The formation of some form of government is considered essential to the human civilization. As per the Cambridge Dictionary (2020), a government is a body of individuals that officially control all decisions about a specific county. It is a particular system that manages the affairs of a nation, state, city or political unit (Cambridge Dictionary, 2020). It should be noted that the government of a country can be of various types, from monarchy to democracy. Over the years, the system of democratic governments has become the most popular form of government in the entire world; and almost 57% of the countries in the world are democracies of some kind while only 21% are autocracies (Desilver, 2019). This essay will focus solely on the democratic form of government, what it means and how many different models of democracy exist. Along with that, the essay will compare these different models and determine which model is better suited to the current times.
Democracy as a form of government refers to a system where the representatives of a particular state are elected by the people of that particular state (UNESCO, 2020). The word is used to define a political system where the laws, policies and leadership are directly or indirectly determined by the people of the state. These individuals elect representative members through elections who then make all the major decisions for the country (UNESCO, 2020). States with democratic governments place the power in the hands of the citizens of the state, that not only promises individual fundamental rights but also guarantees a higher level of political equality (US History, 2020). In a democratic country, the citizens are given the power to elect their representatives who then make decisions on their behalf. However, the extent to which a country is considered democratic depends upon various factors like how the representatives are elected, how often they are elected, the extent of the freedom of expression and information that is given to the citizens, the inclusiveness of the citizenship and the rights to form organizations that are given to the citizens (Strömbäck, 2005).
There exist several models of democracy, and each model has its characteristics and ways of functioning. The three normative models of democracy are liberal, republican and procedural (Dooley & Kearney, 2001). According to Dooley and Kearney (2001), the liberal model, also referred to as the “Lockean view”, focuses on the separation in between the powers held by the state representatives. In a liberal form of government, the people of the state express their consent towards the state representatives who then provide the people with individual rights and duties. Liberal democracies are characterized by humongous political participation by the state residents, frequent elections and the performance of secret ballots, limited powers vested in the government officials that is restricted by the constitution and various rights and responsibilities that are provided to the residents (Bollen, 1993). Liberal democracies are essentially constitutional democracies, where the constitution is upheld at any point in time and all the written rules of the constitution are respected and followed (Bollen, 1993). However, in recent times it has been highlighted that liberal forms of democracy face various challenges including challenges from ethnonational autocracies and individuals who are against the collaboration of liberalism and democracy (Galston, 2018). Increasing individuals think that liberal policies and norms not only weaken the democracy but also harms the rights of the people (Galston, 2018).
On the other hand, in a republican democracy, the political procedures involve much more than just a mediating function. A democratic republic government has adopted principles from both, a republic and a democracy (Baker, 2001). This form of government favours a strict interpretation of the constitution that grants the state representatives various rights over the rights of the citizens. Along with that, the republic democracy lays the special significance of the citizens of the state (Baker, 2001). The government is characterized by consensus and mutual understanding amongst the citizens. The way the citizens are viewed by the government is different for republic and liberal democracies.
Procedural democracy is a term that is utilized to denote a form of government that uses regular elections based on universal suffrage (right to vote given to adult citizens regardless of their background) to produce a legitimate government. Though this sounds like the ideal definition of a democracy, it should be noted that the term “procedural democracy” is often used to denote a situation where the appearance of democracy is given to a particular state via the use of elections whereas, in truth, the power of the state is held by a small group of elite members who manipulate the democratic processes (Fails, 2009). Evidently, procedural democracy also does not put any demands on the citizens regarding their participation in the voting procedures, participation in public life and so on (Strömbäck, 2005). The citizens are usually not very socially and politically active and keep to themselves while maintaining the democratic rights and freedoms. An example of a procedural democracy is the influence the elite members of a society have on the electoral college in a particular nation (Khan Academy, 2020). In US history, there have been three presidential elections in which the people popularly elected one candidate for president, but the other candidate won the Electoral College and therefore the presidency (Khan Academy, 2020).
The term procedural democracy is often used in contrast to participatory democracy, which is used to refer to a form of democracy that functions in the interest of the citizens, or others words is not only a democracy by appearance but is a democracy in its true sense (Fails, 2009). Participatory or substantive democracy is manifested by equal participation of all groups in the society with certain exceptions. This type of democracy is also referred to as functional demography (Loh, 2009). Unlike procedural democracy, participatory democracy highly values the public life of individuals along with a system of political equality and tolerance (Strömbäck, 2005). The citizens are encouraged to participate in community activities and collaborate to achieve their goals. There also exists formal democracy in contrast to substantive democracy where certain relevant forms of democracy exist but are not managed democratically in the actual sense. In such situations, the constitution of the state might be democratic but the management style might be bureaucratic. Formal democracy and procedural democracy are very closely related to one another.
An example of participatory democracy in today’s world is town hall meetings that are a way for local and national politicians to meet the citizens of a particular state and listen to their grievances and complaints along with recommendations (Khan Academy, 2020). Along with that, this also provides the politicians with a chance to engage with the citizens and discuss their ideologies with the same (Khan Academy, 2020).
Apart from these basic models, the other models of democracy include competitive democracy and deliberative democracy. Competitive demography is essentially a “realistic” model of democracy (Strömbäck, 2005). It is a form of government which involves a constant struggle and fight to win the majority vote of the citizens and subsequently acquire the power to run the state. The political candidates competing for the votes of the people of the electorate is the central idea of competitive demography (Strömbäck, 2005). This way, the political leaders are presented with a platform where they have to impress the citizens not only with their persona and thinking but also the kind of vision and plan they share for the future of the state. According to this model, the process of elections not only produces a government but also makes sure that the demands of the public are heard and makes it possible for people to give a mandate to the political alternative they prefer (Strömbäck, 2005). On top of that, this procedure also ensures that the final winner of the elections is the most qualified candidate of the lot. This procedure also acts as a filter in between the genuine candidates and the power-hungry individuals and enables the public to make an informed decision. The public holds the power to “throw the rascals out”, i.e. eliminate the unnecessary candidates (Strömbäck, 2005). However, this democracy also poses certain issues. Firstly, it is very important in competitive democracy for the citizens to not only be educated but also have opinions on the various issues faced by the country (Pildes, 2004). Further, they should be aware of the political processes that exist in the country. The citizens should not be fooled by a particular candidate and should always check the background of the candidate along with the authenticity in his words and actions (Pildes, 2004). As compared to procedural democracy, the expectations and duties that are placed upon the citizens are much higher. However, like procedural democracy, there is no pressure on the public to participate in the public life.
Deliberative democracy is a concept of democracy that is increasingly gaining importance in the world of democracy. It is a form of democracy where a collective decision regarding the government is taken by all the individuals who will be affected by their decisions, or their representatives. This includes various arguments that are offered by and to the participants who are rational and impartial in their decision making (Ryfe, 2005). In a deliberative democracy, various discussions held that ultimately lead to conclusions via a process that is impartial and honest (Ryfe, 2005). As Gutmann and Thompson (2009) write: ‘‘The core idea is simple: when citizens or their representatives disagree morally, they should continue to reason together to reach mutually acceptable decisions’’. Various decisions are weighted on their pros and cons and decisions are taken by the voice of reason in deliberative democracy. Ideally, a deliberative democracy consists of deliberative discussions at every stage in the society, between citizens, politicians, political institutions, and other parts of the society (Strömbäck, 2005). This also implies that it essential for the citizens to be politically active and well informed about various issues and situations that are faced by the country. Along with that, it is important to note that no one person can lead a discussion solely in a deliberative democracy.
All the different forms of democracy place different amounts of importance on the citizens of the country, while in some forms of democracy public activities are not encouraged or forced upon the citizens, in other democracies public activities and engagement are centric to the organization of the country. Along with that, different amounts of importance is placed on the citizens respecting the democratic procedures and having knowledge about the various political issues and processes in the society (Held, 2006). In reality, no form of democracy is perfect or free from any kind of corruption and all of them come with some faults of their own.
Another popular model of democracy is associative democracy. Associative democracy or “associationism” is essentially a form of government where the affairs of the society are managed by voluntary and self-governing associations (Hirst, 1996). It is a model of democracy that focuses on economic institutions, general principles and welfare provisions along with placing special focus on the presence of voluntary associations as primary vehicles of communications and social life within a democracy (Morgan, 1996). Associative democracy is a form of democracy where the complexity of state decisions is reduced by promoting self-governance by the means of voluntary associations. This form of government embodies a commitment towards not only social cooperation but also public well-being. Associative democracy brings together individuals from different political ideologies and unites them into various associations which then run the society by taking all the major decisions. The core idea of associative democracy is “to encourage of group representation that stands less sharply in tension with the norms of democratic governance” and “to curb faction through a deliberate politics of associations while netting such group contributions to egalitarian democratic governance” (Bader, 2001). What this essentially means is that associative democracy understands that groups organizations is an effective form of alternate governance as compared to the standard norms of democracy as it not only provides equal representation and proper education to citizens but also simplifies the process of governance of a nation (Bader, 2001). While associative democracy does have its flaws, it is widely considered as the future of democracy in the world. However, associative democracy is also very complicated in its way and requires years of perfection to run smoothly without any major conflicts. An example of associate form of government can be a cross-sectoral partnership (in between the government body and other organizations) or a multi-stakeholder forum that is essentially a partnership in between recipients and providers mainly funded through public means (Webb, 2011).
Out of all the models that this essay has covered, the deliberative model offers a much more balanced way of running a democracy. The deliberative democracy is best suited to today’s time and situation due to various factors. The deliberative model is not only very elaborate but also evidently very efficient.
Firstly, deliberative democracy is best suited to the current times due to the educative power in the process of public deliberation (Cooke, 2000). The deliberative democracy has multiple educative benefits on the citizens of a nation. The citizens are encouraged to participate in the public life and public affairs of their nation, which not only improves their opinions on state matters but might also lead to the formation of them on the first place (Cooke, 2000). Individuals gain a better knowledge of the laws, rules, regulations and other social issues and are subsequently able to participate in them. Via education and gaining information, the citizens are also able to get to the depth of social issues and question the steps that are being taken by a particular government.
Secondly, deliberative democracy also advocated fairness in power and consists of a community-generating power. Via the means of deliberation, the citizens become aware of social issues, consolidate and participate in community engagement programs. Such deliberations make citizens active members of the society that are seen constantly engaging in different activities (Bohman, 2007). Along with that, the procedures of public deliberation improve the outcome of democratic processes by making them more fair and just (Bohman, 2007). As the majority rule prevails in deliberative democracy, the candidates are forced to win the majority vote of the citizens by winning their trust and giving them the outcomes they desire. Through this process, it is ensured that the best candidate of the lot is elected while the incompetent and unnecessary candidates are expelled (Bohman, 2007). It is believed that rationality prevails from public deliberations and the observation power of the citizens improves.
Along with that, the structure of a deliberative democracy forces individuals to move beyond their self-interests and orient themselves into considering what the good for the general society (Bohman, 2007). When facing different opinions from different political leaders, the citizens are drawn into looking at the issue/claim from a macro-perspective and consider the implications a situation will have not only on the individuals themselves but on the society as a whole. This not only unites the citizens together into a community but also furthers unity amongst individuals. It should be noted that out of all the different models of democracy, the deliberative model of democracy is one of the few models that places the power in the hands of the people completely and values their opinions in all forms of decision making.
In conclusion, it can be stated that democracy as a form of government is very vast and consists of various shapes and forms. The face of democracy is different in different nations depending upon the economy of the state, the amount of power it possesses, the breakdown of society and the various rights that are given to the citizens. However, democratic governments are essential for the citizens as the candidates are elected on merit and not based on their bloodline. Over the years various countries like India have developed from being monarchies to being democracies and supporting the rights of the citizens. Democracy is the situation where the needs of the people are put above the needs of the government, provided corruption does not exist in the society. Out of all the various forms and models of democracy, it is important to acknowledge that each one of them has certain pros and cons. However, looking at the current times where the citizens are asking for an increasing number of rights and votes in the decisions about a particular country, the presence of deliberative democracy makes most sense. Deliberative democracy provides individuals with insights into political issues along with giving them a say in such matters.
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