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Introduction of TOPIC

The question is: What is a democracy? Many of famous thinkers, scholars, academics thought and wrote about this topic. It is understandable, because the age-old question of government and how to govern will lure all the political scientists for several centuries more. There is a famous quote, authorship of which is quite debatable: “If you can’t explain something to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”.

Well, if I needed to explain what is a democracy to the baby, I think I would say that It is when citizens rule the country by themselves, or by special people they choose. Moreover, I probably would’ve said that in democracy people have freedom. Problem is that this child probably would’ve thought that in Russia we have a democracy, and there will be a lot of things which need to be explained. But we are talking about democracy now, not authoritarianism.

So, definition of democracy was developing from ancient times to nowadays. One of the first thinkers who tried to define democracy was Aristotle. In his times the “Classical Theory of Democracy” was born. In accordance with it democracy can be defined as the self-government of people which produces the “common good” for people. Something similar about democracy think the proponents of classical liberalism, such as John Locke or Thomas Hobbes.

Ideas of perfect, ideal democracy are always attractive, but, obviously, it can’t work in reality, so the minimalist approach to democracy was born. Democracy is real, but there is no such thing as “general will”, everyone act according to their desires and preferences. Regarding these statements, Joseph Schumpeter, one of the proponents of minimalist approach, defines democracy as “that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” (Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 5th edition, 1976, p. 269).

I think that people began to understand that democracy isn’t that easy and strict, so this theory gained popularity in the ending of 19th-beginning of 20th century. So, the main feature of Schumpeter is that he looks at democracy as a method, not a political position. Another proponent of the minimalist concept is Adam Przeworski, polish-american political scientist. His approach to democracy is that the most important point of democracy is voting and fair elections. In accordance to Adam, voting can solve conflicts, and change the government(if needed). Voting is vital for democ

racy. Finally, the most rational, In my opinion, concept of democracy – polyarchy by Robert

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Dahl. In his words Democracy is “a political system one of characteristics of which is the quality of being completely or almost completely responsive to all its citizens”( Polyarchy; participation and opposition, 1971, p. 2). So, he states that democracy is ideal, but, unfortunately, unreal. Not all the people can govern, but most of them. What we name today as “democracy” is actually polyarchy. There are several institutions(six criteria o polyarchy) which, if they work right, can lead us closer and closer to democracy.

As it was said earlier, history of the term “democracy” spans more than twenty centuries, and all this time the idea of it was developing more and more. In my opinion, most relevant of explanations would be Dahl’s polyarchy. Aristotle concept is surely unreal, Realist and minimalist concept is saying that democracy is not a regime, which I am not totally agree with, and that democracy is about only voting, which again isn’t the full truth. Ideal democracy is what we will, probably, never achieve, but we should at least try, and Robert Dahl is the one who tries to explain how we may do it. His approach to democracy is the most realistic chosen between those which were described above.

What classifications can we remember if were talking about democracy? The most popular and basic classification which we talked about in school is about representative and direct democracies. What is each of them? Representative democracy is when people trust chosen representatives to govern, and direct is when people govern and participate in political life of the country actively, mostly by such institutions as voting or law. Moreover, we shouldn’t just cut into two separate pieces, so there is a hybrid democracy, which combines features of each of the types. All of these types are pretty similar: people govern someway, by themselves or not, but they have power in their hands anyway.

Then there is a division by the one who has power in representative democracy, more concrete: presidential democracy and parliamentary democracy. Presidential type has a combination of republic and a democracy, in which the head of the state(president) has an executive power in his hands, but moreover he is a head of the state in most cases. For example, full-presidential system nowadays exists in USA, Mexico, Brazil, most of South America and some Asian and African countries. Parliamentary system is, again, a sub-type of representative democracy, where representatives chosen by election are sitting in parliament. The most prominent example of parliamentary democracy would be Germany, or Italy: Parliament makes decisions and has power, President is mostly just a ceremonial representative.

That is not all. There is a big question: How we can measure democracy? Trying to answer to this questions there has been researches conducted, which resulted in the appearance of several indexes: Vahnhannen Index of Democracy, Freedom House, Polity IV and several more. For example EIU’s Democracy index divide Flawed democracy and Full democracy. Flawed democracy in an interesting case, it means that there are elections in the country, they are fair and free, but civil rights may have some problems. For example Norway, or Sweden, or Netherlands are Full Democracies, but USA or France are Flawed democracies.

So, that are most interesting and prominent classifications, in my point of view. There are more, such as religion democracies(Islamic, jewish), sociocracy, or even totalitarian democracy, but my essay would be endless in case I tried to write about all of them.

List of references:

Schumpeter J. (1976). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, 5th edition, p. 269
Przeworski, A. (1999). Minimalist conception of democracy: a defense, page 2.
Dahl, Robert A. (1998). On Democracy. Yale University. Chapters 4, 8
Democracy Index (2015) Democracy in an age of anxiety, A report by EIU. Retrieved from https://www.yabiladi.com/img/content/EIU-Democracy-Index-2015.pdf

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