Posted: June 5th, 2021
This essay will argue that there is no single definition of democracy, due to the fact that there are many models of democracy, which in turn have their own opinions on what the term means. For example direct democracy can be seen as government by the people. In contrast representative democracy can be seen as government for the people. Also depending if one agrees with political equality will alter your definition for example if a person has high level of social significance they would believe that democracy is the rule of the elite and political equality does not exist this is the view point of Marxists.
However on the other hand liberal- democracies do believe it and therefore their opinion on “democracy” is political equality. As Bernard Crick 1993 stated, “ democracy is the most promiscuous word in public affairs” (Andrew Heywood politics third edition chapter four page 73) meaning the word democracy can mean anything. The word democracy comes from the Greek word demo meaning people and kratos meaning power.
So the classical term for democracy is rule by the people. However this term is very vague, who is the people in ancient Greece in order to participate in politics you had to be male over the age of twenty, excluding women slaves and foreigners. In contemporary times there is restricted political participation usually the ages from 21 to 15, to vote. This in turn shows that not everyone is able to participate in controlling his or her own government due to age.
The fact that voting is based on majority shows that voting only represents the majority. So people who voted against the majority will not get their say “the tyranny of the majority” (Andrew Heywood politics third edition chapter four page 73) explains that the term people is not everyone living in the state but the majority. Therefore depending on how old you are and who you voted for will depend if you believe the word democracy is rule by the people.
The most significant point of democracy is liberal democrat view of political equality “one person one vote one value” this is very true most western democratic regimes are based on voting everyone get a vote and it is equal however in contrast Marxists believe that actually this is not true. The more level of significance of social equality such as control of mass communication and economic resources as well as voting is more likely to have your point of view taken into account by the government.
An example is in the 2000 presidential election between George W Bush and Al Gore, Florida was the sate that could tip the balance between who would win, many news stations counted that Al gore won. The fact that George W Bush brother Jeb Bush was senator of Florida and that his other brother was in charge of publishing the votes on Fox News meant. The fact that votes was casted on fox news earlier than most stations meant many voters changed their minds and voted Bush as he was supposedly most likely to win.
The fact is George W Bush had the backing from the mass media such as Fox media and people in power such as Jeb meant he came in to power. (George W Bush had mass media control, the average voter voice was not heard, and as Al gore was whom the majority voted for) (Film Fahrenheit 9-11 Michael Moore) This is an example of pluralist democracy in which the elite are in control of society, the capacity of organised groups to articulate government responsiveness.
In countries that has capitalism as its backbone economy, the elite tend to be the ones who own or control big corporate business, you only need to look at “America political system and see that people funding political candidates are buying influence and accesses to lobby groups” (www. news. bbc. co. uk/world/america), that is why in 2000 191 million dollars was raised by oil companies and united defence for Bush. Of course through the course of history we know that theses business benefited a lot from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This shows that corporatist pluralism is a threat to society as a threat to society because political equality does not take place, if you are considered an insider group you will benefit such as united defence and if you are an outsider the chances of you influencing government other than voting is almost nil. As Lenin said liberal democracies are seen as bourgeois democracies that are… by the ruling class (Andrew Heywood politics third edition page 86). However the view that only the elite benefit from “democracy” and that political equality does not exist which is the major point of democracy in that it should exist, is not always true.
Peak associations benefit the state rather than major economic associations and the elite; theses are groups that want the best interest for the workers. So you could argue that in some cases political equality does exist. An example is Obama and his democratic party in which they believe in supporting the people not the business, the creation of Medi-care is an example. The creation of the Gettysburg Address delivered in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln “government of the people by the people for the people “ (www. showcase. et/ creative Lincoln speech) made defining democracy a lot more difficult, due to the fact two models of democracy have cropped up direct democracy (by the people) through systems of referendum and representative democracy (for the people) system of electing someone on your behalf. Direct democracy may be seen by citizens of countries such as Switzerland as the real form of democracy due to the fact the people are in- charge of ruling them selves all the government do is facilitate the decision and make sure it is carried through.
This is most similar to the ancient Greek idea of democracy. The way it is done is through referendums’ that can only be passed if majority of cantons agree as well as a small minority of cantons. An example of referendums in Switzerland in which the people have voted for and taken action is the Swiss people have rejected the law that state funded layers can protect animals in 2010. (www. bbc. co. uk). However the main problem with referendums’ is governments can reject them going against the principal of rule by the people.
An example occurred in the state of Rhode Island in 2002, when the governor placed such a referendum on the ballot asking citizens if they wanted to change the state constitution to make the three branches of the state government co-equal. The citizens voted in favor of the measure, but the result was not binding, and the governor and the legislature were not required to take action. (www. elearnportal. com/courses/political-science).
The other point is direct democracy would only work in areas with small population such as Greek city states and Switzerland otherwise a population like the UK with over 60 million people would mean any decision would take a huge amount of time. Therefore the representative democracy exits, the argument for representative democracy is people may not have the education or background to make logical decisions for the rest of the population; therefore you vote for your constituency who on your behalf represented you.
Who in turn in parliamentary democracies would vote who would head your party. This may seem democratic in the view that your MP is only interested in your constituency. However party politics play a part and some politicians may seem greedy for power and not really care or represent you. Also even though this creates accountability on MPs behalf you may only do something about it every time an election is held. We only have an input every four years (undergrounddemocracy. com).
This is means if politicians go against their mandate or do something the majority of people don’t like example the student cuts you cant do something about it until the next election. Also depending on who you are in the political system will depend on what you think is a democratic system, for example totalitarian regimes such as Hitler and the Nazi party may claim they where democratic due to the fact they represented the peoples best interest, however the German people who where not involved in politics or people in general who live under a dictatorship may not agree that they are living democratically.
In conclusion the language of democracy is used as political propaganda “ it is a political weapon it is shaped and honed to covey political intent” (Andrew Heywood political theory page 2) what Andrew meant is similar to what Bernard Crick in that there is no clear definition of democracy. It all depends on who is the person or group that is defining the word democracy.
If you are living in a representative democracy under a totalitarian regime and you are the head of that party in power then of course you would say you are democratic working in the best interest of the people despite the fact they could be living in the gutter starving. Or if you are the prime-minster of the Britain despite the fact you where not directly elected by the people to be prime-minster but you are non-the less creating a government for the people you would say you are democratic, in contrast to people who did not vote for you or your policy.
If you are considered a Marxist then your opinion on liberal democracy is that it is false due to the fact political equality does not exist and that the elite and corporatists have more power to influence the government for them and not always the majority of people, however if you are the elite you would say it is democratic as we live in competitive capitalist environment and through peek associations we benefit the economy because we have the know how, and the majority would want that.
Direct democracy is another definition of democracy stating that the citizens should have complete control however due to political restrictions such as age and the ability to reject referendums proves that rule by the people can t be fully accomplished.
My opinion is that again depending on who is defining democracy will depend on what they want it to mean due to the popularity of being democratic however, complete democracy will never be achieved as there will always be people who appose an opinion causing rule by the majority. But the ability to vote enables that citizens do have some control over their society and that in most western democracies people in power are trying to do what is best for the interest of the people, even if political equality may not exist.
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