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Lecture 14

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Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Peter Fragiskatos

PoliSci1020E November 29, 2011 Lecture 14 TOPIC Democracy and Authoritarianism  Democracy as a basic concept.  Why is democracy valuable?  Practicing Democracy: o Representative Democracy o Direct Democracy  Can the whole world be democratic? Democracy  Demo = people; Kratos = rule.  All of the citizens within a given community on matters that 1) impact their lives and 2) the community of which they’re a part of.  Citizen = a member of a political community with guaranteed rights (freedom of speech, freedom to vote, freedom of religion, and the freedom of ability to live under the rule of law).  Bhikhu Parekh (1935-) o Democracy is universally valid. It is good for everyone in the world for three reasons:  Gives people the chance to shape their lives and protect their interests. (Even if an inequality is apparent, with democracy, at least one has the ability to have some chance for equality in one aspect of their life.)  It helps bind people to a larger whole. It does so by opening a space that encourages reflection and argument. Reflection and argument engaged in between citizens, leads to the knowledge that others have concerns and interests – “It‟s not all about you!” You become aware of the plight of others. It helps generate a feeling of community ownership. It does so by creating an attachment to the institutions that create/sustain the community. The effect of this is that it creates a respect for law and justice; the law and justice that are run by the political community. Participation becomes a desire rather than being forced. People want to be involved!  It is valuable because power is a corruptive force (it pushes people to have it to hold onto it; it also creates arrogance). Absolute power corrupts absolutely. To protect us from it, “democracy makes power conditional by subjecting its exercise to critical scrutiny…it opens a public space where citizens critically engage with one another and arrive at a wider and more balanced view of the subject in question.”  Democracy can be approached in two ways: Representative Democracy and Direct Democracy. Representative Democracy  Characteristics: o Elections take place (every 4-5 years). o Individuals are chosen who apparently represent us. Representative are by reasons or constituency. o Thus, we don‟t make decisions – they do on our behalf. This is considered legitimate because they won the election (consent was given be the majority). These representative acts in the legislature and on how money is raised and spent. o In Canada, decisions are made by the Prime Minister and his/her cabinet. The rest of the legislator argues and votes on the matters. o Liberal Democracy  Most common in Western Europe and North America.  Heavily influenced by liberalism. Hence there is an emphasis on individual freedom.  The power of the state should be limited, government should follow the rule of law, basic rights should be guaranteed, and civil society is important.  Civil Society  It is within civil society that we are able to organize, assemble, and debate. They are voluntary groups and organizations that are not controlled by the state.  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) o Civil society is the public but not political domain. It is not attached to the state, but doesn‟t intrude on family life either. E.g. community service groups, trade unions, book clubs, sports teams, etc. o The more free a society is, the more civil society will keep democracy together. It helps to guard against the corruptive influence of those in power.  Problems with Liberal Democracy:  The notion that we are all equal is what keeps the idea of liberal democracy together.  However, our society is full of inequality (haves and have nots).  The criticism: Those that are rich can have their voice heard much easier, and can make their views seem like the common good. (E.g. Rupert Murdoch.)  Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) o Citizens vote once every4-5 years – that is the only time they are free to decide. This is because the representatives only represent themselves,
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