This chapter discusses the definitions of democracy, which have evolved over time. Although the concept of democracy appears straightforward, this is not necessarily the case. The first approach to defining democracy was the minimalist approach, or those definitions of democracy that focus primarily on the competitiveness of elections. The second approach was the maximalist approach, which holds that democracy must be viewed as more than the presence of regularly held, competitive elections. In addition to repeated, competitive elections, supporters of a maximalist approach include a variety of other attributes in their definitions of democracy. Some of the criteria are procedural (the rule of law, participation, and accountability), while others are substantive (equality and political and civil liberties). Ultimately, clear and consistent frameworks for democracy can provide objective warning signs and early indicators of democratic backsliding. The chapter then explores the four prominent models of democracy: protective, pluralist, participatory, and deliberative.
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.
Cristina Leston-Bandeira and Aileen Walker
This chapter examines why the UK Parliament has invested heavily in public engagement over the last decade. Since the 1960s, the UK Parliament has been facilitating public engagement through a variety of ways. However, it is also an institution which is far more vulnerable and criticized by both the public and media. The chapter first defines public engagement before discussing the importance of parliamentary public engagement today. Four key inter-related factors that explain the rise in the importance of public engagement for parliaments are highlighted: the steady trend of increasing scepticism towards politics; the improved access to education and information; the increased opportunities created by digital media; and the growing appeal of participatory democracy. The chapter goes on to analyse how public engagement developed in Parliament and asks whether this has led to changes in public attitudes towards the institution.