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TOPIC 3

DEMOCRACY

3.1 Introduction and Definition/s 3.1.1. What is Democracy? - The term democracy = Greek words of demos (people) and kratos (rule) ; meaning rule by the people - Refers to various forms of rule of the people, i.e. i) direct, ii) participatory, and iii) representative - Basic distinction of the forms of democracy : i) direct (any type/form of government in which political decisions are directly made by the people) ; ii) indirect (any type/form of government in which political decisions are made on behalf of the people by representatives that are chosen by the people themselves to represent/champion their interests in government) - Abraham Lincolns definition = Government of the people, for the people, and by the people - Other related definitions and meanings: i) a form of governance and practices that allow the people to express their interests without hindrances/fear or favour ii) a political system where people are given the political choice to determine their ruler/government - Popular buzzword used by various types of political systems, including allegedly non-democratic ones i.e. DPRK - Various types of democracy, i.e. i) liberal democracy; ii) peoples democracy; iii) guided democracy; iv) a la carte democracy, v) Asianstyle democracy, etc. - That said, are the meanings and definitions of Democracy shared, objective, and universal, or otherwise?? - Because it is so popular, and everyone wants to be associated with it, there is little consensus over the exact meaning/s of democracy; modern political thinkers/philosophers differ/ disagree over the essence of democratic government - Democracy = highly subjective-normative-evaluative i.e. what is democratic is good, what is not, is bad makes the idea/ meanings/definitions of democracy even more nebulous/ convoluted

3.2. The Historical Background/Legacy of Democracy - existed and seriously thought about by philosophers for more than 2,500 years - practiced in some ancient Greek states i.e. Athens (though excluding women, non-citizens, slaves) - Greek philosophers i.e. Plato and Aristotle critical of the idea of democracy during the 4th century B.C. - Plato = democracya decadent form of government, and imperfect societyonly one notch better than tyranny; people must be properly educated and made politically aware so as to enable them to recognise/judge what is good and bad for the common interests/good; lack of education and political awareness = tendency to be manipulated = abuse of democracy (importance of literacy and education of the masses) - Plato = ability to rule is a rare skillneeds both talent and extensive expertise, hence, it is as irrational to let people have a say in how they are to be governed as it would be to let passenger navigate a ship at sea - Aristotle = rule based on principles of democracy not necessarily ideal (rule of people vs rule of law); tendency towards tyranny of the majority (Alexis de Tocqueville); social danger of democracy is that justice will be decided by the numerical majority and will be unjust towards minorities; Hence, ideal government = rule of law, and combination of philosopher king and people/demos - 15th Century = resurrected by Niccolo Machiavelli and other republicans and civic humanists in Italy - 16th Century = John Lilburne (and other levellers) linked idea of democracy to social equality; John Locke promoted democratic ideals and justification for revolution (anti-absolute monarchy) in his Second Treatise (see Two Treatises of Government - 1690); emergence of the social contract theory that established the foundation for modern [liberal] democracy - 18th Century = idea sharpened by the likes of Jean Jacque Rousseau (The Social Contract - 1762), Thomas Jefferson, Immanuel Kant, Baron de Montesquieu (Spirit of the Laws - on separation of powers), etc. led to famous democratic revolutions i.e. French Revolution (1789) and American Revolution (1776) - 19th Century = democratic ideas from thinkers like James Mill, John Stuart Mill (On Liberty 1859; Representative Government 1861),

Alexis de Tocqueville became central in the Western political landscape; promoted the ideas/virtues of liberal, individualistic, and minimal state (scope of state to be limited as narrowly as possible to prevent abuse, oppression, tyranny of the majority; etc). - 20th Century = democratization process political theory/practices dominated by goals of democracy, ideas of Joseph Schumpeter, Isaiah Berlin, John Rawl, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Nozick, etc. - Fall of global communism led to globalization and ascendancy of liberal democracy - Democracy = almost universally regarded to be the only form of legitimate rule by end of 20th century 3.3. The Social Conditions of Democracy - In the discussion of democracy, there is distinction between Democratic Government and Democratic Society - The former refers to political institutions of a particular society; the latter refers to the type of social institutions and civilisation = prerequisite for democratic government. This means the materialisation of democratic government = dependent on the existence of democratic society - Democratic society = democratic civilization (Lipson 1964); ideally should be i) industrial society (developed); ii) ethnically and culturally diverse to a significant extent; iii) market economy; iv) civil society; v) high level of social equality; vi) high literacy rate - However, such idealistic conditions refer more to Western Europe and North America (Developed Countries) - Important Questions = What about the developing/ underdeveloped/undeveloped world?; Can democratic govt be introduced, and is it practical?; Must economic reforms and market economy be the prerequisite?; How important is civil society to democratic politics? - The general conditions for the flourishing of democracy:i) political equality ii) political freedom iii) constitutionalism separation of powers/check-and balances iv) education correlation between literacy rate and political awareness = enhance democratic practices

v) vi) vii) viii)

political participation right/responsibility to vote, participate either directly or indirectly in governing; freedom to establish organizations (pro- or opposition/anti-establishment) equal and egalitarian society fair and balanced distribution of wealth/properties amongst citizens, economic/income gap = minimal political unity (in the face of diversity in values, beliefs, culture etc) tolerant society mutual respect, ability to negotiate and compromise (give and take) for harmonious resolution of societal problems/issues; key = from within the individual and not merely based on constitution/rule of law

3.4. Models of Democracy - In general, there are several models of democracy, which include:3.4.1. Classical Model (cf. Jacobs 1997:16) - holds that the best procedure for making political decision to serve the common good = peoples vote for individual candidate in elections, and successful candidates to assemble and carry out the peoples will (Schumpeter 1950:250) - Underlying assumption = people know best what is in the common good or public interest - Different ways how elected officials represent the people:i) as a delegate of the people convey views of constituents to a general assembly/parliament ii) act independently from constituents views, but still within what is perceived to be in the interest of the constituents - Classical model = elected reps. serve as delegates, and should not have independence in making own judgment about what is in the common good/public interests - Problems/Flaws of the Classical Model: i) Assumption that people are politically aware, educated, and genuinely do know whats in the public interest (definition of public interest is subjective in itself); however, in reality, people are concerned for the most part with their own self-interest, and the interest of those around them (family, ethnic group etc)

ii)

iii) iv)

Instead of elected officials forwarding the views of electorate, in reality, the actual process is mostly the other way around = the candidates offer different views of what is in the common good (i.e. election manifesto/platform), electorate endorse the views of whomever they elect. (meaning that peoples view influenced/ shaped by elected officials Presupposition of a consensus among the people whom the elected official represents (in reality, no such consensus = constituents tend to have diverse/conflicting views) Dubious claim that people will act on common good (not necessarily that policies for common good are popular, i.e. increase taxation to reduce governments spending deficit)

3.4.2. Elitist Model - rule of the few = political decisions in the hands of ruling elites to ensure efficiency in administration and policy-making; however, some measure of responsiveness to popular opinion are required - Underlying assumption = average citizen electorate/voters unable to know enough, or politically aware enough to make informed decisions, or participate intelligently in decision-making; - Hence, citizen involvement limited to voting for the competing elites, and chosen elites may make decisions that they perceive to be in the interests of the voters - Somewhat in tune with the enlightened despots/ruling oligarchy argument (also reflective of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle) - Critical of the classical model that it cannot work in the modern world (cumbersome process, reduces efficiency) 3.4.3. Pluralist Model - a democratic political system comprising various interests groups competing for power without one being predominant - deemed by advocate as the best system of representative democracy pluralism protects citizens from too much centralization/ concentration of power in too few hands; allows expression of diverse interests within society - Critics said: i) overriding goal of the competing elites is to stay in power, while all other values are secondary hence any value may be deemed

ii)

desirable and protected so long as it is to the political benefit of the competing groups. Exclusive in nature, competing groups tend to cooperate to maintain status quo of the system, and their place within it, to avoid emergence of new groups that may increase competition for power.

3.4.4. Participatory Model - attempt to increase level of participation by citizen in democratic process, not just in casting of votes, but to participate more directly in influencing decision-making and policies that affect daily life - seeks to move from representative democracy towards direct democracy - encourages greater public deliberation on issues - related to idea of deliberative democracy 3.5. Types of Democracy - Due to its nebulous/complex/subjective nature, there are many types/forms of democracy, which include, among others:3.5.1. Liberal Democracy - Deemed by some as the most ideal form of democracy; synonymous with the phrase of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and of the ideology of liberalism - Characteristics: i) open, free, and fair (and regular) elections, and right to (or not to) vote/participate; ii) rule of the majority; protection/safeguard of minority rights/interests; iii) uphold of civil society (i.e. role of interest/pressure groups, workers unions, etc) and civil rights, i.e. liberties/freedom of thought, speech, press, assembly, religion, movement, freedom from unlawful detention/detention without trial, etc.; iv) separation of powers legislative, executive, and judiciary, and checks and balances; v) decentralized political system; vi) individualism individual rights more important than that of the community; viii) right to hold property

3.5.2. Social Democracy - extension of the logic of liberal democracyto the realm of the private, where liberals deemed should not be subjected to democratic principles, i.e. economic realm (Gutmann 1999: 416) - Involves a degree of state interventionism in : i) economic decisionmaking of state (who gets what, when, how, how much) i.e. Keynesian economics; and ii) welfare state i.e. family matters, childcare, education, etc. 3.5.3. Guided Democracy 3.5.4. Totalitarian Democracy 3.5.5. A la carte Democracy 3.6. The Principles of Democracy - The generally/near-universally democracy are: i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) accepted basic elements of

citizen involvement in politics and decision-making system of representation rule of law electoral system free/fair elections based on the will of the majority rules some degree of equality among citizens education and literacy

3.6.1. Citizen Involvement - most basic characteristic of any democratic system (defining characteristic of democracy = citizens to be involved in political decision-making, either directly or through their chosen representative/s) - two approaches : 1) direct democracy citizens participate personally in deliberation and vote on issues; debate and vote on all laws

2)

representative democracy citizens choose/elect other citizens to represent their interests on their behalf

- Direct democracy = rarely practiced in the governing of a state in the contemporary world (only in ancient Greek states); however, does exist at lower levels, i.e. group, class, club, organisation, etc. - Representative democracy = normally practiced in larger political entities, i.e. local government, state-level, national-level elections - Other forms of citizen involvement: i) active participation in political parties/interest groups; ii) attending political meetings, public rallies, public hearings iii) conducting political discussions (privately/formally) iv) meeting public officials over issues v) advocating for/against specific electoral issues, i.e. environment, economic policy, etc. via petitions and referendums - Citizen involvement = important, makes citizen more aware of issues/expand political horizon; also inculcate sense of responsibility, belonging to a community - That said, tendency for political apathy = high, i.e. poor voter turnout in elections (possibly due to the right to not vote) - However, decisions will still be made even if one doesnt vote, hence, is it better to get involved/vote, or otherwise?? - Questions to ponder:i) Do high levels of not voting undermine democracy? ii) Does voting, participation/involvement matter? - 3 models of democracy i.e. Elitist, Pluralist, and Corporatist share assumption = democracy works reasonably well with low levels of participation - Participatory model argues that democracy = not working well, hence ways must be found to increase citizens level of participation 3.6.2. System of Representation - In the modern world, direct democracy = not practical/feasible due to size of population, diverse interests, and complexity of issues

involved = near impossible to function efficiently (i.e. policy and decision-making processes) - Establishment of some form of representative system = necessary - There are 2 main approaches to the relationship between the representative and his/her constituency: i) Represent by trying to reflect the diverse interests of their constituents as precisely as possible (take up issues that directly concern the constituency) ii) Represent by taking the position that one is elected to make the best informed decision they can for the community/nation as a whole (take up issues that do not directly concern the constituency, i.e. external/foreign policy issues) - In reality, most representatives adopt both approaches, with one taking priority over the other during specific period and political context. - Common types of representative system in modern democracy: i) single-seat/member constituency/district and multiple-seat constituency/district (based on simple majority and first-pass-thepost system), ii) Proportional Representation (PR) (based on popular votes) - Question to ponder: Which type is better, fairer, or more just? Why? 3.6.3. Rule of Law - supremacy of the law, everyone is equal before the law, no one is above the law - Lon Fuller (1971) = a set of principles constituting the internal morality of law, which all legal systems should strive, to ensure the rule of law is upheld: i) ii) iii) iv) v) law should be general establishing general standard of conduct law should be promulgated and made known to those whom they apply law should be prospective and not retroactive (peoples conduct to be guided only by existing laws and not future laws) law should be clear there should be no contradictions in the law

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laws should not demand the impossible laws should not be frequently changed/amended congruence between official action and the law (cf. Ten 1999: 396)

- however, upholding the rule of law = not a simple task: i) not all laws are clearly defined, ii) not everyone agrees on their meaning, iii) some laws conflict, or appear to conflict with other laws (Sargent 2003: 54) 3.6.4. The Electoral System - fundamental platform/mechanism for a democratic political system - crucial importance = consider by many as the only means of realistic political participation for individuals living in a large, modern, and increasingly complex society - electoral system = gauge to measure level of democracy; democratic elections = sine qua non of good government - Also allegedly utilized by so-called democratic states as legitimizing tool to stay in power (i.e. Zimbabwe, Myanmar, and some SEA states, etc.) (see Taylor 1996; Lai 2000) - A democratic election must be: i) free ; and ii) fair - Dahl, Mackenzie, etc (qf. Rachagan 1993:2) = standard requirements for a free and fair election include: i) an honest, competent, non-partisan body to conduct elections (i.e. independent Election Commission) ii) electoral system that does not grossly distort the representation afforded to the different parties vis--vis the votes garnered iii) right to vote for the adult population (i.e. age 21 & above) iv) regular and consistent elections within prescribed time limits (i.e. every 4-5 years) v) equal and open opportunity to establish parties, candidacies, and contest vi) developed systems of political parties able to present policies/what is in the public interests to would be voters

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all seats in major legislative body to be openly contested reasonably fair and open opportunities for contesting parties to campaign reasonably fair opportunities for media coverage of main contenders/candidates Votes are cast freely and secretly; honestly counted and reported, winning candidate to be duly installed in office until term expires Independent judiciary to interpret electoral law (qf. Rachagan 1993:2)

- Potential distortions/problems: i) Election as a political tool ii) Potential fallacies of electoral systems = PR versus simplemajority/first pass the post system in single member districts/constituencies iii) Related electoral abuses = Constituency delimitation & problems of malapportionment and gerrymandering (see Lai 2002) 3.6.5. Equality

- an essentially contested concept of crucial importance in 20 th century - a general concept can be separated into 5 types: i) Political equality ii) Equality before the law iii) Equality of opportunity iv) Economic equality v) Social equality 3.6.5.1 Political Equality - Considered to be the most basic form of equality - generally comprising: a) voting equality; b) political contest/running for office; c) political influence a) Voting Equality = ideally should include: i) reasonable access for individuals to voting stations ii) freedom of choice and casting of votes

iii)

each vote is equal to any other vote (same weight)

- Problems in reality = i) Question of citizenship and permanent residency ii) Age requirements iii) Loss of right to vote (i.e. criminals) iv) Age, gender and racial discrimination v) Choice of candidate vi) Malapportionment and gerrymandering b) Political contest/running for office - everyone with right to vote = equal opportunity to be elected into public office - however, potential constraints = i) wealth of candidates; ii) social constraints i.e. gender, race/ethnicity, religion, etc. c) Political influence - equality in political influence among citizens regardless of race, religion, gender, economic class, social caste, etc. (not hindered by formal limitations) - In reality, not easy to realise although laws are available to promote such equalities, informal limitations still pervade due to human nature 3.6.5.2. Equality before the Law - Considered to be amongst democracys clearest goals (Sargent 2003:61) - all people should receive fair and similar/equal treatment by the legal system - Justice should be colour/race/religion/gender/status blind 3.6.5.3. Equality of Opportunity - refers to equal ability and mobility of every individual to move up or down the social ladder (social and economic hierarchy/class within society), depending on ones capability/ies - no artificial barrier to prevent one from achieving what one is capable of, through hard work and efficiency (qf Sargent 2003: 60) - artificial barriers = race, ethnicity, gender, religion, caste, sexual orientation, nationality, primordial elements, etc.

- In reality, equality or opportunity = dependent on value accorded status i.e. material (wealth/money/property) vs. non-material (aristocracy/religious position/education/etc.) 3.6.5.4. Economic equality - subjective and highly contested meaning - narrow terms = every individual should have relatively same income no one is richer than the other (extreme) - realistically = should concern equality of economic opportunities, i.e. employment, business contracts, tender, etc. (not financial equality) - According to Sargent (2003), underlying idea = guarantee of a minimum level of economic security for every individual within society; security more crucial than equality - Main argument = extreme poverty undermines effective participation in community i.e. lack of education (middle class vs poor toys, books, early learning, parental guidance, critical learning age; etc.) - There are exceptions but majority = limited success in significantly upgrading life/climbing social strata - Questions to ponder: i) Does income/financial inequality negatively affect equality of economic opportunities? ii) To what extent should such inequality be tolerated/allowed? iii) How can income/economic gap be reduced? 3.6.5.5. Social equality

- also deemed as equality of respect a value most complicated to ascertain - basis of humanity = the belief that all human beings are equal and should be given equal respect - in narrow terms = equal opportunity to participate in social life, i.e. joining a club/association, visiting/using public amenities, i.e. transport, shopping malls/shops, attending schools/universities, etc. - however, social inequality can deepen by selective/exclusive participation in social activities, i.e. rich vs. poor and the type of schools attended, transports taken/used; sport facilities utilized - Question to ponder:

i) ii)

If human beings are to be given equal respect just because they are human, what about animals? (animal rights??) In terms of education, should there be schools/HLIs which are meant exclusively for the elite students, or should all schools/HLIs be classless?

3.7. Freedom, Liberty, and Rights - may differ specifically in a narrow sense yet, often used interchangeably - Freedom = general term (ability to act without fear, or favour and without restrictions, or with limited restrictions) - Liberty = refers specifically to political and social freedom - Right = specific legally guaranteed freedoms (Sargent 2003: 63) - No such thing as absolute freedom (i.e. freedom from performing essential bodily functions eat, sleep, etc) - Democratic society = should be relatively free, open, limited control 3.7.1. Rights : Between Natural Rights and Civil Rights - Natural rights = rights that human beings have or should have; more popularly call in present time as human rights - Civil rights = rights prescribed/ordained by government - Both are seldom distinguished in contemporary world; all rights = civil rights - Rights = minimal state, limited governmental interference on certain areas of life; i.e. thought, speech, press, assembly, religion - Most important natural rights = basic human rights = right to selfpreservation = right to secure the minimum of basic needs to survive/live in society i.e. food, shelter, clothing. - Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) adopted by United Nations (UN) defines human rights as: everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social, and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality (UN Charter 1948 qf. Sargent 2003: 66)

- Dual role of government = i) restrictor of liberty/rights ; ii) protector of liberty/rights 3.7.2. Liberty

- Commonly defined liberties (types of political and social freedom): i) the right to vote (or not) ii) freedom of thought iii) freedom of speech iv) freedom of the press v) freedom of assembly vi) freedom of religion vii) freedom of movement viii) freedom from arbitrary treatment by political and legal system (simply means that government must protect the citizen from government; individual must be given fair treatment by the system) (cf. Sargent 2003: 67) - more contemporarily debated (but not so universal) forms of civil liberties : i) freedom of information (vs. secrets act) ii) right to die (i.e. euthanasia) iii) right for abortion (pro-life vs. pro-choice) iv) right to choose sexual orientation (i.e. gay rights) v) freedom from cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. capital punishment, torture) - Some questions to ponder: i) ii) iii) iv) Are all, or some of these freedoms of universal value? Should all, or some of these stated freedoms be absolute? What about the possible abuses of freedom of speech i.e. spreading of lies, propagandas, half-truths, distortions of facts? What about publication of pornography? Should there be restrictions? If yes, what about culturally related artifacts? If no, what about the protection, and the rights of children and women (and men) from related abuses? What about the danger of publishing materials that serve to incite public instability/bring public disorder??

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vi) vii) viii) ix) x)

What about the sensationalisation of issues by the press (bad news is good news)? What about the infringement of individual privacy by the press i.e. paparazzi culture, etc. Should parades and demonstrations that may produce violence be allowed? If not, what should be the limit? Should torture and/or capital punishment be condoned? Should detention without trial be allowed?

3.8. Current Trends - No change in principles of democracy only change in interpretation 3.8.1. Democratisation - most dominant and widely accepted ideology in contemporary world - since the fall of global communism advent of globalization = spread of democracy = process of democratization, i.e. former socialist/ communist states, Third World states. - democratization = process of establishing:i) democratic institutions ii) democratic procedures iii) democratic culture (perhaps the most important/fundamental) - however, democracy in most of these states = fragile, questionable - Advocates of liberal democracy see these states = not genuinely/ fully democratic - Democratizing states fall in between the continuum from authoritarian to democracy = authoritarian semi-authoritarian semidemocracy democracy - Critics of liberal democracy = not unambiguously universal, based on Western political culture, values, experience, and political context = hence, potentially conflicting with oriental/eastern political cultures and traditions - Alternative models of democracy, i.e. Asian-style democracy debate during 1990s (combination of some universally-accepted democratic values/principles/institutions/procedures with traditional cultures/ norms/values

- Question to ponder: i) Does the mere existence of democratic institutions and procedures, i.e. elections, democratic constitution, etc. makes a country/state truly democratic? ii) Are liberal democratic values universal? iii) Are liberal democratic values mainly shaped/influenced by western political cultures/context? iv) Are liberal democratic values in conflict with traditional oriental/ eastern political cultures? v) Are traditional oriental/eastern political cultures essentially democratic or otherwise? 3.8.2. Civil Society - generally refers to set of largely voluntary associations and interactions.that operate outside the formal political system and thus outside its control, in which people learn (to appreciate and uphold) key democratic values (Sargent 2003: 74) - healthy civil society = requisite to establishing democratic culture and political system - Example: non-governmental organizations (NGOs), pressure/ interests groups, private enterprises 3.8.3. Group rights - refers to the rights of a specific congregation of people who shares a common bond/identity (i.e. ethnicity/race, religion, language, sexual orientation, etc.) against prosecution/persecution, and threat towards their identity - contemporary approaches to protecting and defending group rights i) ii) Multiculturalism relates to the debate over majority vs minority rights Diversity/Difference concept recognizing that diversity or being different (differences) is important, good, and valuable; i.e. catchy slogans such as Unity in Diversity

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Consociationalism idea of political power sharing between different groups, i.e. Alliance/Perikatan, National Front/ Barisan Nasional in Malaysia

3.9. Democracys Paradox Among democracys paradox: i) dilemma of individuals choice subordinated to popular will - i.e. individual preference for one law, but having to obey contrary law chosen by majority; voting for losing party but having to obey laws passed by successful rival party (Goodwin 2007: 302) - i.e. contradictory moral beliefs of a smoker - banning smoking is wrong; banning smoking is right if the majority thinks it right = hence moral dilemma of the policy banning smoking = both simultaneously right and wrong ii) the related problem of minority - involves the dilemma of contradiction between the basic democratic principle of the will of the majority rules with the likes of justice, and equality - i.e. minority unlikely to agree that majority opinion is right ; neither laws of the majority are just and equal towards minority hence, minority may question validity and value of democracy itself - Solution = institutionalize position of minority - However, according to Goodwin, to institutionalize the position of minorities goes against democratic equality, while to leave their cause to the good nature of the majority will in many cases mean that they may suffer injustice or even oppression (Goodwin 2007: 305)