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Tony Benn on democracy:
Watch the entire film on YouTube!

Democracy as a Natural Order
Democracy is any form of government in which the rules of
society are decided by the people who will be bound by
That was the original system of making decisions for
society primitive democracy which exists for tens of
thousands of years before the rise of the state
When the state appears 5,000 years ago, it seeks to take
the decision-making power away from society
Then, democracy becomes a way of trying to restrain state
power and put the state under the peoples control
*Catherine Kellogg, Democratic Theory, in: Janine Brodie and Sandra Rein, Critical
Concepts: An Introduction to Politics.

John Keane highlights 3 overlapping epochs in the historical
development of democracy
Phase One, Assembly Democracy starting around 2,500 BCE, in
lands now within the territories of Iran, Iraq and Syria
During the first phase of democracy the seeds of its basic
institution self-government through an assembly of equals
were scattered across many different soils and climes, ranging
from the Indian subcontinent and the prosperous Phoenician
empire to the western shores of provincial Europe. These
popular assemblies took root, accompanied by various ancillary
institutional rules and customs, like written constitutions, the
payment of jurors and elected officials, the freedom to speak in
public, voting machines, voting by lot and trial before elected or
selected juries. There were efforts as well to stop bossy leaders
in their tracks, using such methods as the mandatory election of
kings (The Life and Death of Democracy, p.xvi)
Best-known example Athens, 5
century BCE

Athenian democracy
Direct democracy: citizens participated directly in initiating,
deliberating, and passing of, the legislation. The Assembly,
no less than 6,000 strong (out of 22,000 citizens of Athens),
convened about every 10 days. Supreme power to decide
on every issue of state policy
Citizen juries: justice is responsibility of citizens (juries
composed of 501-1001 citizens)
Appointment of citizens to political office by lot
Citizen-soldiers: every citizen had a duty to serve in the army
Ostracism: a bad politician could be kicked out of office by the
*See Patrick Watson and Benjamin Barber, The Struggle for Democracy. Toronto: Lester and Orpen Dennys
Ltd., 1988, p.12

Phase Two: Representative Democracy
Starts around 10th-12th centuries in Western Europe with
the invention of parliamentary assemblies
Reaches its classic forms in the 18
century. Officially
regarded as normative today.
Marquis dArgenson, Foreign Minister of French King Louis
XV, 1765:
False democracy soon collapses into anarchy. It is
government of the multitude; such is a people in revolt,
insolently scorning law and reason. Its tyrannical despotism
is obvious from the violence of its movements and the
uncertainty of its deliberations. In true democracy, one acts
through deputies, who are authorized by election; the
mission of those elected by the people and the authority that
such officials carry constitute the public power.
(Keane, p. xviii)

Phase Three: Monitory Democracy (term coined by John
Started after World War II
Invention of about 100 power-monitoring devices which had
never existed before
Increase citizen ability to control the state which is organized
on the basis of representative democracy
Public integrity commissions
Judicial activism
Local courts
Workplace tribunals
Citizens assemblies
Think tanks
The Internet

The Classical Theory of Democracy
The triple meaning:
Democracy as source of state authority power of the
Democracy as the purpose of government the common
Democracy as a method of choosing political leaders by
the people
Abraham Lincoln: Government of the people, by the people,
and for the people (1863)
Also from Lincoln (1861): This country, with its institutions, belongs to the
people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing
government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it,
or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.

Joseph Schumpeter, 1942:
The classical theory is too broad and vague. It is much
more practical to narrow the meaning of democracy
to the method:
The democratic method is
that institutional arrangement for arriving at political
in which individuals acquire the power to decide
by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples
*Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper,
1947, p.269

2 major dimensions of the democratic method:*
contestation free and fair competition between
participation all adult citizens have the right to vote
The use of this method requires the freedoms of:
expression, to speak publicly and publish ones
assembly, to gather for political purposes
association, to form political organizations
*Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1971; Samuel Huntington, The
Third Wave. Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century.
University of Oklahoma Press, 1991

In contemporary politics, the term democracy is used
mostly in the Schumpeterian, rather than classical,
Representative democracy
Electoral democracy
Formal democracy
The people elect a government and keep it
Robert Dahl: It is more precise to call it polyarchy (rule
by many, meaning more than 3 persons) rather than

Democracys Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20
NY: Freedom House, 2001

Democracys Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20
NY: Freedom House, 2001

Since 1900, the number of internationally recognized
independent states has grown
from 55 to nearly 200
Today, governments in 120 countries are formed by
democratic method
62.5% of the worlds population live in those countries

Key events which led to this expansion:
The defeat of fascism in World War 2 (1939-45)
The fall of Western colonial empires (1950s-70s)
The fall of Western authoritarian regimes in Southern
Europe and Latin America (1970s-1980s)
The fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and
the Soviet Union (1989-91)

A 21
Century Democratic Paradox
Democracy is accepted as the normal and even
normative - form of government more widely in the
world than ever before
And yet, the real scope of democratic practices is very
The sea of democracy has never been wider.
But it is very shallow

Global public opinion on democracy:

The global
deficit, 2008:

|Americans trusting or distrusting their government