Introduction to Political Science- Chapter 6 “Regimes”
Standing Committee- Top leadership of Chinese Communist Party, China’s ruling elite
Democracy- Political system of mass participation, competitive elections and human and civil
Illiberal democracy- Regimes that are elected but lack democratic qualities such as civil rights
and limits on government
Referendum- a mass vote on an issue rather than for a candidate; a type of direct democracy
Representative democracy- one in which the people do not rule directly but through elected
and accountable representatives
Caste- rigid, hereditary social class or group
mandate- a representative carrying out the specific wishes of the public
trustee- a representative deciding what is the public good without a specific mandate
civil disobedience- the nonviolent breaking of an unjust law to serve a higher law
Mass media- modern means of communication that quickly reaches very wide audiences.
(media is plural, medium is its singular form)
elites- the top or most influential people in a political system
pluralism- the theory that politics is the interaction of many groups
interest group- an association that pressures government for policies it favors
totalitarian- political system in which the state attempts total control of its citizens
hierarchy- organized in a ranking of power from top to bottom as if on a ladder
authoritarian- nondemocratic government but not necessarily totalitarian
third world- the developing areas; parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America
Whig democracy- democracy for the few, typical early stages of democracy
demagogue- politician who whips up masses with extreme and misleading issues
Petrostate- country based on oil exports. i.e., Saudi Arabia
kleptocracy- rule by thieves, used in derision and jest
democratic peace- theory that democracies do not fight each other Notes
In the early 1990s with the collapse of Soviet-Style dictatorships, democracy was celebrated as
the permanent winner or the ideological struggle. By 2010, during the financial meltdown, democracy
Western democracies had gotten into a severe economic downturn.
Aside from its presence in America, democracy grew slowly in the world and the late 19 and early 20 th
There are many variations between dictatorship and democracy;
Some countries are “pretend democracies” in which their media is controlled, elections are rigged and
obedient parliaments and parties are present such as in Russia and Egypt.
Many countries shift between more and less democratic and vice versa, more and less dictated. These
countries are referred to as “transitional regimes”.
Authoritarian- Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru
Democratic- Indonesia, Nigeria
Illiberal democracies are those in which elections, even fair ones, produce regimes that ride roughshod
over rights and freedoms.
Democracy carried a negative connotation until the 19 century as thinkers accepted the ancient Greeks
criticism of direct democracy as mob rule.
A “true” democracy is one in which all citizens meet periodically to elect officials and personally enact
laws; Athens’s General Assembly, New England town meetings, and Swiss landsgemeinde.
Some direct democracy continues in the US through referendums (mass votes) on issues the legislature
will not handle.
Direct democracy is difficult to carryout due to the matter of population size.
Representative Democracy has evolved as the only workable system.
The people play a more general role in modern democracy. Democracy today is “a political system which
supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social
mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by
choosing among contenders for political office”- Lipset Constitutional- the government is limited and can wield its authority in specific ways
Characteristics of a Representative Democracy:
Popular Accountability of Government- The policymakers must obtain the support of a majority
or a plurality of votes cast. Leaders are accountable to citizens. Elected leaders who govern
badly can be voted out. Political positions of power cannot be inherited. People in positions of
power must be periodically, and fairly elected by citizens, either at regular intervals as does the
US or in a maximum time span as in Great Britain.
Political Competition- Voters’ choice between officials to elect. The political parties must have
time and freedom to organize and present their case well before elections. A regime that
permits no opposition activity until shortly before election day has rigged the election. Much of
democracy depends on the political freedoms in the months and years prior to balloting.
Elections by themselves do not equal democracy.
Alternation in Power- Power must change occasionally in a peaceful and legitimate way. No
party or individual should get a lock on executive power. An important role of alternation in
power is control of corruption. An opposition party that hammers incumbents for corruption is a
powerful corrective to the human tendency to misuse public office. Systems without alteration
Uncertain Electoral Outcomes- democratic elections must have an element of uncertainty,
fluidity and individual vote switching. Voting must not simply be by groups, where entire groups
of tribes, religion, social class or region automatically votes for a given party or candidate. A
certain percentage of the electorate must be up for grabs to keep politicians worried and
attentive to the nation as a whole. [In Iraq voting follows religion, in Africa voting follows tribes,
in India elections can be partially predicted by knowing which social classes favor which parties]
Popular Representation- In representative democracies, the voters elect representatives to act
as legislators and to voice and protect their general interest. Legislator usually act for specific
groups or districts. [Some theorists claim legislators must treat elections as mandates to carry
out constituents’ wishes while others disagree arguing that constituents often have no opinion
on issues so representatives must act as trustees, carrying out the wishes of constituents when
feasible but acting in the best interest of the nation as a whole. Representative democracy does
not mean that the representative must become a cipher for constituents, rather that the people
as a body must be able to control the general direction of government policy.
Majority Decision- Self-explanatory; the majority decides the outcome of any government
decision. Our concept of democracy is that the majority decides but with respect for minority
rights. To uphold minority rights an independent judiciary (one not controlled completely by the
Regime) is a necessity. Most of what is now public policy became law as a result of conflict
between majority and minority groups. Just as minority view may grow until widely accepted, so
may a majority view be proven unwise, unworkable or unwanted. If minority view is
overshadowed, the will of the majority becomes what is known as “tyranny of the majority”
which is just as bad as executive tyranny. Right of Dissent and Disobedience (1776)- People must have the right to resist the commands
of government that they feel are unjust or unreasonable. Henry Thoreau made the most
profound defense of civil obedience, stating thus “all men recognize the right of revolution; that
is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist the government when its tyranny or inefficiency
are great and unendurable.” Without civil disobedience, minority claims would have gone
Political Equality- In a democracy all adults 18+ are equally able to participate in politics. In
theory all are able to run for political office but it costs a lot of money, however, pressured by
minority claims and civil disobedience democracies tend to open up and become less elite in
Popular Consultation- To govern effectively leaders must be aware of the wants and needs of
the people and be responsive to them. Critics have noted that US officials rely often on the
opinions of small segments of their constituencies because they are highly vocal and organized.
Free Press- Dictatorships cannot tolerate free and critical mass media, while democracies
cannot do without them. To determine the degree of democracy in a country, see if the media
criticize the government. No criticism, no democracy. The mass media provide citizens with
facts, raise public awareness, and keep rulers responsive to mass demands. Without a free and
critical press rulers can disguise wrongdoings and corruption and sweep the population into
Democracy in Practice: Elitism or Pluralism?
Even if all the above democratic criteria are met, political power will still not be evenly distributed.
Political scientists see this uneven distri