This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. The chapter proceeds to explain why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism. It documents the contemporary malaise experienced by democracy and seeks to explain its perceived weaknesses as a form of rule. Finally, the chapter describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy.
This chapter examines key aspects of democratic theory. It first defines what democracy means and traces the historical evolution of the term, from the time of the ancient Greeks to the French and American revolutions up to the nineteenth-century, when democracy began to take on more popular connotations in theory and practice. The chapter goes on to discuss the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy. It also considers alleged problems with democracy — relating to majoritarianism, its impact on economic efficiency, and its relationship with desired outcomes — before concluding with an analysis of the new directions democratic theory has taken in recent years, including associative, deliberative, cosmopolitan, and ecological versions of democracy.
This chapter considers the question of what sort of state and government we should have. A common assumption is that only a democracy is ever fully justifiable. Anything else — a tyranny, an aristocracy, an absolute monarchy — lacks justification. But what is a democracy? Is it really so attractive? The chapter explores some of the most fundamental problems in formulating democratic theory before looking at arguments for and against democracy itself. It first examines the tension between the idea of democracy as a system of ‘majority rule’, and the idea of democratic ‘consideration for individuals’. It then analyses Plato's arguments against democracy, focusing on his use of the so-called craft analogy to defend his position, along with his concept of guardianship. It also discusses Jean-Jacques Rousseau's notion of the general will and concludes with an overview of representative democracy.
Patrick Bernhagen and Angelika Vetter
This chapter provides an overview of political participation, ranging from conventional forms such as voting at elections to less conventional forms such as attending a demonstration or boycotting a brand for political reasons. The authors look at how voter turnout and protest participation have developed in recent decades and review the main theoretical explanations for differences and trends in participation between social groups and across European democracies. The chapter also considers new opportunities for participation at the local level and asks whether these have the potential to ameliorate or exacerbate existing problems of unequal participation.