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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Michael Ignatieff

POL382H1 Course Readings 2012 Najva Amin WEEK 1 What is a democracyWhat a democracy is Democracy does not specify any clear and definite structure of ruleIdea of justice and idea of democracy constantly crashDemocracy became in effect the regime of the route towards equalityPractice which make up democracy o Legislative elections o Executives at least partially accountable to those whom they ruledThe global expansion of democracy is the ultimate force in rolling back terrorism and tyrannyDemocracy has altered its meaning bc it has passed definitely from the hands of the equals to those of the political leaders of the order of egoismIt is a form of govt at least minimally adapted to the current requirements of the order of egoism shaped within andadjusted to the continuing demands to keep that order in working conditionThe form of govt to which most of us do now apply the term democracy is more than a little blurred in outlineThe variations within this form Presidential or Parliamentary rule judicial review contrasting party or electoral systems even republics or monarchies matter greatly for the politics of any individual countryIs democracy a good name for a system of rule in which in the end a steady and substantial majority can be confident that it holds the power to dismiss rulers it has come to loatheIf democracy is simply a way of organizing the relationships between communities and their govts it can scarcely in itself be an occasion for intense prideDemocracy so viewed promises or threatens the democratization of everythingWhat it entails is the elimination of every vestige of privilege from the ordering of human lifeThe role of democracy as a political value witin this remarkable form of like is to probe constantly the tolerable limits of injustice a permanent and sometimes very intense blend of cultural enquiry with social and political struggleDemocracy as a political value constantly subverts the legitimacy ofdemocracy as an already existing form of governmentRepresentative democracy the form in which democracy has spread so wisely over the last six decades has equipped itself the journey by making its peace ever more explicitly with the order of egoism It offers a framework within which that order can flourish but also one in which the citizens at large can set some bounds both to its pretensions and to its consequences POL382H1 Course Readings 2012 Najva AminIt the midst of importance and despair representative democracy is scarcely an impressive recipe for building order peace security prosperity or justice No one could readily mistake it for a solution to the Riddle of historyFor the moment therefore democracy has won its global near monopoly as basis for legitimate rule in a setting which largely contradicts its own pretensionsDemocracy may or may not provide either a compelling or a reliable recipe for organizing political choice and its enforcement within one countryWhat Democracy Is and Is NotDemocracy does not consist of a single unique set of institutionsmodern democracy is a system of governance in which rulers are held to accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representativesA regime or system of governance is an ensemble of patterns that determines the methods of access to the principal public officesLike all regimes democracies depend upon the presence of rulers persons who occupy specialized authority roles and can give legitimate commands to othersWhat distinguishes democratic rulers from nondemocratic ones are the norms that condition how the former come to power and the practices that hold them accountable for their actionsCitizens are the most distinctive element in democracies All regimes have rulers and a public realm but only to the extent that they are democratic do they have citizensCompetition has not always been considered an essential defining condition of democracyThe most popular definition of democracy equates it with regular elections fairly conducted and honestly countedSome even consider the mere fact of electionseven ones from which specific parties or candidates are excluded or in which substantial portions of the population cannot freely participateas a sufficient condition for the existence of democracyModern democracy in other words offers a variety of competitive processes and channels for the expression of interests and valuesassociational as well as partisan functional as well as territorial collective as well as individual All are integral to its practiceAnother commonly accepted image of democracy identifies it with majority rule Any governing body that makes decisions by combining the votes of more than half of those eligible and present is said to be democratic whether that majority emerges within an electorate a parliament a committee a city council o a party caucusfew would deny that democracy must involve some means of aggregating the equal preferences of individuals POL382H1 Course Readings 2012 Najva AminCooperation has always been a central feature of democracy they must cooperate in order to competeBut democracys freedoms should also encourage citizens to deliberate among themselves to discover their common needs and to resolve their differences without relying on some supreme central authorityRepresentatives whether directly or indirectly elected do most of the real work in modern democraciesWhat makes Democracy possibleFor democracy to thrive however specific procedural norms must be followed and civic rights must be respectedAny polity that fails to impose such restrictions upon itself that fails to follow the rule of law with regard to its own procedures should not be considered democraticThe Procedural minimal conditions that must be present for modern political democracy to exist o Control over govt decisions about policy is constitutionally vested in elected officials o Elected officials are chosen in frequent and fairly conducted elections in which coercion is comparatively uncommon o Practically all adults have the right to vote in the election of officials o Practically all adults have the right to run to run for elective offices in the govt o Citizens have a right to express themselves without the danger of severe punishment on political matters broadly defined o Citizens have a right to seek out alternative sources of information Moreover alternative sources of information exist and are protected by law o Citizens also have the right to form relatively independent associations or organizations including independent political parties and interest groups o Popularly elected officials must be able to exercise their constitutional powers without being subjected to overriding opposition from unelected officials Democracy is in jeopardy if military officers entrenched civil servantsretain the capacity to act independently of elected civilians or even veto decisions made by the peoples representatives o The polity must be self governing it must be able to act independently of constraints imposed by some other overarching political system Principles that Make Democracy FeasibleIn a democracy representatives must at least informally agree that those who win greater electoral support or influence over policy will not use their temporary superiority to bar the losers from taking office or exerting
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