POLS 550 Comparative Politics September 28, 2006
Introduction to Democracy • Lead Question: What is Democracy
Introduction to Democracy • What democracy is … and is not • Main theme: democracy does not consist of a single set of unique institutions. There are many types of democracy, which are contingent upon a country’s specific socioeconomic conditions as well as its entrenched state structures and policy practices.
Introduction to Democracy • Key points: • Generic definition: Modern political democracy is a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives
Introduction to Democracy • To assess and understand authors’ definition, we need to break it down into its component parts.
Introduction to Democracy What is a system of governance or a regime? • Refers most generally to: • the ensemble of patterns that determines the methods of access to the principal public offices; • the characteristics of the actors admitted or excluded from such access; • the strategies that actors may use to gain access; • and the rules that are followed in the making of publicly binding decisions.
Introduction to Democracy Rulers and Accountability • All regimes have rulers, who are persons that occupy specialized authority roles and can give legitimate commands to others • But, in democracies, rulers are ultimately accountable for their actions
Introduction to Democracy Public Realm • The accountability of rulers is determined in the public realm, which encompasses the making of collective norms and choices that are binding on the society backed by state coercion • The extent and scope of the public realm varies considerably in democracies: in some democracies, is very narrowly circumscribed, while in others it extends very widely. Neither type is intrinsically more democratic than the other: they are just differently democratic
Introduction to Democracy Competition and Cooperation • Competition. Not always considered an essential defining condition of democracy, but in practice, it is nearly impossible to imagine any modern democracy in which the decision determining elected representatives does not take place through some form of competitive process • Cooperation. Competition without cooperation would likely lead to chaos. In democracies, therefore, cooperation is also very important. Actors must voluntarily make collective decisions binding on the polity as a whole; they must cooperate in abiding by these decisions are in using agreed upon processes to challenge decisions they don’t like
Introduction to Democracy Representative • Representatives. Representatives, as with rulers, must be accountable
Introduction to Democracy Procedural Norms and Protections • Having a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives, however, is not enough to ensure a democracy • There must also be specific procedural norms and protection of civic rights
Introduction to Democracy The most commonly accepted listing of norms is provided by Robert Dahl: • Control over government decisions about policy is constitutionally vested in elected officials • Elected officials are chose in frequent and fairly conducted elections • Practically all adults have the right to vote • Practically all adults have the right to run for elective office • Citizens have a right to express themselves • Citizens have a right to seek out alternative forms of information • Citizens have a right to form relatively independent associations and organizations (i.e., civil society)
Introduction to Democracy Authors add two more conditions to this list: • Popularly elected officials must be able to exercise their constitutional powers without being subjected to overriding opposition from unelected officials (e.g., a threat of military coup) • The polity must be self-governing; it must be able to act independently of constraints imposed by some other overarching political system (e.g., consider the US role in Iraq today)
Introduction to Democracy Discussion Question: • Is the conceptualization of democracy provided by Schmitter and Karl a reasonable definition of democracy? Is it useful?
Introduction to Democracy How Democracies Differ • Consensus • Participation • Access • Responsiveness • Majority Rule • Parliamentary Sovereignty • Party Government • Pluralism • Federalism • Presidentialism • Checks and Balances
Introduction to Democracy What Democracy is Not • Democracy is not … • necessarily more efficient economically than other forms of government • necessarily more efficient administratively • Likely to appear more consensual, stable, or governable than the autocracies they replace • necessarily more open economically
Introduction to Democracy What do we know about democracy? • From Bunce: • We know that high levels of economic development function as a virtual guarantee of democratic continuity (NOTE: this is not the same as saying that a high level of economic development causes democracy) • We know that political leaders—the elite—are central to the founding and design of democracy and to its survival or collapse under conditions of crisis
Introduction to Democracy What do we know about democracy? • From Bunce: • We know that parliamentary systems are superior to presidential systems in the consolidation if not the very survival of democracy • We know that democracy requires settled borders and a popular consensus supporting an inclusive definition of the nation (although, by themselves, these two factors do no guarantee democratic transition or consolidation
Introduction to Democracy What do we know about democracy? • From Bunce: • And we know that old and well-established and new and fragile democracies have, as their common ground, certain versus uncertain rules and procedures (in other words, democracy requires a rule of law, and a firmly established rule of law requires a strong state)