s (i.e. modernization theories), and have had a strong influence in “new democracies”.
2. The pluralists accepted Schumpeter’s view of democracy as a procedure, but changed some of its
assumptions, especially his strict view of democracy as a government of the politicians.
3. Their criticism of Schumpeter focuses on the claim that rather than a dychotomic model including
only citizens and politicians, political systems also have citizens who participate in a large number
of associations (business groups, trade unions, pressure groups, interest groups, community
organizations, religious groups) which articulate and aggregate citizens’demands, and then
promote them before the authorities.
4. The consequence of this is, according to the pluralists, that power is dispersed throughout society,
with a multitude of points of access both to the public sphere and to the decision-making process.
5. According to this view, the state acts as a referee by deciding among the different demands made
by pressure groups, taking into consideration the quality of those demands and the strength of the
groups behind them. In this way, concentration of power on politicians (Schumpeter’s concern)
does not materialize.
6. Robert Dahl (1956), the best-known theorist of pluralism, argued, “a democracy is the
government of many minorities, which vary in number, size, and diversity.” Accordingly,
“democratic theory deals with the processes through which ordinary citizens exert a relatively
high degree of control over politicians, over their leaders.” (Schumpeter presented the view that
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the electorate does not count is every 4 years or every 6 years, and we exercise this citizenship
right, we just wait for another year -- Dhal goes further and state that people can continue to
exercise the process through control. The fundamental instruments of that control are, on the one
hand, elections, and on the other hand, competition among parties, groups, and individuals.
7. In Polyarchy, Dahl argues that Democracy is a system of government that meets three essential
a. No sense in trying to reach the democratic idea
b. If democracy is an idea, it can never be reached then it ceases to be an idea
c. Have to accept that we can only have approximations to democracy, that approximate
what the great thinkers
CONDITIONS OF DEMOCRACY
a) Meaningful and extensive competition among individuals and organized groups (political parties)
for all effective positions of government power, at regular intervals, and excluding the use of
o Basic requirement for a political regime to claim to be democratic is EXTENSIVE
o Competition means that there have to be choice
Cannot exclude individuals from participating in making the CHOICE
• Everywhere limitations exist!
It should be as wide as possible: Multiple candidates, parties, and different views,
free to compete with each other.
It applies also to politicians, they should be able to change political parties
It can be based on political parties, but not necessarily.
b) Ahighly inclusive level of political participation in the selection of leaders and policies, through
regular and fair elections, and without the exclusion of any major adult social group;
a. Regularly held elections, where the electorate is able to choose the policies and personnel
of new gov’t
b. Free and fair elections: Free from coercion, official re