Concept Of Democracy Essay

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CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY. The word democracy has many connotations which vary with time, place and individuals who view the concept. The term has several different senses in contemporary use. The discussion that follows is in an attempt to make some contribution on nature, origin and basis of democracy in the world. Categorically, the Oxford’s Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines democracy as a system of government in which all people in a country can vote and elect their representatives. In this view, it represents a form of government in which the whole right to make political decisions is exercised directly by a whole body of decisions acting under procedures of a majority rule. Another definition has been given by the Britannica Encyclopedia which defines democracy as a form of government in which the citizens exercise the same right, not in person but through representatives chosen and responsible to them. The Oxford’s English Dictionary defines democracy as government by the people ;that forms of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole. Power can either be exercised directly by them. Another alternate definition given is that democracy is that class of people which has no hereditary or special rank privilege ;common people. The term democracy originates from the Greek word “Demokratia” which means rule of the people. The word was coined from “demo” people and “kratos” power or rule. It traces its origin in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city states, notably Athens. Originally, democracy referred to “power” in the sense of “capacity to do things”. Majority rule was an intentionally pejorative diminution urged by the Greek. It meant self-government through an assembly of equal male citizens who gathered in a market place or town district for purpose of discussing some matter, putting different opinions to vote, and deciding often by majority of raised hands what course of action was to be taken. The term democracy is an antonym to aristocratie”rule of elite”. While theoretically these definitions are in opposition, in practice the distinction has been blurred historically. The political system of classical Athens, for example, granted democratic citizenship to an elite class of free men and excluded women and slaves from the political participation. In virtually all democratic movements throughout ancient and modern history, democratic citizenship consisted of an elite class until full enfranchisement has won for all adult citizens in most modern economies through suffrage movements of the 19th and 20th century. Within the Athenian democratic movement, many philosophers from all over the Greek world gathered to develop their theories on the definitions of democracy. Socrates was the first to raise the question about what is the relation or position of an individual within a community. However, it was Aristotle who laid the foundations of political philosophy. Aristotle systematically analyzed the different rules that the Greek city states and categorized them into three categories on how many ruled: the many (democracy or policy), the few (aristocracy or oligarchy), a single person (tyranny or autocracy). Aristotle contributed greatly to the concept of democracy as he came up with the underlying principle of democracy ;“Now, a fundamental principle of democratic form of constitution is liberty that is usually asserted, implying that only under this constitution do men participate in liberty, for they assert this as aim of every democracy. But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn, for popular principle of justice is to have an equality according to number, not worth, and if this is the principle of justice prevailing, the multitude must be of necessity be sovereign and decision of majority must be final and must constitute justice, for they say that each of the citizens ought to have an equal share. Whatever is decided by majority is sovereign. The 20th century transitions to liberal democracy have come in successive “waves of democracy” variously resulting from wars, revolutions, decolonization, religious and economic circumstances. By 1980,vast majority of country states were nominally democracies although most of the world’s population lived in nations that experienced sham elections. Based on the contemporary usage, democracy can take a number of forms. Some varieties of democracy provide representation and more freedom for their citizens as others. However, if any democracy is not structured so as to prohibit the government from excluding the people from a legislative process, or any branch of government from altering separation of powers in its own favor, then a branch of the system can accumulate too much power and destroy the democracy. Operatively, democracy can be defined as a means to provide better representation and liberty to citizens of a given country. Based on this definition, we come up with various forms of democracy. First is the direct democracy which is also known as pure democracy is a form of democracy in which the people decide the policy initiative directly. It is a political system where citizens participate in decision making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives. The use of direct democracy are that it gives the voting population the power to change constitutional laws, put forthright initiatives, referendums and suggestion for laws. Depending on this system in use, it might entail passing executive decisions, making laws, directly electing or dismissing officials and conducting trials. Democracy can take another form of representative democracy which traces its origin from the Roman republic. It is involves election of government officials by people being represented. The most common mechanisms involve election of candidates with a majority or plurality of votes. A characteristic of representative is that while the representatives are elected by the people to act in the people’s interest, they retain the freedom to exercise their own judgment as how best to do it. Theorists such as Edward Burke believe that part of duty of a representative was not simply to communicate the wishes of the electorate, but also use their own judgment in the exercise of their powers, even if their views are not reflective of those of a majority of voters. The third form of democracy is constitutional democracy which is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision making power is subject to law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes protection of rights and freedoms of individuals and which place constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against right of minorities. It enables free and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, equal protection of rights, civil rights, civic liberties and political freedom for all persons. Various researchers have intensified the research on the concept of democracy. Such an example is Russel J Parton has defined dimensions using several dimensions. He argues that most widely employed scholarly definitions of democracy focus on the institutions and procedures of democratic governance. He uses an example of Robert’s Dahl’s seminal writings which largely equate democracy with the institution and process of representative government. If the citizens can participate equally in free and fair elections, and if elections the actions of government then the standards of democracy are met. Surveys that present respondents with a list of items to define democracy, often find the voting, election and procedural choices as common choices. J Parton continues to argue that people may also define democracy in terms of its outcomes. Democracy emphasis freedom and liberty as its essential goals, with democratic institutions as means to achieve them. Even if individuals might not understand the institutional procedures for democracy, their desire for freedom and
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