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Democracy: Classical and contemporary theories; different models of democracy – representative, participatory and deliberative


Democracy is the heated topic of debate since long time in political science as well as political philosophy, and a generally accepted view of democracy is yet to be obtained, though it exists in virtually all types of states and in almost every region of the world. Democracy is not a thoughtful institutional design. It evolved in Britain over several centuries. Democracy, or rule by the people, is an unrestricted form of government in which all the inhabitants of a nation determine public policy, the laws, and the actions of their state together. Democracy requires that all citizens have an equal opportunity to express their opinion. Practically, democracy is the extent to which a given system approximates this ideal, and a given political system is referred to as a democracy if it allows a certain approximation to ideal democracy. Although no country has ever granted all its citizens the right to vote, most countries today hold regular elections based on egalitarian principles, at least in theory.

Vast literature is available to describe democracy. According to Przeworski (1986), Democracy is a form of institutionalization of continual conflicts of uncertainty, of subjecting all interests to uncertainty.

John Calhoun described that "Democracy is not majority rule: democracy is diffusion of power, representation of interests, and recognition of minorities." G.B. stated that democracy is "the substitution of election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few." According to Oxford English Dictionary, 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." According to Herodotus democracy is that "government in which supreme power of the state is vested in the entire people."

Concept of democracy: Democracy comes from the Greek word, “demo and “kratos” meaning “people” and “rule”. In democracies, it is the people who hold autonomous power over legislator and government. Democracy is a political form of government in which governing power is derived from the people, by consensus (consensus democracy), by direct referendum, or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy). A form of political organization of society based on a recognition of the people as the source of power, their right to participate in the resolution of state affairs, and the provision of a rather broad range of rights and liberties for citizens.

Although gradations apply to the world's various democracies, certain principles and practices differentiate democratic government from other forms of government. These are as under:

  • Democracy is government in which power and civic responsibility are exercised by all citizens, directly or through their freely elected representatives.
  • Democracy is a set of principles and practices that protect human freedom; it is the institutionalization of freedom.
  • Democracy rests upon the principles of majority rule, coupled with individual and minority rights. All democracies, while respecting the will of the majority, zealously protect the fundamental rights of individuals and minority groups.
  • Democracies guard against all-powerful central governments and decentralize government to regional and local levels, understanding that local government must be as accessible and responsive to the people as possible.
  • Democracies understand that one of their prime functions is to protect such basic human rights as freedom of speech and religion; the right to equal protection under law; and the opportunity to organize and participate fully in the political, economic, and cultural life of society.
  • Democracies conduct regular free and fair elections open to all citizens. Elections in a democracy cannot be facades that dictators or a single party hide behind, but authentic competitions for the support of the people.
  • Democracy subjects governments to the rule of law and ensures that all citizens receive equal protection under the law and that their rights are protected by the legal system.
  • Democracies are diverse, reflecting each nation's unique political, social, and cultural life. Democracies rest upon fundamental principles, not uniform practices.
  • Citizens in a democracy not only have rights, they have the responsibility to participate in the political system that, in turn, protects their rights and freedoms.
  • Democratic societies are committed to the values of tolerance, cooperation, and compromise. Democracies recognize that reaching consensus requires compromise and that it may not always be attainable. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”

Theories of democracy

Democracy has been emanated from Ancient Greece. However other cultures have considerably contributed to the development of democracy such as Ancient Rome, Europe, and North and South America. The notion of representative democracy arose largely from ideas and institutions that developed during the European Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment and in the American and French Revolutions. Democracy has been called the "last form of government" and has spread considerably across the globe. The right to vote has been expanded in many Jurisdictions over time from relatively narrow groups (such as wealthy men of a particular ethnic group), with New Zealand the first nation to grant universal suffrage for all its citizens in 1893.

Democracy first thrived in the Greek city-state, city-state in ancient Greece, Italy, and Medieval Europe, an independent political unit consisting of a city and surrounding countryside. The first city-states were in Sumer, but they reached their peak in Greece.

1. Classical democracy: The classical democracy was direct democracy and Athens was the abode of such a democracy. There were, besides Athens, other Greek city states but among all the city states Athens was most prominent and powerful. Direct democracy in Athens developed in between 800-500 BCE (Before Christ Era).

There the citizens, as members of the assembly, participated directly in the making of their laws. A democracy of this sort was possible only in a small state where the people were politically educated, and it was limited since the majority of inhabitants were slaves or noncitizens. Athenian democracy fell before imperial rule, as did other ancient democracies in the early Italian cities and the early church. In this period and in the middle Ages, ideas such as representation in government, the term used to designate the means by which a whole population may participate in governing through the device of having a much smaller number of people act on their behalf. Crucial to modern Western democracy were developed. When the Greeks created the first democracy known to mankind, they envisioned it would be one with much citizen participation. Citizens would express their opinions, debate, and vote in a system now called a Classical Democracy.

Athenian Democracy:

The self-governing government of Athens were dependent on three main institutions. These three pillars of democracy were: the Assembly of the Demos, the Council of 500, and the People’s Court. These were accompanied by the Council of the Areopagus, the Archons, and the Generals. Actual legislation involved both the Assembly and the Council, and ad hoc boards of “Lawmakers.” In the 5th century BC, Athens pioneers an experiment in direct democracy, as opposed to the representative democracy of modern societies. It is imitated by her Greek allies and colonies at the time, but it has rarely been attempted anywhere else. Democracy of this kind has two preconditions. The community must be small enough for citizens to be proficient in attending debates and voting on issues. And its economy must give these citizens enough leisure to engage in politics; in the ancient world this means that there must be slaves to do most of the work. Both circumstances prevailed in Athens.

Characteristics of Athenian democracy which represent classical democracy:

- The classical democracy of Athens assumed the form of mass meeting. The Athenians periodically met together to take stock of the situation of the state and make policies and decisions.

- All the full-time public officials were chosen by the Athenians through lottery or election.

- The arrangement was made in such a manner that every citizen could get (at least once in his lifetime) the scope of participation in the offices of the state.

- The Athenians never hesitated to participate in the affairs of state or to shoulder the responsibility.

- Official positions rotated among all the citizens and no special training was required to run the administration.

- However, there were special training arrangements for military generals. In this way the Athenian democracy - the representative of classical democracy, worked in ancient Greece.

Principles of Classical Democracy:

The standards of classical democracy or Athenian democracy are mentioned below:

- The chief political ideals were equality among all people, liberty and respect for law and justice. The Athenians paid high and glowing tribute to justice and law. Which is generally called rule of law. That system prevailed in ancient Greece and from there it later on, ramified in other parts of Europe.

- Because of the pervasiveness of equality in Greek city-states all the citizens could get the opportunity to participate in the policy/decision making process of the state. Thucydides stated the ideals and aims of Athenian democracy in an address attributed to Pericles’ funeral.

- Thucydides (460-399 BC) claimed that Athenian democracy was unique in the sense that its constitution, system of administration, institutions were not copied from other systems. Rather the Athenian democracy was a model to be followed by others. Every Athenian had equal right to be equally treated by law.

- Equality before law and equal treatment of law enabled justice to prevail in almost all the spheres of society. Political life was free and open. All the citizens took active interest in public of fairs and naturally they were not at all neglected. Every man showed obedience to law and authority. Disputes were settled among themselves.

This theoretical dogma of democracy was gripped into several criticisms.

  1. The Athenian democracy was limited only to a small fraction of population. The male citizens above the age of 20 could take active part in the affairs of state. The female citizens, irrespective of their qualification, had not the liberty or right to participate in the policy-making affairs. So the classical democracy was the democracy of the male citizens or patriarchs. The women had no civil or political rights.
  2. Large numbers of Athenians were also unentitled to participate in the proceedings of the city-states. They were immigrants and slaves. In Athens, large numbers of immigrants lived and their contribution to Athenian culture, development etc. was not negligible at all. The slaves in Athens constituted a major part of the whole population and the Athenian economy and development rested on their labour. But they were not permitted to take part in the offices and other branches of the state. The treatment meted out to slaves and immigrants does not prove the existence of rights and equality in Athenian society.
  3. All inhabitants did not get equal status and all the opportunities were not open to all.
  4. Many scholars stated that Athenian democracy as the oppression of the minority.
  5. Held has said that various aspects of the classical democracy can legitimately be questioned.

Aristotle’s explanation of Democracy:

According to Aristotle, “The foundation of democratic constitution is liberty. People constantly make this statement implying that only in this constitution is there any share in liberty at all”. Every democracy has liberty for its aim. “Ruling and being ruled in turn” is one element of liberty.

Aristotle believed that only in democracy ruling and being ruled in turn take place. It is absent in a state which is not democratic. The absence of the opportunity to rule is the symbol of slavery. He also asserted that in his democracy equality is to be interpreted numerically and it is not based on merit.

Principles of Democracy:

Aristotle has postulated certain fundamental principles of democracy. These may also be called the basic features of democracy.

Following are the fundamental principles:

  1. Officials of the city state will come through the elections and all citizens are eligible for all posts or offices.
  2. A common rule will operate throughout the state and this rule is rule over each and each by turn over all.
  3. All the citizens are eligible for all posts excepting the posts which require special qualifications or experience.
  4. No tenure of office dependent on the possession of property qualification.
  5. The same man not to hold the same office twice. A man will be allowed to hold office only for once in his lifetime. However, in the field of warfare this principle will not hold.
  6. Aristotle prescribed short tenure of office.
  7. Jury courts will be chosen from all the citizens and will adjudicate on all.
  8. The Assembly (in Greek it was called Ecclesia) will have the sovereign authority over anything except minor matters.
  9. Payment services in assembly, in law courts and in the offices shall be regular.
  10. Good birth, wealth and culture shall be the marks of the rule of the few. The opposite shall be the rule of the many.
  11. Perpetual tenure of office is not favoured by democracy.

Protective Democracy:

The main subject of classical democracy was the participation of all peoples in the processes of state and the Athenians where the classical democracy flourished most prominently. It is believed that they could achieve equality. Classical democracy was equality in respect of rights and privileges.

But the protective democracy emphasized different aspect. According to Heywood “democracy was seen less as a mechanism through which public could participate in political life, and more as a device through which citizens could protect themselves from the encroachments of government, hence protective democracy”.

In this viewpoint, democracy has been regarded as a means at the disposal of individuals which they can use to safeguard their rights and liberties. In ancient Greece, many intellectuals had the idea about protection of rights and liberties. Plato supposed that the rule of the guardian class could serve the purpose properly. But Aristotle enquired who will guard the guardians? From all these ideas, protective democracy emerged.

Origin of the Protective Democracy:

The origin of democracy as an instrument of protecting human rights and liberties can suitably be traced to the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

John Locke (1631-1704) is regarded as the great advocate of protective democracy. His civil society based on democratic principles was created through the instrumentality of social contract to shield the right to life liberty and property and guarantee pursuance of happiness. James Madison (1751-1836) also supported this type of democracy.

The three proponents of utilitarianism also explained the protective democracy. They were Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) James Mill 1773-1836) and John Stuart Mill. The utilitarianism was powerfully advocated in favour of protective democracy. The theme of utilitarianism was to safeguard right liberty and opportunity and these are basic principles of democracy. These must be protected at any cost. According to these theorists, democracy was the best form of government which could guarantee these. Bentham, James Mill and his philosopher son contended that only in democracy all sorts of individual interests could be protected and advanced.

Locke, Madison, Bentham, and the Mills-supported the principle of protective democracy and it is an aspect of liberal democracy. In their hands this received best treatment. In fact, Bentham and the Mills were the representative philosophers of protective democracy.

Features of protective democracy:

The following are the basic features of protective democracy:

  1. Protective democracy believes in popular sovereignty. But since people cannot directly take part in the processes of state, they do it through their representatives.
  2. Both the popular sovereignty and representative form of government are legitimate.
  3. It is the primary duty of the state to protect the rights and liberties of citizens and whether this is properly performed or not people keep a strong vigilance over the functions of state.
  4. The authority is accountable to the People and in order to establish it elections are held on regular basis. There are also other ways of establishing accountability.
  5. Significant way of protecting the rights, liberties and distribution of privileges is the division of powers among legislature, executive and judiciary. This is done in all
  6. Liberal democracies.
  7. There is dominance of constitutionalism. Both the ruler and the ruled are controlled by the principles laid down in constitution.
  8. Constitution is the source of power for all and is the guarantor of rights and liberties. There are also measures to prevent the violation of rights and liberties.
  9. Organisations associations groups have enough freedom and they always act as friends of citizens and fight against any violation of rights or encroachment on liberty.
  10. Competition in all spheres is a feature of protective democracy.
  11. A clear distinction between state and civil society is strictly preserved.

Modern democracy:

Western governments are called democracies. Democracy only works if voters are active and informed. Now modern democracy has found deep change as and revolutions in ideal and practice. It has wide variety of elements. Modern democracy is drafted to fit the modern political life of humankind.

Major features of modern democracy:

To preserve modern democracy, a country needs to fulfil some basic requirements and they need not only be written down in its constitution but must be kept up in everyday life by politicians and authorities:

- Guarantee of basic Human Rights to every individual person vis-à-vis the state and its authorities as well as vis-à-vis any social groups (especially religious institutions) and vis-à-vis other persons.

- Separation of Powers between the institutions of the state:

Government (Executive Power), Parliament (Legislative Power) and Courts of Law (Judicative Power)

- Freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media

- Religious liberty

- General and equal right to vote (one person, one vote)

- Good Governance (focus on public interest and absence of corruption)

The "majority rule" is labelled as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without governmental or constitutional protections of individual liberties, it is possible for a minority of individuals to be troubled by the "tyranny of the majority". An essential process in representative democracies is competitive elections that are fair both substantively and procedurally. Additionally, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are indispensable so that inhabitants are informed and able to vote in their personal interests.

Popular dominion is common but not a universal motivating subject for establishing a democracy. In some countries, democracy is based on the logical principle of equal rights. Many people use the term "democracy" as shorthand for liberal democracy, which may include additional elements such as political pluralism; equality before the law; the right to petition elected officials for redress of grievances; due process; civil liberties; human rights; and elements of civil society outside the government.

In the United States, separation of powers is often named as a supporting attribute, but in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the dominant philosophy is parliamentary sovereignty. In other cases, "democracy" is used to mean direct democracy. Freedom of speech is the basis of democracy. Governments are held responsible by free speech, every decision must have a reason, every cent must be accountable, bad decisions are punished at election time. The free flow of information allows both people and governments to make the best informed decisions.

Democracy consists of four basic elements:

  1. Political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

I) Democracy as a Political System of Competition for Power:

Democracy is a means for the people to choose their leaders and to hold their leaders accountable for their policies and their conduct in office. The people decide who will represent them in parliament, and who will head the government at the national and local levels. They do so by choosing between competing parties in regular, free and fair elections.

Government is based on the consent of the governed. In a democracy, the people are sovereign. They are the highest form of political authority. Power flows from the people to the leaders of government, who hold power only temporarily.

Laws and policies necessitate majority support in parliament, but the rights of minorities are protected in various ways. The people are free to disapprove their elected leaders and representatives, and to observe how they conduct the business of government.

Elected representatives at the national and local levels should listen to the people and respond to their needs and suggestions.

Elections have to occur at regular intervals, as prescribed by law. Those in power cannot extend their terms in office without asking for the consent of the people again in an election.

For elections to be free and fair, they have to be administered by a neutral, fair, and professional body that treats all political parties and candidates equally.

All parties and candidates must have the right to campaign freely, to present their proposals to the voters both directly and through the mass media.

Voters must be able to vote in secret, free of intimidation and violence.

Independent observers must be able to observe the voting and the vote counting to ensure that the process is free of corruption, intimidation, and fraud.

There needs to be some impartial and independent tribunal to resolve any disputes about the election results.

II) Participation: The role of the citizen in a democracy:

Major role of citizens in a democracy is to participate in public life.

Citizens have responsibility to become informed about public issues, to watch cautiously how their political leaders and representatives use their powers, and to express their own opinions and interests.

Voting in elections is another important public duty of all citizens.

But to vote intelligently, each citizen should listen to the opinions of the different parties and candidates, and then make his or her own decision on whom to support.

Participation can also involve campaigning for a political party or candidate, standing as a candidate for political office, debating public issues, attending community meetings, petitioning the government, and even protesting.

Major participation comes through active membership in independent, non-governmental organizations, what we call “civil society.”

These organizations signify a variety of interests and beliefs: farmers, workers, doctors, teachers, business owners, religious believers, women, students, human rights activists.

In a society, women must participate fully both in politics and in civil society.

To do this, civil society organizations must have to educate women about their democratic rights and responsibilities, improve their political skills, represent their common interests, and involve them in political life.

In a democracy, participation in civic groups should be voluntary. No one should be forced to join an organization against their will.

Political parties are vital organizations in a democracy, and democracy is solider when citizens become active members of political parties.

Nonetheless, no one should support a political party because he is stressed or threatened by others. In a democracy, citizens are free to choose which party to support.

Democracy depends on citizen participation in above manner. But participation must be peaceable, respectful of the law, and tolerant of the different views of other groups and individuals.

III) The Rights of Citizens in a Democracy:

In an egalitarianism, every citizen has some basic rights that the state cannot take away from them.

These rights are guaranteed under international law.

Citizens have the right to have their own beliefs, and to speak and write what they think.

There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.

Every individual has the right to follow their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.

There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.

Citizens can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television. They have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of their own choice, including trade unions.

Citizens are free to move about the country.

Citizens have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions.

However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others.

IV) The Rule of Law:

Democracy is a system of rule by laws, not by people.

In a democracy, the rule of law guards the rights of citizens, maintains order, and limits the power of government. All citizens are equal under the law. No one may be discriminated against on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. No one may be arrested, imprisoned, or exiled arbitrarily.

If people are detained, they have the right to know the charges against them, and to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law. No one may be taxed or prosecuted except by a law established in advance. Torture and cruel and inhumane treatment are absolutely forbidden.

The rule of law places limits on the power of government. No government official may violate these limits. No ruler, minister, or political party can tell a judge how to decide a case. Office holders cannot use their power to enrich themselves. Independent courts and commissions punish corruption, no matter who is guilty.

V) The Limits and Requirements for Democracy:

If there is democracy in country, citizens must not only participate and exercise their rights. They must also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct.

People must respect the law and reject violence. Nothing ever justifies using violence against political opponents. Every citizen must respect the rights of his or her fellow citizens, and their dignity as human beings. No one should condemn a political opponent as evil and illegitimate, just because they have different views. People have a right to question the decisions of the government, but not discard the government’s authority. Every group has the right to practice its culture and to have some control over its own affairs, but each group should accept that it is a part of a democratic state.

Different Models of Democracy:

Representative Democracy: A representative democracy is described as a system of government in which all qualified citizens vote on representatives to pass laws for them.

People elect their representatives to power to run the government for them. Representative democracy works in a particular way. People group themselves into political parties according to their views and purposes. These parties choose their candidates. During the campaign before an election they announce to the people their would-be programmes and policies. This is known as the ‘party manifesto’.

Some people contest elections as independent candidates too, if they do not wish to join any political party. The role of political parties is vital in a democratic system. The members of political parties keep the people informed about important issues by holding public meetings, for either supporting or opposing the policies of the government. Thus, the political parties help the people in knowing what they should expect and in turn mould the public opinion.

Representative democracy is type of democracy founded on the norm of elected people representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. In modern democratic states, representatives are voted for by, and are ultimately accountable to the electorate. Different methods of selecting representatives are described in the article on electoral systems, but often a number of representatives are elected by, and responsible to, a particular subset of the total electorate: this is called his or her constituency. The representatives form an independent ruling body charged with the responsibility of acting in the people's interest, with enough authority to exercise swift and resolute initiative in the face of changing circumstances.

Representative Democracy is typically associated with Liberal Democracy which describes the political system which originated in the USA and Western Europe and has subsequently been adopted in numerous Third World countries and may gradually be well established in the former USSR and its former satellites in Eastern Europe. Liberal Democratic regimes may be classified as either Presidential or Parliamentary systems and there are also important variations within these broad categories.

Representative democracies are based upon numerous interconnected principles:

  1. The existence of regular, free, fair elections based upon universal suffrage and secret ballots.
  2. The existence of competing political parties offering electoral choice.
  3. The existence of electoral laws supervised by an independent judiciary.
  4. Freedom of speech and association.
  5. Freedom to stand as an election candidate.
  6. “Reasonable” relationships between votes cast and representatives elected.
  7. Availability of accurate unbiased political information.

It can be established that the main intent of representative democracy is to protect the rights and interests of the citizens in the country, this is accomplished by giving them a strong voice within the government.

Major benefits of representative democracy:

Following are the advantages of Representative Democracy:

  1. Citizen Representation: In this type of government, the people have the say in who is elected into any form of government office. These elected officials then make decisions based on what the people want, and in the best interest of majority of people. They represent the citizens in ways that they could not do for themselves.
  2. A Place to Turn To: By having elected officials in all areas of the country, if someone has an issue that they think should be addressed or something that they feel should change, they can easily access their local official. These officials can then help them with their problems and guide them through the steps they need to take to get it to the next level of government.
  3. Great Participation: Knowing that they have a voice in the government urges people to be more educated and up to date on issues that are happening in the country as well as the world.

Main drawbacks of Representative Democracy:

  1. Misplaced Trust: Once the election process is over, the people’s voice in government is virtually done. They have to put their faith and trust in the person that they elect to communicate and do things that they’ve promised to do. This is hardly the case. Many times these elected officials have hidden agendas that are not in the best interest of the citizens.
  2. The Majority Rules: The election process of representative government focuses only on the majority. The minority groups, no matter how significant their issues may be, are rarely characterised simply because they do not have the majority of the votes to get an official into office. This causes a feeling of separation with these groups as well as feeling like their issues are not as important.
  3. No Accountability: Once elected, officials can do whatever they satisfy, and this often includes breaking campaign promises that they made to be elected in the first place. When things go wrong, or not in favour of the people, there are no repercussion for these officials. The only possible consequence that could come is that they would not be re-elected.

Participatory Democracy: Participatory democracy is a process that accentuate the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems. Democracy tends to support more involved forms of citizen participation than traditional representative democracy. Famous political scientists Macpherson and Pateman gave wide circulation to the concept participatory democracy.

Participatory democracy attempts to create opportunities for all members of a population to make expressive contributions to decision-making, and seeks to increase the range of people who have access to such opportunities. Since so much information must be gathered for the overall decision-making process to succeed, technology may provide important forces leading to the type of empowerment needed for participatory models, especially those technological tools that enable community narratives and correspond to the accretion of knowledge.

In the start of the 1960s, participatory theorists and practitioners spelled out a conception of democracy based on the principle that citizens participating in collective decision-making on matters that affect their lives should be “an integral moral value of contemporary democratic theory” (Bachrach 1975. For them, since any social relation is “political” in that it revolves around a structure of authority increasing and extending the scope of participation and political equality involves democratizing society. Society can be seen as being composed of various political systems, the structure of authority of which has an important effect on the psychological qualities and attitudes of the individuals who interact with them. Thus, for the operation of a democratic polity at national level, the necessary qualities in individuals can only be developed through the democratization of authority structures in all political systems” (Pateman 1970). Due to this, “it is important that individuals take all the possible chances to participate” (Gbikpi,2005). “Full participation” designates thus a process wherein “each individual member of a decision-making body has equal power to determine the outcome of decisions” (Pateman 1970).

Many researchers argue for refocusing the term on community-based activity within the domain of civil society, based on the belief that a strong non-governmental public sphere is a precondition for the emergence of a strong liberal democracy. These scholars tend to stress the value of separation between the realm of civil society and the formal political realm. In 2011, considerable grassroots interest in participatory democracy was generated by the Occupy movement.

Aims of Participatory Democracy:

The aims of participatory democracy have been best defined by Rousseau. If the law and general administration is meant for the people, it is reasonable that behind this law and running the administration there shall lie the consent of the people. He believed, “Every law the people has not ratified in person is null and void”. He also thought that the introduction of representative system was nothing but a device to insult the people’s power of reason and his intelligence. So it is the only form of government that recognizes the value and other qualities of human beings. Mill developed different impression about participative democracy. He construed that through the participatory democracy the development of human being can be achieved. Supporting Mill’s view Pateman stated that “It enhances a sense of political efficacy, reduces a sense of estrangement from power centres, nurtures a concern for collective problems and contributes to the formation of an active and well-informed citizenry capable of taking a more acute interest in government affairs”.

Lynd conferred that participatory democracy proposes to accomplish two specific goals. One is that each individual takes part in all decisions affecting the quality and conduct of his/her life and that society is arranged to promote the independence of human beings and to provide the means for their common participation” (Lynd 1965). This means that the participatory ideal can be interpreted as a design of social inclusion, which aims at institutionalizing a new democratic dominion relying on the dialectic between civil society and the political system (Santos 2002). Santos maintained that “democracies must transform themselves in social movements, in the sense that State must transform itself in an open space of cultural experimentation” (Santos 2002. In similar way, Claude Lefort envisages modern democracy as an “empty place” that possesses no definitive goals or rather, it possesses many such goals but none can succeed “in being accepted as the incarnation of the people-as-one” (Cunningham 2002, 186). Therefore, participatory principles can best adhere to the dynamics of liberal society.

The most important aim of participatory democracy is to make people interested in the political, legal and economic processes of the state. Through this they will learn to think that the state affairs are their own. In other words, it will make people more responsible. Every man has his own qualities and importance. Direct participation will be able to enlighten them. It’s another purpose is to kindle up the innovative qualities of man.

It can be established that participatory democracy is related to a very strong notion of popular independence, in so much as it conceives of grassroots participation as a way to constitute, demolish, and reconstitute “the category of the people”. In other words, this position does not simply assume “the fact” of the demos (as a pre-existing body with a shared identity) as the base for democratic politics. “It argues, instead, that the demos (the democratic 'we') is produced, although contingently, through democratic politics when the excluded demand to be included”. This indicates that radical democratic sovereignty validates an ongoing conflict between those politically included and those not for the “re-signification” of the boundaries and identity of demos itself (Ranciere 2007). In this viewpoint, democracy becomes “a project concerned with the political potentialities of ordinary citizens”; with their capacity to become “political beings” (Wolin1996).

Major characteristics of participatory democracy:

  1. The important trait of participatory democracy is people will have the opportunity to directly participate in the functions and decision-making processes of state and there shall be no provision for delegating power to another body or organ.
  2. At all stages of state administration (even local levels) people are the determining factors and that cannot be challenged or “done away with to facilitate representative system.
  3. Though Rousseau was the supporter of participatory democracy, he did not favour party system. In modern times, it is recommended that party system is essential for the smooth functioning of participatory democracy. Only political party can organise such democracy and lead it to the stage of success.
  4. A system which has accepted participatory democratic system remodels and remoulds the social and political structure so that democracy can function smoothly.
  5. Creation of institutions and organisation is not enough; in such a system there is an ever-vigilance to maintain these in suitable manner.
  6. Though unanimity is emphasised, to make this form of democracy workable, there shall be an option for majority decision system.
  7. In participatory democracy, equality is always stressed. Particularly political equality is the sine qua non of such democratic system.
  8. Rights, liberties are also equally highlighted.

Formally, participatory democracy is direct democracy in which all citizens are actively involved in all important decisions. The explanation commonly refers to movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Women’s Suffrage Movement that gather a group of people who democratically make decisions about the direction of the group. But the phrase “participatory democracy” has come to mean the right of citizens in a democracy to participate. Participating in a democracy by voting is one part of a larger freedom that allows the citizens of a community, and our nation, to make change. A free press is one part of a freedom because it gives citizens the right to be informed. But the part of a larger freedom that is often ignored, or underappreciated, is participation.

Political variants of participatory democracy include:

- Anticipatory democracy

- Consensus democracy

- Deliberative democracy

- Demarchy

- Direct democracy

- Grassroots democracy

- Non-partisan democracy

- Sociocracy

In brief, participatory approach addresses the “quantitative” dimension of mass democracy by highlighting the political role of civil society. It aims to find out “how many people take part in how many political venues to make how many decisions” (Citroni 2010). Accordingly, participatory theory holds and promotes the political inclusion of all individuals aiming at the enlargement and radicalization of democratic nationality.

Deliberative Democracy:

Deliberative democracy also called discursive democracy is a type of democracy in which deliberation is central to decision making. It embraces elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere voting, is the primary source of legitimacy for the law making processes.

Deliberative democracy is harmonious with both representative democracy and direct democracy. Some practitioners and theorists use the term to incorporate representative bodies whose members authentically deliberate on legislation without unequal distributions of power, while others use the term exclusively to refer to decision-making directly by lay citizens, as in direct democracy.

The term "deliberative democracy" was initially devised by Joseph M. Bessette in his 1980 work "Deliberative Democracy: The Majority Principle in Republican Government." The history of democracy dates back to the Romans and Athens, but the democratic forms have changed gradually and new theories resultant from the mother democracy such as deliberative democracy. In fact, traditional form of democracy mainly focuses on voting process when it comes to the issue of decision making and citizens’ participation in policy formulation. In deliberation, Cohen (1989) and Hebermas (1984) elucidated that the traditional theory of deliberation was based on equality, equity, and public goods; but, the modern theorists of deliberation more emphasize on the significance of deliberation on social aspects (Gastil, Black, & Lawra, 2008). In this reference, deliberative democracy involves citizens and stakeholders in the decision process in more broaden way.

Concept of deliberative democracy: Deliberation is an approach to decision-making in which citizens consider pertinent facts from various angles, converse with one another to think critically about options before them and increase their perspectives, opinions, and understandings.

Elster (1998) defines the notion of deliberative democracy as the process of making collective decisions through the engagement of all stakeholders by offering them a reason based discussion. In the same way, Cohen and Fung (2004) explained the concept as the relationship between citizens collective judgment with public policy decision which is derived from deliberation process. Chambers (2003) emphasize that in deliberative democracy, citizens engaging in formulating policies from all stages of policy making by offering various methods to overcome weak citizenship and combining each participant views to discover the best solution to policy issues rather than just giving citizens a chance to vote without participation.

Figure: Deliberative system (Neblo, 2015)
Deliberative system

Theorists like Rawls and Habermas seem to express a common core in their assertions on deliberative democracy. According to them, “political choice, to be legitimate, must be the outcome of deliberation about ends among free, equal, and rational agents” (Elster 1998). This infers that deliberative democracy rests on argumentation, not only in the sense that it proceeds by argument, but also in the sense that it must be justified by argument. The expectation is manifestly to tie the exercise of power to the condition of public reasoning: to establish “all those conditions of communication under which there can come into being a discursive formation of will and opinion and to generate communicative power”(Habermas 1992). Briefly, deliberative democracy recognises “the full and equal membership of all in the sovereign body responsible for authorizing the exercise of that power, and establishes the common reason and will of that body” (Elster 1998).

Table: Competitive Visions of Deliberative Democracy




Sites of Politics

State Institutions

State institutions, civil society

Political Acts


Conventional and unconventional

Forms of communication

Dispassionate and rationality-oriented


Rational, emotional, and rhetoric-oriented

Ends of democracy

Rational Consensus


Plural and different

Public outcomes

Discursive quality



Democratic legitimacy

Top-down deliberation


Bottom-up participation

Deliberative democracy reinforces citizen voices in governance by including people of all races, classes, ages and geographies in deliberations that directly affect public decisions. As a consequence, citizens’ influence and can see the result of their influence on the policy and resource decisions that impact their daily lives and their future.

Deliberative democracy rests on the concept of citizens and their representatives deliberating about public problems and solutions under conditions that are favourable to reasoned reflection and refined public judgment; a mutual willingness to understand the values, perspectives, and interests of others; and the possibility of reframing their interests and perspectives in light of a joint search for common interests and mutually acceptable solutions.

It is often mentioned to as an open discovery process, instead of a ratification of fixed positions, and as potentially transforming interests, rather than simply taking them as given. Unlike much liberal pluralist political theory, deliberative democracy does not assume that citizens have a fixed ordering of preferences when they enter the public sphere. Rather, it assumes that the public sphere can create opportunities for forming, refining, and revising preferences through discourse that takes multiple perspectives into account and orients itself towards mutual understanding and common action.

With mass participation, deliberation becomes so cumbersome that it becomes difficult for each participant to contribute substantially to the discussion. Professor James Fishkin argues that random sampling to get a small but representative sample of the general population can mitigate the trilemma, but notes that the resulting decision making group is not open to mass participation. Deliberative democracy in its biggest usage today means expanding the opportunities of citizens themselves to deliberate.

This is meant to respond to several kinds of problems:

Deliberative democracy introduces a different kind of citizen voice into public affairs than that associated with raw public opinion, simple voting, narrow advocacy, or protest from the outside. It promises to nurture a responsible citizen voice capable of appreciating complexity, recognizing the legitimate interests of other groups (including traditional adversaries), generating a sense of common ownership and action, and appreciating the need for difficult trade-offs. Major argument of deliberative democratic theory is that the process of deliberation itself is a key source of legitimacy, and hence an important resource for responding to our crisis of governance.

To summarize, democracy is a perfect and a set of institutions and practices. It revealed two simple principles such as the members of any group or association should have the determining influence and control over its rules and policies, through their participation in deliberations about the common interest and in doing so they should treat each other, and be treated, as equals. It can be said that democracy is a political system based on representative government, citizen participation in the political process, freedom and transparency of political acts and process in general. Democracies are states where the rights of the people are concerned, guaranteed and protected. Democracy enables people with a choice. People also have a choice as to whether to adopt a democratic approach in their own states. Different nations have different aims which would have been achieved through different political setting.