Direct & representative democracy

Bullet point notes on direct & representatice democracy and the benefits of each.

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Types of democracy ­ Direct democracy
If we trace back the origins of democracy itself, we find that direct democracy was indeed
the first form extensively used, dating back to the Athenian State in 500 BCE. This would
have involved self governance through mass meetings and high levels of popular
While high levels of participation should be encouraged amongst citizens and was in Athens,
those who were viewed as citizens constituted a tiny percentage of the total population ­
with slaves (60% of those who lived in Athens), women and men who were immigrants not
being seen as citizens.
In modern politics, there are few forms of direct democracy on a widespread or mass scale,
or as the primary form of government, however it has become to be used as a supplement
to representative democracy which has suffered from increasing disillusionment and popular
apathy (in the wake of things such as the Iraq War and Expenses Scandal). Referndums have
mainly been used as the most common form of direct democracy, however proposals to
improve participation include compulsory voting, citizen's juries and electronic/digital voting.
The basis of direct democracy is one of continuance and direct involvement by the population
in the governance of the state that they live in, with the aim for their to be no distinction
between the government and the people.
- `Direct' because the policies are made by and voted on by the people
- Unmediated as there is no separate class of politicians
- Continuous as people engage in politics on a regular basis
As well as Athens, there have been other historical societies that has used direct democracy
as the primary form of governance such as the Paris Commune in 1871. Today it is primarily
used in small communities and activist organisations (in the form of consensus decision
Benefits of direct democracy
There is no separate political class that is distinct from the people ­ they are the ones
making the laws they will have to obey. They are acting as a collective to create their
own economic, and consequently social conditions, and are politically self determined &
autonomous ­ they very essence of freedom.
As well as being good for society, it also greatly aids individual development, leading to
a vastly more politically aware society as a whole because people have to consider each
issue for themselves. People develop a deeper understanding of the society they live in,
both the politics that effect it at the present and the type of politics that would need to
effect to bring about the formation of society they want.
There is no longer a need for a political class/elite who claim to be serving in the
interests of the state but often merely serve their own or that of multinational
corporations, it is a true government of the people, not one merely acting in the name

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Direct democracy leads to more likelihood of stable government as it has far greater
legitimacy than an elected body of officials and career politicians ­ they are decisions
that have been decided on by those who are required to follow them.
Representative democracy
Individuals are elected into a position of power and can therefore claim to `represent' the
interests of the people who's votes brought them into office ­ it is a form of rule largely by
professional politicians.…read more


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