Defining the Modern Democracy

The definitions of democracy put forward by Schmitter & Lynn, O’Neill, and Dahl are ones that I generally agree with. Each definition has several facets that help to construct a well-rounded definition of a modern democracy. This includes emphasis on the power of individuals in a government’s decision-making via signaling their opinions to the current leaders without limits put upon what can and cannot be said. The authors also recognize the importance of competition between different factions or parties in the political system. The definition of democracy that Dahl puts forward is the most compelling though. This is because Dahl rightly acknowledges that continual responsiveness by the government to its citizen’s preferences is the cornerstone of a healthy democratic regime.

This is not to say that other components of a modern democracy are not important, but more so that whether a government responds to citizen’s preferences makes for a very simple litmus test on how democratic a country really is. Dahl’s definition also lines up with my definition of democracy because he lists freedom of speech, and unbiased evaluation of peoples opinions, as a core component of a healthy democracy. Freedom of speech is important because it is what makes it possible for citizens to communicate their ideas to their government without fear of any repercussions.

While O’Neill and Schmitter & Lynn do recognize that the importance of freedom of speech, and unbiased evaluation of opinions are cornerstones of a healthy democracy, where their definitions fall short is that there is somewhat less emphasis on the power of individuals. Any definition of democracy must emphasize the power of the individual, because that is the true origin of democracy as a whole.

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One thought on “Defining the Modern Democracy

  1. Interesting argument. Karl and Schmitter would very much agree with your emphasis on responsiveness, and that is why they stress the importance of accountability.

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