- "A constitution [or politeia] may be defined as ‘the organization
of a city [or polis] in respect of its offices generally, but especially
in respect of that particular office which is sovereign in all issues. . . .
In democratic cities, for example, the people [demos] is sovereign.
. . . [W]hen the masses govern the city with a view to the common
interest, the form of government is called by the generic name . . .
of ‘constitutional government’. . . . Democracy is directed to the
interest of the poor [only, not to the interests of everyone--WR]." (Aristotle
- "Democracy [is] not majority rule: democracy [is] diffusion of power, representation
of interests, recognition of minorities." (John Calhoun, as paraphrased by
Roper 1989, 63)
- "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and
deserve to get it good and hard." (H.L. Mencken, quoted in Danziger 1998, 155)
- Democracy is "the substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment
by the corrupt few." (G.B. Shaw, quoted in Danziger 1998, 155)
- Democracy is "government by the people; that form of government in which
the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either
directly by them . . . or by officers elected by them." (Oxford
English Dictionary, 1933)
- "Democracy is the form of state within which the distribution of power in
the state is determined exclusively by the social factors of power,
but is not shifted in favor of any one class through the application of material
means of coercion." (Otto Bauer, quoted in Meyer 1957 , 65)
- "Democracy is a competitive political system in which competing leaders
and organizations define the alternatives of public policy in such a way that
the public can participate in the decision-making process." (Schattschneider
- "[A] social decision function F(D1, D2, . . . , Dn) is
called a democracy, if the function can be expressed only by voting
operators--without any resort to negations and constants--and the function
is nondictatorial, where nondictatorial is defined as follows: . . .
‘A social decision function F(D1, D2, . . . , Dn) is called
nondictatorial, if there is no individual whose preference is always
adopted by the society." (Murakami 1968, 28-29)
- A democratic regime is one ". . . in which the peaceful
rivalry for the exercise of power
exists constitutionally." (italics in original) The phrase "exercise
of power" implies temporary control. (Aron 1969, 41)
- A definition of the ideal: "Government by the people, where liberty,
equality and fraternity are secured to the greatest possible degree and in
which human capacities are developed to the utmost, by means including free
and full discussion of common problems and interests." (Pennock, 1979, 7)
- And of the practice: "Rule by the people where ‘the people’ includes
all adult citizens not excluded by some generally agreed upon and reasonable
disqualifying factor . . . . ‘Rule’ means that public policies
are determined either directly by vote of the electorate or indirectly by
officials freely elected at reasonably frequent intervals and by a process
in which each voter who chooses to vote counts equally . . . and
in which a plurality is determinative." (Pennock, 1979, 9)
- "The competitive electoral context, with several political parties organizing
the alternatives that face the voters, is the identifying property of the
contemporary democratic process . . . . [D]emocratic systems
[are] . . . characterized by competitive elections in which most
citizens are eligible to participate." (Powell 1982, 3)
- "[D]emocracy is a form of institutionalization of continual conflicts . . .
[and] of uncertainty, of subjecting all interests to uncertainty . . . ."
(Przeworski 1986, 58)
- A ‘democratic regime’ is "first and foremost a set of procedural rules for
arriving at collective decisions in a way which accommodates and facilitates
the fullest possible participation of interested parties." (Bobbio 1987, 19)
- "Democracy is a system in which parties lose elections. There are parties:
divisions of interest, values and opinions. There is competition, organized
by rules. And there are periodic winners and losers." (Przeworski 1991, 10)
- "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."
(Schmitter and Karl 1991, 76)
- "According to civic republicanism, the state acts legitimately only if it
furthers the ‘common good’ of the political community. . . . [C]ivic
republicanism embraces an ongoing deliberative process, inclusive of all cultures,
values, needs, and interests, to arrive at the public good. Civic republicans
see the development of a conception of the common good as a fundamental purpose
of democracy--a purpose necessary for individual self-identity and self-fulfillment.
Civic republicanism also posits that no individual acting in her political
capacity should be subservient to other political actors. Hence, the theory
does not equate the public good that legitimates government action with majority
rule. Social consensus about what is best for the community as a community,
not as the aggregation of individuals’ private interests, is the defining
feature of the common good." (Seidenfeld 1992, 1528-29; italics in original)
- "Democracy is a political system in which different groups are legally entitled
to compete for power and in which institutional power holders are elected
by the people and are responsible to the people." (Vanhannen 1997, 31)
- Democracy is "a state where political decisions are taken by and with the
consent, or the active participation even, of the majority of the People.
. . . [L]iberalism, though recognizing that in the last resort the
‘legal majority’ must prevail, tries to protect the minorities as it does
the civil rights of the individual, and by much the same methods. . . .
Liberal democracy is qualified democracy. The ultimate right of the
majority to have its way is conceded, but that way is made as rough as possible."
(Finer 1997, 1568-1570)
- "We begin by defining formal, participatory and social democracy. By formal
democracy we mean a political system that combines four features: regular
free and fair elections, universal suffrage, accountability of the state’s
administrative organs to the elected representatives, and effective guarantees
for freedom of expression. . . . [F]ormal democratic countries will
differ considerably in social policies that reduce social and economic inequality.
We therefore introduce two additional dimensions: high levels of participation
without systematic differences across social categories (for example, class,
ethnicity, gender) and increasing equality in social and economic outcomes.
(Huber, Rueschemeyer & Stephens 1997, 323-324)
- "Democracy provides opportunities for 1) effective participation, 2) equality
in voting, 3) gaining enlightened understanding, 4) exercising final
control [by the people--WR] over the agenda, and 5) inclusion of adults."
The political institutions that are necessary to pursue these goals are "1) elected
officials, 2) free, fair and frequent elections, 3) freedom of expression,
4) alternative sources of information, 5) associational autonomy,
and 6) inclusive citizenship." (Dahl 1998, 38 & 85)
- Democracy is "governance by leaders whose authority is based on a limited
mandate from a universal electorate that selects among genuine alternatives
and has some rights to political participation and opposition." (Danziger
- The fundamental idea of democratic, political legitimacy is that the authorization
to exercise state power must arise from the collective decisions of
the equal members of a society who are governed by that power." Collective
decisions can be either aggregative (based on counting preferences) or deliberative.
"[A] decision is collective just in case it emerges from arrangements of binding
collective choice that establish conditions of free public reasoning among
equals who are governed by the decisions. In the deliberative conception,
then, citizens treat one another as equals not by giving equal consideration
to interests--perhaps some interests ought to be discounted . . .--but
by offering them justifications for the exercise of collective power . . . ."
(Cohen 1998, 185-6; italics in original)
- "Democrats are committed to rule by the people. They insist that no aristocrat,
monarch, philosopher, bureaucrat, expert, or religious leader has the right,
in virtue of such status, to force people to accept a particular conception
of their proper common life. People should decide for themselves, via appropriate
procedures of collective decision, what their collective business should be."
"Communitarian democrats make wrongheaded assumptions both about the nature
of democracy and about its appropriate place in everyday life. . . .
[P]articipation plays a necessary but circumscribed role in ordering social
relations justly. Valuable as democratic participation is in managing the
power dimensions of collective activities, it is not the point of the exercise."
(Shapiro 1999, 29-30 & 23)
- "[I]n a democracy important public decisions on questions of law and policy
depend, directly or indirectly, upon public opinion formally expressed by
citizens of the community, the vast bulk of whom have equal political rights."
(Weale 1999, 14)
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