Democracy -Unit 1

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·         Defined as a system of government where people either make decisions themselves regarding politics or have direct influence upon them

·         In a democracy people have free access to information

·         Government is elected and is accountable to the people

·         The rule of law applies

·         There is a peaceful transfer of power from one government to the next

·         Government is carried on in the interests of the people

·         There is a high degree of political freedom

·         Example -UK and USA


Direct Democracy:

·         The people make decisions themselves

·         People are directly consulted when government makes decisions (also called consultative democracy)

·         People themselves determine what decisions should be considered (known as initiatives)

·         Examples – referendums in the UK on Devolution, citizens` juries on various issues, initiatives in various states within the USA


Defining Power:

·         Power refers to the ability of an individual or institution to force people to act in a certain way

·         Coercive power refers to the use of force such as terror, prison, execution etc. as sanctions (the state holds these powers)

·         Political power refers to the use of rewards, sanctions and the acquisition of consent to behave in a certain way. The government holds this kind of power

·         Influence is considered to be a weak form of power, referring to the ability to influence how people behave, but not being able to force them to do anything. The media has this kind of power over the public and government.


Defining Authority:

·         Authority refers to the right to exercise power

·         Authority is granted by those over whom power is to be exercised

·         The most common form of authority is legal-rational, usually by election. Parliament is an example of elective authority.

·         Traditional authority refers to authority which is valid because it has lasted over many generations. Most monarchies have traditional authority

·         Charismatic authority refers to authority gained through the force of one`s personality and ability to command a following. Individuals such as Margaret Thatcher enjoyed this kind of authority.

Defining Legitimacy:

·         This is closely related to authority

·         It refers to the degree to which a body or government can be justified in exercising power.

·         An argument can be made to say that the House of Commons is legitimate because it is elected while the House of Lords isn`t because it is unelected

·         Despite this, the legitimacy of British government can be questioned because it is always elected on less than a majority of the votes.

·         A foreign regime may be legitimate because its government is widely recognised, but legitimacy is questioned – as with Kosovo


Explaining Representation:

·         People elect / appoint representatives to make decisions on their behalf instead of


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