Government & Politics A2 : Democracy

  • Created by: Thomas
  • Created on: 11-10-11 16:49

Direct Democracy – Athenian model. 5th century BC, 40,000 male citizens, 40 assembly meetings a year, majority wins in votes, directly determined laws. 

  • Principles surviving in modern democracy: 
    • all citizens have right to vote and stand for office 
    • duty of all citizens to actively participate 
    • decisions should be made by majority vote 
  • Principles not surviving in modern democracy 
    • untrained, unelected executive 
    • randomly chosen presiding officer with 1 day term 

Today's society is too large for direct democracy and it needs time, commitment and informed citizens (in Ancient Athens, most were illiterate and ill-educated). We now use referendums (e.g. Switzerland, top down, government decides wording & timing & if it even happens) and initiatives (e.g. some US states, bottom up), as well as internet petitions (, online consultations e.g. on FoI, and a “People's Panel” (conducted by MORI on behalf of government.

Representative Democracy – people choose someone else to make decisions for them e.g. UK, USA. Representative is still accountable (see Burke – voting by conscience (or party line), not wishes of constituents). Not particularly representative as MPs overwhelmingly white, male, middle class and over 50. Electoral system may disadvantage smaller parties. Undermined by referenda and the Lords. 

Participatory Democracy – a compromise between representative democracy and direct democracy through use of public inquiries, advisory referendums and consultative bodies 
Totalitarian Democracy – people can only vote for carefully selected party officials e.g. Iraq under Saddam, Cuba under Raul / Fidel Castro Liberal

Democracy – Limited Government (powers exercised within parameters laid down in constitution), government, rights of people stressed (i.e. civil liberties paramount), rule of law prevails, wide variety of beliefs tolerated (so long as they don't threaten state or peace of the community), political participation encouraged (inc. universal suffrage), minimum state interference in markets, state should play a 'night watchman' role i.e. safety net, free and fair elections, government's job is to remove obstacles to individual wellbeing. Political authority based on popular consent. A type of representative democracy e.g. UK, USA 

Pluralist Democracy – most modern idea about how Western democracies function. People represented by membership of various groups e.g. pressure groups 

Socialist Democracy – where state operate various mechanisms to try and improve equality e.g. welfare state e.g. German constitution states right to protection by welfare state

Democracy is . . .

  • a system where the power is ultimately in the hands of the people 
  • a political system organised on the basis that the government should serve the interests of the people

Two Fundamental Principles: 

  • Popular Control – rules and policies of society controlled by all members 
  • Political Equality – all members of society have equal influence over how rules are drawn up <p>

British Parliamentary Democracy – parliamentary democracy (parliamentary sovereignty, government drawn from parliament, government accountable to parliament, all laws passed by parliament, redress of grievances, guardian of mandate, represents the national interest) , representation based on party government, free and fair general elections (FPTP) min. every 5 years (not fixed term), universal suffrage, freedom…


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