Democracy: Definition And Characteristics

909 words | 4 page(s)

From a broader perspective, there exist four major types of democracy definitions: “constitutional, substantive, procedural, and process-oriented” (Tilly 7). From the standpoint of the constitutional approach, the major focus is placed on the laws that are enacted by the regime. From the substantive perspective, the focus is placed on the life conditions and the politics that this regime promotes. From the standpoint of the procedural approach, it is genuinely competitive elections that are viewed as the main condition that should be ensured for a state to be qualified as democratic. In this meantime, practice has demonstrated that this approach is somewhat flawed because states like Kazakhstan tend to substitute real democratic procedures with their imitation. Finally, from the standpoint of the process-oriented approach, there is a set of criteria that a true democracy is supposed to meet. Thus, for instance, to be clarified as democratic, a state is supposed to demonstrate the following characteristics: voting equality, effective participation, enlightened understanding, control of the agenda, and inclusion of adults (Tilly 9). On the face of it, American democracy is worth its status for it meets all these criteria. Moreover, it is also necessary to determine accurately the form of democracy that is established in the USA. Among all the existing forms of democracy (e.g. presidential, parliamentary, direct, etc.), the democracy that has established in the USA is a representative republic meaning that the US people select representatives who are supposed to run the government in the right direction. From a theoretical perspective, of the American democracy is that it is the democracy of the majority. From a technical perspective, however, it is mainly the democracy of those who vote so that it is also vulnerable to the so-called “paradox of democracy.” In this respect, the question arises as to whether a democracy as a political instrument should be attainable to the majority.

The rule of majority is a very sensitive issue. In the previous paragraph, it has been defined that the principles of democracy are implemented by those who vote. Ideally, it is supposed that the election results should reflect what is best and most favorable to the society. One of the most long-standing disputes in this regard is the one about whether the majority is eligible for using the democratic instrument properly. Thus, in order to be able to participate in the elections and to select an appropriate candidate, one needs to possess at least some knowledge about each candidate, understand the candidates’ programs and have, at least, a rough idea of the consequences associated with their choice. Unfortunately, many American residents are ineligible to the voting process because they meet none of these criteria. In the meantime, from a legislative perspective, these people cannot be excluded from the election process. As a consequence, a large percentage of Americans give their votes to a certain candidate based on not the understanding of the changes to the state’s political course that should occur after his or her selection but based on personal sentiments and impressions. This leads to a situation when the candidate is mainly focused on the form rather than the content. The most distinctive example in this regard was Trump’s elections during which his campaign relied mainly on his charisma and impressive rhetoric devices; even though many of his claims sounded too extravagant and surrealistic to be a part of the political world, most people voted for him, presumably, because they relied on the impression he made (confident strong leader) rather than the action plan that he articulated. This example demonstrates perfectly what happens when the simple majority has its power (as it is in the USA) and explains why the American democracy is flawed. The question might arise as to how this flaw can be eliminated. In my opinion, this flaw can be eliminated by preparing the residents for making effective and knowledgeable voters.

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Finally, it should be pointed out that any evaluation that claims that this or another state is democratic is of relative character because there is always a challenge of measuring democracy. The simplest way to measure democracy is to measure each of its components independently: electoral processes, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture, and civil freedoms. Whereas this measurement framework is more or less adequate, it still possesses some flaws. First and foremost, there is always the risk of evaluating the demonstrative processes while the true processes can be radically different (e.g. the Kazakhstan example). Moreover, different people interpret democracy differently what means they their impressions on the extent to which their state is democratic varies significantly. Thus, for example, many people tend to associate democracy with freedom. From this perspective, it is necessary to measure freedom to be able to measure democracy which is a challenging task because freedom is much more relevant concept than democracy itself. To facilitate the achievement of this goal, the New York Freedom House differentiates between two forms of freedom: political freedom and individual freedom. Based on the results of these evaluations, the Freedom House determines the extent of freedom in a relevant state which can be either high, low, or partial. The extent of freedom is further associated with the extent of democracy in a state. Even though this approach to measuring democracy has some flaws, it is still adequate because it offers a comprehensive and simple framework for evaluating freedom and, thus, democracy, worldwide.

  • Tilly, Charles. Democracy. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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