PoliSci1020E November 29, 2011
Democracy and Authoritarianism
Democracy as a basic concept.
Why is democracy valuable?
o Representative Democracy
o Direct Democracy
Can the whole world be democratic?
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
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
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
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
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
The power of the state should be limited, government should follow the
rule of law, basic rights should be guaranteed, and civil society is
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
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,