democracy and participation


what do we mean by 'democracy'?

how are decisions made in the UK, and who makes them?

  • EU referendum- example of direct democracy
  • not all decisions in the UK are made this way
  • most are made through representative democracy- people vote for representatives to make decisions on their behalf

why are most decisions made this way?

  • people do not have time to vote on everything that goes through parliament
  • elections are expensive
  • people do not have the knowledge and expertise that politicians do
  • would take longer to pass laws
  • turnout would be low

has 'the people' always meant the same thing?

  • no- 'the people' used to mean the electorate
  • now the meaning is sometimes 'the working class' or 'the masses'
  • 'we've had enough of experts'
  • 'take back control'

types of democracy

  • liberal- the right to vote will be widespread and representatives will act in the interests of everyone in society
  • majoritarian- the will or desires of the majority of the population are the prime consideration of the government
  • parliamentary- parliament stands as the highest form of authority; the executive branch will be drawn from and accountable to the people's representatives in parliament
  • presidential- the executive will be elected separately from the legislative body and is therefore chosen by and directly accountable to the people
  • direct- any occasion when the citizrns are directly involved in the decision making process
  • representative- the people transfer the power to make decisions to an elected representative
  • pluralist- a wide dispersal of power among competing groups; no elite groups; groups will be internally democratic; group leaders will be accountable to their members; range of access points; government should be politically neutral

what are the functions of democracy?


  • a means of the people being able to put their views to the government of the day
  • MPs, referendums


  • a process by which the government of the day can be made to explain and take responsibility for its actions
  • scrutinisation, select committees, oral/written questions


  • a way in which the people can be engaged and take part in the political process
  • elections, referendums

power dispersal

  • a system that ensures power is spread across different political bodies to avoid one body becoming overly dominant
  • house of commons, house of lords, monarch, judiciary


  • the process for the selection of the different branches of government should have legal authority and fairly represent the will of the people
  • turnout, mandates, majority


  • the political process should be open to all and there should be an educated and informed citizenry who are able to understand the issues and make informed decisions
  • TV debates, party political broadcasts

how effective are different types of democracy?

direct democracy

  • mainly used by autocratic regimes to get the answer they want
  • devices for despots and dictators
  • put an issue to bed for a generation
  • result itself is subject to interpretation
  • negative voting can be seen as either an indication of satisfaction with the status quo or as a rejection of the politicians putting the idea forward


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