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Open Access (free)
Kevin Harrison
Tony Boyd

Here we examine the expression ‘democracy’, and try to disentangle its value as an objective term of analysis and its misuse as a tool of propaganda. The focus is on ‘liberal democracy’. First the various dimensions of democracy and the notion of democracy are considered, and the idea of democracy as ‘the sovereign people’ governed by consent is closely examined. Then the issue

in Understanding political ideas and movements
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Saul Newman

5 Democracy I N T H E P R E C E D I N G chapter I tried to construct a radical understanding of ethics, founding it not on some pre-given notion of the good or a rational consensus, but rather on the singularity of an event which disrupts this consensus. Furthermore, I suggested that ethics must contain an anti-authoritarian dimension which situates itself in opposition to established political institutions and practices. Ethics, in other words, is what opens political institutions to the other that they exclude, revealing the undecidability of their own

in Unstable universalities
Open Access (free)
David Owen

Introduction The concept of democracy is central to our contemporary political vocabularies, yet agreement on how to conceptualise democracy is far from widespread. 1 As Adam Przeworski has recently remarked: ‘Perusing innumerable definitions, one discovers that democracy has become an altar on which everyone hangs his or her favorite ex voto .’ 2 Certainly we can say that

in Political concepts
Geography and the British electoral system

Representational democracy is at the heart of the UK’s political constitution, and the electoral system is central to achieving it. But is the first-past-the-post system used to elect the UK parliament truly representative? To answer that question requires an understanding of several factors: debates over the nature of representation; the evolution of the current electoral system; how first-past-the-post distorts electoral politics; and how else elections might be conducted. Running through all these debates are issues over the representation not only of people but also of places. The book examines all of these issues and focuses on the effect of geography on the operation of the electoral system.

Tony Wright

12 Democracy and social democracy Tony Wright One of the enduring themes in David Marquand’s work is on the ‘democracy’ bit of social democracy; and that is the theme explored here. This means saying something about how the social democratic tradition has viewed democracy, in Britain in particular, and where matters stand now. It may then be possible to offer some suggestions for the future, both in terms of thought and action. Origins and ideas It was the aim of social democrats to put the ‘social’ into democracy. If equality and citizenship were good enough

in Making social democrats
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A comparative study of the theory and practice of government by the people

Drawing on the insights of political theory as well as empirical and comparative government, the book provides an up-to-date overview of the theories and practice of referendums and initiatives around the world. The book discusses if we ought to hold more referendums, and how the processes of direct democracy have been used – and occasionally abused -around the world.

Power, legitimacy and the interpretation of democratic ideas

As the globalization of democracy becomes increasingly palpable, the political obstacles to its achievement become overshadowed by more vexing questions concerning the very nature of democracy itself. This book examines some of the philosophical and theoretical debates underlying the 'democratic project' which increasingly dominates the field of comparative development. The first concern presented is normative and epistemological: as democracy becomes widely accepted as the political currency of legitimacy, the more broadly it is defined. The second issue examined refers to the claims being made regarding how best to secure a democratic system in developing states. The book shows how 'democracy' has quickly become, both academically and politically, all things to all people: it represents a philosophical ideal, a political strategy, and an instrument of economic well-being. It looks at some of the philosophical debates underlying democracy in order to explain why it has evolved into such an ambiguous concept. The book surveys the arguments supporting the expansion of 'democracy' from its individualistic orientations to an account more able to accommodate the concerns and aspirations of groups. Critical assessments of these new trends in democratic theory are presented. The book examines the political contexts within which debates about democratization are centred. A discussion on the claim that a robust democracy depends upon our ability to 'strengthen civil society', follows. The book situates the debate over democracy and development more closely by examining the political context surrounding the inflation of democratic meaning. It examines the consequences of the globalization of democratic norms.

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The democratic continuum
Kirsten Haack

In the twentieth century claims for democracy were made by many, yet few states became democracies. In the early twenty-first century democracy appears to be ubiquitous. Western European and North American states have been joined by former communist states and dictatorships in the ‘family of democracies’, while wars continue to be waged to depose dictators and to bring democracy and freedom to previously suppressed people. In addition to this, democracy can be found in classrooms or workplaces. Not all democracies are the same – a

in The United Nations democracy agenda
Katherine Fierlbeck

) The romanticization of democracy It is possible that the reason democracy is so resonant today is because it speaks to our desire for justice. This idea of ‘justice’ is, of course, unapologetically contemporary, and has its origins in early modern accounts which grounded political legitimacy upon consent. Why, for us, is a political regime ‘just’? Not because it conforms to

in Globalizing democracy
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Katherine Fierlbeck

meaningfulness Proponents of ‘globalization’ have observed, no doubt with some satisfaction, that there is an increasing consensus across (and within) states that ‘democracy’ is the correct standard upon which to judge the political legitimacy of states. But this contentment must, upon reflection, be considerably lessened by the realization that the consensus on what, precisely, is

in Globalizing democracy