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Theories of Democracy

Democracy can be understood in two ways. Narrow and Broad sense.

Narrow Sense.

In narrow sense, democracy is a form of govt. It is a form of govt. which gives opportunity to the people to participate in governance. People’s participation is considered as Sine qua nan (essential) to good governance. Good governance cannot be achieved without transparency and accountability. Good governance also requires responsible citizenship. According to Amartya Sen, democracy has instrumental value, educative value as well as intrinsic value.
Democracy is often considered as western obsession, not compatible with Asian values. However according to Amartya Sen it is wrong to think so. In his book ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN he has shown how Indian tradition has always been democratic. There has been a tradition of deliberation, public reasoning. He gives the examples of Buddhist assemblies. The Indian tradition of pluralism, toleration also reflect the democratic tradition in India.
According to Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst form of govt. However it is the best form of govt. till we do not discover the better form of govt.” Experience suggest that democracy is the best practicable form of govt. Democracy represents the decentralization of power. Initially power was concentrated in the hands of one (monarchy), it has led to the power in the hands of few or aristocracy and then in the hands of masses (democracy). Thus democracy represents increasing political equality.

Broad Sense.

Democracy in broad sense includes a way of life, a value system, a type of a society. It is believed that without democratic society, democratic politics is a myth. Ambedkar was skeptical about the future of democracy in India. Ambedkar believed that democracy is just ‘topsoil’ of India. In his GRAMMAR OF ANARCHY speech he mentions that we are entering into the life of contradictions. We are introducing political democracy but India lacks social and economic democracy. It is not enough to have one man, one vote, it is also necessary that there is one vote, one value. The ultimate value of democracy is the respect for human dignity. A democratic society is a society where there is a respect for the individuality, human dignity, freedom of speech and expression. Toleration, pluralism are other features.

Waves of Democracy

Present age is a age of democracy. However it is also known as the age of democratic confusion. There are various models of democracy. Samuel P Huntington has explained the global expansion of democracy in the form of 3 waves.
1st wave: The first wave represents the mature democracies in the western world e.g. Britain, USA.
1st reverse wave:  Inter-war period when some countries of Europe like Germany, Italy came under authoritarianism.

2nd wave:  After the end of 2nd WW, democracy returned to the countries of western Europe. Even democracy was established in former colonies e.g. India.
2nd reverse wave: With the exception of India, democracy collapsed in the third world. India emerged as an island of democracy outside the western world.

3rd wave: With the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, democracy became almost universal with few exceptions like China, North Korea, Cuba etc.

The only major exception remains ‘Arab World’. (Arab exceptionalism)
We can also say that Arab Spring could have been the fourth wave, however unfortunately the geo-political interest of USA converted Arab Spring into Arab Summer.

Why democracy survived in India and not in other third world countries?

There can be many reasons.
1] The preference of the elites. Like other countries, Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru had an opportunity to become authoritarian, yet his strong faith in the democracy ensured that India remains democratic.
2] Legacy of national movement: Indian freedom movement was not just a movement for the liberation from the foreign rule. It was one of the largest ‘civil rights movement’ in the world. Hence there was consciousness with respect to the rights among the people.
3] The legacy of British: British introduced the institutions of parliamentary democracy, established the system of rule of law.
4] Indian tradition as explained by Amartya Sen: India had tradition of democracy. ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN. e.g. In times of Buddha.
5] Constitutional provisions e.g. Freedom of press, independence of judiciary and election commission.
6] Size and diversity of the country. /No other system could have worked here.
7] The strict separation between civilian and military administration.

According to Fareed Zakaria, the chances of success of democracy is higher in the societies where rule of law is established first and universal adult franchise is introduced later. According to him, constitutionalism should precede democracy e.g. Britain. Rule of law became the part and parcel of British political culture much before the introduction of democracy in Britain. Democracy collapsed in 3rd world countries because of the absence of the democratic culture.
It is to be noted that from the perspective of western scholars like Christophe Jaffrelot, Indian democracy remains procedural. In India people are not under the rule of law, they are under the rule of money. Thus he points towards the use of money and muscle power in Indian elections. It shows that India’s procedural democracy is also far from being perfect. There is still a long way to go before India gets the recognition of a substantive democracy. Unfortunately in terms of human development India is lagging behind even its south Asian neighbors like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Theories of Democracy

One of the most exhaustive work is done by C.B. Macpherson. C.B. Macpherson is liberal egalitarian. He is also known as critical liberal. He has analyzed various models of democracy and then gave his own model of democracy.

Macpherson’s Theory of Democracy

A] Protective model (John Locke, Bentham)
B] Developmental model (J.S. Mill)

A] Elitist ( Schumpeter)
B] Pluralist (Robert Dahl)

Features of classical model of democracy.

Classical theories are normative theories. They emphasize on values of democracy.  They look at democracy as empowerment of masses.
There are two models
1] Protective model: Scholars like John Locke, Bentham proposed protective model because they looked at democracy as a means to protect the rights of the people. Hence Locke’s theory is based on consent.
2] Developmental model: Mill has seen democracy as a system which gives opportunity for the development of human personality. He believes that freedom of speech and expression is necessary for development and only democracy provides this opportunity.

Contemporary theories

Contemporary theories are empirical. They are based on the empirical understanding of democracy. They overlook the substantive aspect of democracy (empowerment of masses) and just focus on the procedural aspect of democracy which means electoral democracy.
1] Elitist believe that it is neither possible for masses nor desirable for masses to participate in governance beyond elections.
2] Pluralist focus on role of pressure group or interest group in democracy.

Macpherson’s Theory

1] Macpherson appreciated the classical theory because it emphasize on the substantive aspect (normative ideals of democracy like empowerment of masses.) However he criticized classical model for ignoring the real world of democracy.
2] Macpherson criticized the contemporary theories for ignoring the substantive aspect and just focusing on the procedural aspect. He believes that there is no big difference in the elitist and the pluralist model. He mentions about Schumpeter – Dahl axis.
3] Macpherson believes that it is wrong to claim the monopoly of liberalism over democracy. There can be other models of democracy also. He includes communist models in the definition of democracy, subject to the condition there is intra-party democracy.
4] He also includes ‘one party dominant’ state’s model, found in many third world countries as examples of democracy e.g. South Africa, former India. These countries will qualify as a democracy if there is a mass support to the political program of one party.
5] He investigated the reality of the democracy found in western liberal societies. He came to the conclusion that there is no equitable distribution of power in these societies. Western liberal democracies are not egalitarian. It means they are also far from being perfect. They also need to be more egalitarian.

According to Macpherson there are two dimensions of power.  

1. Extractive or Coercive and  2 .Developmental.
In present liberal societies capitalist have maximum developmental and extractive powers whereas workers have negligible extractive and developmental powers.
Liberal societies move towards the system where no one has extractive power over the other. All have equal developmental power i.e. Equal opportunities to do what they want to do, a concept described by  Macpherson as creative freedom. Macpherson’s views come near to the views of Amartya Sen who believes that democracy and development are interlinked. He describes development as freedom. He defines freedom as ‘being and doing’.

Democracy and development

Context of the debate: Lee Kuan Yew’s thesis (Lee thesis). The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, believes that democracy is a western obsession, not compatible with Asian values.
He compared Indian model of development with Chinese model. He proposed that developing countries should follow Chinese model rather than Indian model. He was skeptical that India will ever be able to achieve the goals of poverty alleviation and development. He believed that the main obstacle is democracy. Democracy brings indiscipline. Leaders have to go for populist policies. Democracy also leads to corruption. India will remain a nation of unrealized potential because Indian bureaucracy lacks the right mindset for development. Thus developing countries should look at Chinese model to achieve faster growth.

Amartya Sen counters ‘Lee thesis’. Amartya Sen rejects the view that democracy is a western obsession. In his book ARGUMENTATIVE INDIAN he has shown how democracy has been the part of Indian tradition. He also rejects the view that there is one set of Asian values. Asia itself is not homogeneous. He acknowledges Chinese achievements both in terms of development of infrastructure as well human development with respect to eradication of poverty, promotion of literacy, improvement of health and nutrition. However absence of democracy is not the only factor for better performance of China. The most important role has been the role of the leaders in China. It is the political will and intelligence of Chinese leaders, that they understood that China will not be able to take the benefits of economic reforms without the capacity building of the masses. Chinese leaders understood the wisdom of Adam Smith. Adam Smith held that the rate of economic growth is directly proportional to the quality of labour.
Lee thesis is based on many questionable assumptions. He gives the example of Botswana, a small country in Africa which has shown higher rate of economic growth despite being democratic.

He also suggests that democracy is not the only factor behind the poor performance of India. Within India he appreciates Kerala model of development where political will has ensured that people have good quality of life. Failure of development cannot be attributed just to democracy. He suggests that democracy is better for ‘crisis management’. In his study of Bengal famine, during British he has shown that the reason behind famines was not the absence of food but the lack of responsible govt. and free press. Fortunately India did not suffer from famines after independence whereas large number of people died in famine in China, Cambodia, Sudan.

Amartya Sen believes that democracy has its ‘intrinsic value’ besides the educative and instrumental value. It would be wrong to believe that people will give priority to the economic rights rather than political rights. It is wrong to believe that democracy can be postponed for the sake of faster economic growth. Not only democracy is conducive for development, development also needs to be democratized. There cannot be a sustainable and inclusive growth without empowerment of masses.

Models of Democracy

1] Representative Democracy

The first theoretical exposition of the representative democracy is found in John Locke’s second book on the civil government. John Locke has given majoritarian model of democracy.

J.S. Mill in his book ON REPRESENTATIVE GOVT. has suggested that representative democracy is the second best state. Considering the complexities of the modern way of life, representative govt. has become inevitable. Mill was fearful of democracy turning into tyranny of majority, hence he suggested multiple reforms.

One of the major challenge of the representative democracy is how to ensure the representativeness. Hence there has been movement from simple majoritarian model of electoral system towards proportional representation. Simple majoritarian system give rise to majoritarian model (tyranny of majority). Proportional representation makes democracy Consociational (consensus based). Proportional representation results into coalition govts. Coalition can work only when parties arrive at consensus.

In representative democracy scholars have also discussed on the powers of the representatives. There are two models of representation.

1. Delegate Model given by John Locke and Bentham

The delegate model suggest that representatives cannot be given freedom to take decisions, they should stick to the mandate. According to Locke, government is a trust, people are trustees, govt. does not have any original powers.
2. Enlightened representation given by J.S. Mill and Edmund Burke.
According to Mill, our representatives have more experience than us and hence they should be given flexibility.
According to Edmund Burke – “Parliament is a assembly of nation rather than a place for advancing the narrow constituency interest.”

Critics of representative democracy

Rousseau: He was inspired by direct democracy practiced in Geneva. Rousseau held that Englishmen are free only once in a five year.

Gandhi, MN Roy and JP Narayan: They supported party-less democracy because they believed that parties promote immorality. Gandhi compared parties with prostitutes. Instead of representative democracy, Gandhi favored panchayati raj.

2] Participatory Democracy

Participatory Democracy is also known as direct democracy.There are two forms of participatory democracy:  1st is based on ideas of liberalism, 2nd is based on Marxism.

The original concept of democracy is participatory. The very definition of democracy is the government by the participation of people. Democracy originated in ancient Greece. Aristotle’s ‘POLITY’ is the first example of democracy. Aristotle was critic of the institution of the Philosopher King / Monarchy. According to Aristotle common man, deliberating together can arrive at better decisions than the philosophers acting alone. Thus Aristotle favored direct democracy though he was criticized for taking a very narrow view of citizenship.

Rousseau was also the supporter of direct democracy. It is the only way by which we can understand the general will. It is the only way to exercise freedom, in the presence of authority.

Gandhi also favored party-less democracy for which he has given the model of panchayati raj which is based on his idea of power.
Gandhi’s idea of power: Gandhi’s concept of power is explained through the concept of oceanic circles. The concept of oceanic circles of power reject the concept of hierarchy. In oceanic circle of power, individual is at the center. Center (New Delhi) is the decentered. For Gandhi the purpose of power is not the exploitation. Power is not meant for the coercion of others, rather empowerment of others. Like the waves in the ocean we should transfer our energy to the others.

Hannah Arendt believes that man is Zooned Politikon(?). Hence she believes that participation in politics is the real human action and the human condition. Civic participation is the only way to oppose the rise of totalitarianism.

Radical democrats

In India MN Roy supported radical democracy i.e. Grassroot democracy. Among the prominent theorists of radical democracy are Habermas, Nancy Fraser, Seyla Benhabib, Jacques Ranciere, Chantal Mouffe, Ernesto Laclu.

Habermas: According to Habermas, the only basis to treat a particular policy legitimate is that it should be the outcome of people’s participation in ‘ideal speech situation’.

How people can participate ?

Carole Pateman has explained the benefits of participatory democracy.
1. It has educative value for citizens.
2. It is the way to realize the general will.
3. It makes democracy inclusive.

There are various ways in which people can participate
1] For example, under 73rd amendment act there is a provision for gram sabha where all villagers registered as the electors in the electoral roll for panchayat elections can participate.
2] According to 73rd amendment act, gram sabha should be the principal body for the formulation of the plans for development at the village level.
3] Through the mechanisms like referendum, initiative, recall people can make direct participation even when the country has representative government.
4] Through the mechanisms like RTI (Right to info.), Citizen’s charters, Social auditing people can ensure transparency and accountability.
5] People can participate in the watchdog bodies like NHRC, National Commission for Women to ensure that constitutional safeguards and other statutory rights are being enforced.
6] Govts can include people in formulation of policies through the institutions like NAC (National Advisory Council).
7] The 2nd ARC report acknowledges the need for citizen centric governance to achieve good governance in India.

3] Deliberative Democracy

There is no need to add prefix deliberative with democracy. Democracy has to be deliberative. The very idea of democracy is a form of govt. where the laws are formulated through the process of rational debate. However at present, people are forgetting the deliberative aspect of democracy. Around the world there is a growth of either the dictatorship of executive or activism of judiciary. There is a decline of deliberative chambers. India itself is an example – initially there was the dictatorship of executive and at present ‘overreach of judiciary. India became the classical example of judicial governance. No other institution has seen the amount of decline as witnessed in the parliament. We are witnessing the rise of ‘noisy democracies’ or ‘audience democracies’. Hence there is a need to bring consciousness about the deliberative aspect of democracy.


Pericles“Discussion is never a stumbling block. It is always an essential prerequisite for any wise action.”

Aristotle“Common people deliberating can arrive at better decisions rather than philosophers acting alone.”

John Rawls – John Rawls has given the concept of public reasoning. It means people should justify to each other, the position they take.

Amartya Sen – Amartya Sen is inspired by Rawls, he believes that there should be public debate without which government will never pay attention. In his book UNCERTAIN GLORY Amartya Sen suggested that there has been the neglect of public debate on health issues in India. Hence the government has always ignored. However Amartya Sen believes that there are some preconditions e.g. Public sphere should exist. The idea of public reasoning should exist. People should have capacity to speak.

Hannah Arendt – She emphasized on human action. According to her, action is speech. According to her, freedom is realized only in the state of plurality.

Habermas – Habermas believes that the only way we can make legitimate policies is through participation in public sphere.
Ideal speech situation represents following condition.
1] Where no force exists except the force of argument.
2] When all have equal right to speak.
3] When all have equal chance to speak.
4] Whatever ideas are expressed, they are pure and honest. (Similar to Hannah Arendt’s view.)
He also gives the concept of communicative action. Communicative action is when people interact with each other in the ideal speech situation, understanding each other and are accountable to each other.

Nancy Fraser – She also talks about the public sphere, but she believes that the subaltern class should create their own sphere. She has given the term ‘counterpublic’.

Joshua Kohen – he was influenced by John Rawls. He has given five features of deliberative democracy.  1. It is an independent and ongoing association of people with expected continuity.  2. People accept that deliberation is the only deciding factor, in formulation of policies.  3. Existence of non-coercive environment, where each person understands and give respect to other person’s capacity to speak.  4. There is a respect for pluralism of values.  5. Deliberation is a source of legitimacy.

He has given following benefits of deliberative democracy.
1] Best way to deal is disagreement.
2] Best way to secure legitimacy of the collective public action encourage people’s participation on matters of public concerns.
3] It enlarges people’s understanding of issues.
4] Better policies
5] Development of trust
6] Makes democracy Consociational.
7] Makes democracy substantive.
8] It is the way by which we come to know about our own genuine ###?##

To conclude, deliberative democracy rejects the view that democracy is ‘head counting’ principle. Majority cannot be the fundamental principle but democracy stands for justice, fairness, human dignity. Decision should be the result of ‘authentic discussions’ rather than ‘aggregate preferences’. It gives priority to voice over choice, debate over voting.

Compare Deliberative with Participative Democracy.

We are living in the age of democracy, but it is also the age of democratic confusion. There are different forms and models. The most prevalent model is the representative democracy. However it is realized that representative democracy may not be sufficient to achieve the ideals of democracy hence emerged the concept of participative.
Exponents of Participative.. benefits….
Later on it was realized that even participative is not sufficient until and unless it is not deliberative.
deliberative democracy… importance of debate… prominent scholars – Hannah Arendt, Habermas…
Thus deliberation is heart and soul of democracy, democracy is different from ‘theocracy’ (rule of religion). In theocracy, the authority of religion is considered as absolute however democracy rejects the authority of religion and supports the power of argument. Hence whether it is representative or participative, until and unless it is not deliberative, it will remain far from the ideal.

Cosmopolitan Model of Democracy

Scholar: David Held.
Context: Impact of globalization on democracy.
He argues that  globalization has weakened democracy. It has weakened the nation state. So far the highest democratically elected government is nation state. But it’s ability to take decisions have been diluted.
On the other hand, the institutions of global governance are neither representative, nor transparent or accountable. They are bureaucratically managed.
With the exception of Europe which has European parliament, no other region has directly elected regional parliament to determine the say of the people in policy making.

He gives suggestions to address the democratic deficit of globalization
In the long term, set up a world government. In short term, reform UN security council. Make institutions like IMF, World Bank accountable. Strengthen grass root democracy. Strengthen independence of judiciary. Restore freedom of press etc.

Posted in PSIR 1A

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Last edited 3 months ago by Bhavesh

Are these notes enough or should we go for other material like books or shubhra madam, notes.


What should be the last word in this sentence ‘It is the way by which we come to know about our own genuine ###?##’


It is the 8th point of Joshua Kohen part


page two is not opening bhai


Hi typo correction,
In the Comparison of Deliberative and Participatory Democracy, in the end the line is: until and unless it is not “democratic”—> it should be “deliberative”.



Awesome work ,Thank you !


Page 2 is not opening


Typo: It should be Nancy Fraser and ‘counterpublic’.


page 2 is not opening


Thanks man