Schumpeter & Flanagan (Thick and thin democracy lecture)
University of Toronto St. George
Jan 17 2011 POL201
Thin and Thick Democracy
• Democratic government has risen since ‘89
• Freedom House
• Assigns rating to countries based on how democratic they are
• More freedom means more democracy
• If indicator of democracy is elections, the democracy is a dichotomous variable (you
either have democracy or you don’t)
• Definition of Democracy
• Is democracy primarily a mechanism (elections) that rotates political leaders in office?
• Is it primarily a commitment to the twin ideologies of freedom and equality?
• Classical Theory of Democracy
• Ancient Greece – democracy is an arrangement that leads to the common good through
decisions that carry out the common will.
• Common good utilitarian discernable as the condition where everyone is better off
than they would be under any other condition utility is maximized
• Utility curve – more of something is a good thing up until a certain point
• Common good – subjectively/ objectively/ mathematically identifiable condition of society
and is scientifically real. The pointed democracy is to find the common good.
• Common will - the will to achieve the common good (the common desire or purpose)
www.notesolution.com • Will of the people – the center of the doctrine of democracy which identifies the common
• The purpose of democracy is to channel the will of the people
• CLASSICAL THEORY:
• Common will democratic process common good
• Democracy is better than others because it produces the common good through
• There is no common good because people have different interests and would want to
maximize different things. Every individual has different inclinations and stand in
different relations to the structures of power. In short, there is no objectively identifiable
• Schumpeter theory of democracy:
• Individual will democratic process manufactured will
1. Democratic process shakes, molds, and manipulates public opinion.
2. Democratic process doesn’t produce common good but something that looks like
it, which is the manufactured will.
3. His theory is an improvement of classical theory because it is more realistic.
(closer to reality than classical theory)
• (Classical theory and Schumpeter theory of democracy are thin definitions of democracy.)
• Direct democracy – Athenian democracy
• Representative democracy – Schumpeter
• There is no direct democracy: (in modern democracies)
• the people elected representatives policy
• Schumpeter’s theory is often called an elitist theory of democracy because there is no
more power to the people but to the representatives. Democratic method is the
institutional arrangement for arriving at the political decisions in which individuals
acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.
• The role of the people is not to express common will but to elect governments
• Democracy is located in the leaders
• Not concerned about the common will but the will of the majority
• Schumpeter’s freedom:
• Freedom to compete for public office
• Freedom to discuss
• NOT freedom of people to express opinion
• Economic theory of democracy (parties are brands that sell votes)
• Elections – market
• Party – commodity capitalism – market share
• Voters – consumers democracy – voter share
• Votes – money
• Aim is to stay in power or gain market share
www.notesolution.com • Nothing but a product of the people who run it
• Advertises not based on their beliefs but based on what sells to the people
• This is a thin conception because the main focus is on elections, competition and devoid
of normative content of democracy. Schumpeter focuses on elites and elections.
• THICK DEMOCRACY (CONCEPTS, PRINCIPLES AND PROCEDURES)
• Public realm
1. falls under jurisdiction of state
2. Does healthcare belong to the private or public sphere?
• Canada – public through taxes
• U.S. – private
1. Public realm is the responsibility of the state while private