An Examination of Democracy’s Justice


The concept of democracy has existed for two and a half thousand years. Over the centuries in the history of political thought, ambiguous interpretations were given to the term. As long as the changes and complexity of the political picture and the layers of its political doctrines appeal to democracy, the concept of democracy acquired a variety of interpretations.

But there are some similarities to highlight common features which characterize a system as democratic, including the quantitative – more democratic or less democratic.

The classical definition of democracy is inextricably linked to its etymological origin. The term comes from the Greek word, which consists in turn of two words: demos – people and crates – power board. Born back in antiquity, democracy refers to “the power of the people” or “democracy”. But for the past century, no one in the history of political thought in the concept of “people” by various sponsors, schools, and scientific concepts put a different meaning. The same can be said about the different interpretations of the mechanism of democracy. Comparison of democratic practices to the concepts of democracy shows that the latter, on the one hand, often went for the empirical evidence, but on the other – have sought to develop an ideal model of democracy, which takes into account the experience gained so far as the historical development, with its negative and positive effects.

All this necessitates the classification of theoretical models of democracy, which in turn would flow from the actual practice of political development. One of the first attempts of classification of these models was made by Canadian political scientist S. McPherson. A well-known researcher English philologist J. Held researched the problem and in his work “Models of democracy,” democracy has provided the following varieties: classic, antique Democracy (Democracy in Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy), republicanism (the republican form of government in ancient Rome and the medieval city Republic), protective democracy, developing democracy, the theory of die state (K. Marx); competitive elitism, pluralistic democracy, the legal model of democracy. ( Christiano 1996, p 96)

In this paper, we do not have the opportunity to consider all models of democracy. Therefore, we will only explain those concepts that are related to the theory and practice of modern democracy, originating from the XVII-XVIII centuries. This primarily refers to the ideas of liberal democracy that is coupled with theories and concepts, developing the idea of democracy in line with the ideology and politics of liberalism. Socio-economic and ideological and political preconditions for the emergence of liberal democracy were the development of market relations, the ideological and political secularization, the formation of national states. The latter is the main qualitative difference of bourgeois liberal democracy from the cities of antiquity and the medieval urban communes. It is no coincidence; therefore, a well-known American political scientist Robert Dahl in the analysis of the global democratic process allocates its first transformation – democratic city states, and the second transformation – the formation of nation-states.

To my mind democracy is one of the best forms of government but of course it is not ideal. So, this paper claims that democracy has both positive and negative sides.

Democracy as a form of political form

Democracy has a long history. It can be seen as the result of the development of Western civilization, the origins of which is in the Greek and Roman heritage. The term “democracy” derived from the Greek word demokratia (demos – this word denotes people belonging to a particular territory and the history of this territory, policy, social, ethnic and professional relationships, kratos is power).

At the moment there are over 500 different definitions of democracy.

Avoiding the simplifications can be given the following definition: Democracy is a form of government (type of political regime), which is officially recognized:

  1. by people as a source of power;
  2. the principle of subordination of the minority to the majority;
  3. political freedom and equality of citizens.

In some literature, there are the simplified definitions of democracy, which should be treated critically. As an example, the following definition: Democracy is “a form of government in which people rule”. Determination of this fails, at least because of three points:

  • First, the notion of “form of government” in political science firmly anchored in the territorial or national-territorial division of the State;
  • Secondly, democracy, with rare exception is the power of political elites, i.e., power is almost always on behalf of people, sometimes – for people, but rarely – people;
  • Third, “the people rule”, that is, direct control of all people, is it possible in the distant future. ( Christiano 1996, p121)

Ideological and political liberalism was preceded by a liberal democracy. Its founders J.Lock and SH.L.Montesquieu formulated the fundamental principles of political liberalism, as the priority of individual freedom, based on the principles of natural law, the separation of state from civil society, separation of powers. Based on these principles, the idea of democracy is filled with liberal content. The core ideas in the theories of liberalism are the political equality and representative government.

The idea of inborn, inalienable rights to life, liberty and private property advocates in the center of liberal concepts. Private property is seen as the foundation of individual liberty and freedom – as a necessary condition of self-identity. Hence there is an apology of democratic individualism and the interpretation of society as a combined equivalent of independent personalities. So the idea of the state as “night guard” appeared the main function of which is to protect private property, freedom and personal integrity. (Copp 1995, p204)

Several studies on the theory of democracy, provided the protective and developmental model of liberal democracy. The first area is represented by J.Lock, SH.L.Montesquieu, I.Bentamom, James Millet and others, second J. Dewey, John Stuart Mill, A. de Tocqueville. Common for both models is a priority of civil society to the state, popular sovereignty through representative government, the protection of individual rights and freedoms. However, supporters of the second model of liberal democracy in favor of universal suffrage without property qualifications, the political emancipation of women, segregation of duties of elected representative bodies and the state bureaucracy. Under the concept of a developing democratic political participation is necessary not only for the protection of individual interests, but also for the formation of competent and informed citizens. Therefore, involvement in politics is an important factor in the development of individual abilities. ( Christiano 1996, p124)

The forms of democracy

Depending on the forms of popular participation in the exercise of power provide direct plebiscitary and representative democracy.

In the direct democracy of the will of the people and its embodiment in the solution is not mediating elements – people involved in the discussions and decisions. Direct democracy is used today, organizations and small communities (towns, communities) as a self-government. The prevalence of direct democracy is limited to the territorial factor and depends on how decentralized decision-making process is. Another form of direct democracy is the process of voting, during which the direct will of the people towards the representatives in public authorities.

Plebiscitary democracy is another way of expressing the will of the people. Some researchers consider it as a form of direct democracy, and do not emit it in a separate group. (Dahl, 2000, p72)

The practice of plebiscitary democracy starts in the ancient policy, where the important decisions on matters of public life were taken at the markets by voting for all citizens. In Europe the twentieth century plebiscites have been used to address the issues of territorial divisions (eg, separation of Norway from Sweden).

Currently, the classical country with plebiscitary democracy is considered to be Switzerland, where referendums are held regularly and are divided into three main types:

  1. Mandatory – if the newly adopted Law affects the Constitution of the country;
  2. Conditional, which can be conducted by any law within 3 months from the date of its adoption, if the referendum succeeded to gather support for a certain number of signatures;
  3. The advisory, which holds a Government or parliament, where there is no confidence in the support of majority of the population of a bill, or if want to enlist the support of the majority.

Evaluating the theory and practice of plebiscitary democracy, modern political science notes that the system can work more or less successfully only under certain conditions.

The first of these is social stability. In an environment of high social tension, and even more far-reaching political and economic crisis, few people can retain the common sense and make the choice consciously.

The second condition is the development of democratic traditions. Only a leader, who won the election with more power, will refrain from usurping its entirety. Only citizens brought up in the same tradition will not elect their leader to do so. Therefore, such a system is successfully operating in the U.S., but very risky in Latin America and the former USSR.

The third condition is the strong political opposition, which has access to the media. Otherwise, public opinion is often able to handle in a direction favorable to the government.

Statistics show that even in the presence of these conditions referendum, usually wins the one who holds it. If these conditions are absent, plebiscitary democracy, which, at first glance, it is the supreme embodiment of democracy, gives the political elite opportunities for manipulating public consciousness. And this kind of manipulation is perhaps the worst, because it is the manipulation of people by the people. (Copp 1995, p200)

In a representative democracy the will of the people is not direct, and through the Institute of intermediaries, therefore, it is also called delegated democracy. MPs, political leaders, with “the mandate of confidence” of the people, must realize that the will to enact laws and decisions. Between the people’s representatives and those they represent, are established a relationship based on authority and trust.

Opponents of direct democracy suggest the difficulty of taking concerted decisions on a lack of competence and emotional imbalance in people, a high degree of manipulated public opinion in the public debate by professional politicians, that allows not wise leaders but demagogues to win an election, to the large range of opinions that prevents the development of solutions. In addition, the referendum is difficult and expensive. The major problem is the low level of civic activity, resulting in evasion of voters from voting, which became known as absenteeism (Lat. absentia – absence).

Proponents of direct democracy point at its veracity, the fact that it enhances the political outlook of the citizens, and criticizing representative democracy for the occurrence of several negative aspects:

  • breakaway of MPs from the people and their bureaucratizing;
  • possibility of corruption;
  • priority influence on decision-making of powerful pressure groups;
  • the exclusion of ordinary members of the decision-making;
  • increasing influence of special bodies (committees, and commissions), which turned into centers of decision-making;
  • the weakening of democratic control from below.

But representative democracy has its significant advantages. Incompetence of an ordinary person is replaced by professional members who can preparatory work; the decisions can be used for expert evaluation of these decisions. Finally, if direct democracy decisions are made by simple majority, in discussing the same issue in the parliament an opportunity to achieve a balance of interests appears.

The development of modern computer technology brings new features to the development of modern democracy. Proponents of direct democracy connect solution to the problem of low civic participation of people with the development of “computer Democracy” (the term introduced by Western political scientists G. Krauch, B. Barber, N. Bobbio) or “telematic democracy”.

Telematics is understood as the connection in a network computer, TV and phone. This is the opportunities for citizens, not leaving the home, of button or a phone vote on various issues, including the election of deputies. But even here there are drawbacks. In addition to the general shortcomings of direct democracy (eg, “tyranny incompetence” inhabitant), might be a problem with the anonymity of voting. If the box for the ballot is anonymous registration of preferences, the electronic technology allows collecting information about voters. (Inglehart , Welzel 2005, p98)

Modern requirements of democratic development require balance between direct and representative democracy. Democracy is an ongoing process of improvement, because modern forms are not ideal. W. Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of government except all other forms from time to time tested. The advantages of democracy are that it allows you to maintain the political stability, a low level of ongoing or potential violence. In a democracy, between the authority and decisions of the reaction of society there is an inverse relationship. The response signals of society can be expressed in terms of support or criticism, which is possible thanks to the independent press.

The basic features of democracy and its theories

A democratic regime can be characterized by the following features: there is always the sovereignty of people – the recognition of this principle implies that people are the source of power; democracy chooses its representatives of power and periodically replaces them; there is a periodic election of authorities ensures a clear mechanism of legitimate succession of power. State power is born of honest democratic elections, not through military coups and conspiracies; the power selected for a specific and limited period; there is always the universal, equal and secret suffrage. Election implies the real competition of the candidates, choice, and implementation of the principle: one citizen – one vote; there is always constitution, fixing the priority of individual rights over the state and provides a mechanism approved by the citizens of the settlement of disputes between the individual and the state; there is the principle of separation of powers (the legislative, executive and judicial branches) in building the state apparatus; there is presence of a developed system of representation (parliament); the guarantee of fundamental human rights1 is obligatory; one more characteristic is political pluralism (from Lat. Pluralie – plural) allowing legally operating not only the political and social movements that support the policy of the Government, but opposition parties and organizations; there is freedom to express political opinions (ideological pluralism) and the freedom of forming associations, movements complemented by the variety of different sources of information, independent media; the last characteristic is democratic decision-making: the elections, referendums, parliamentary voting and other decisions taken by majority, while respecting the rights of the minority to show disapproval. A minority (opposition) has the right to criticize the ruling power and to propose alternative program, resolving conflicts peacefully.

Based on the above basic principles of a democratic regime there should be a detailed review of its features:

The most important signs of a democratic state:

  1. real representative democracy;
  2. ensuring human rights and freedoms of citizens.

Representative democracy is the form when people exercise power through elected institutions, which represent the citizens and have the exclusive right to make laws. Representative bodies (parliaments, elected local governments) are given the right to address the most important questions of life for the people (a declaration of war, the adoption of the budget, the imposition of emergency and martial law, the resolution of territorial disputes, etc.). The Constitution in various countries give the representative bodies of various powers, but mandatory, and most important among these are the functions of the legislature and the adoption of the budget. Representative bodies are not necessarily designed to directly control the executive power – has been recognized only in the states with a parliamentary form of government, but in any system of these bodies is still vested in the individual constitutional powers in this area. The effectiveness of representative bodies mainly depends on cooperation with the executive branch. Another very important condition is the independence of the representative institutions within its competence, the absence of a competing legislative branch, executive branch interference in the prerogatives of representative institutions. ( Shapiro 2001, p152)

Ensuring the rights and freedoms of human and citizen is another crucial feature of a democratic state. Here is a close link with the formal institutions of democratic political regime. Only in a democratic regime the rights and freedoms are real, is precluded by law and their power structures of the State. No lofty goals and democratic declarations can give the State a truly democratic, if not universally guaranteed rights and freedoms of man and citizen.

  1. A State may comply with the characteristics of democracy only in terms of civil society emerged. It must adhere strictly to the limits of intervention into the economic and spiritual life, which provide the freedom of entrepreneurship and culture. The function of a democratic state is to ensure that the common interests of people, but with absolute respect and protection of human rights and freedoms of citizens. This state is the antithesis of the totalitarian state; the two concepts are mutually exclusive. (Inglehart , Welzel 2005, p111)
  2. In a democratic mode in the foreground along with pluralism advocates liberalism, this provides expansion of the rights and freedoms of citizens.

Liberalism provides democratic freedoms and individual rights, restriction of government interference and public into the activities of private individuals, sovereign entities. It puts the rights and freedoms of the individual above the national, class and religious interest focuses on the conservation mechanism of market economy, multiparty system, the limited regulatory role of State, a moderate social reformism, ensuring international security and development of integration processes.

  1. A political system under a democratic mode of public administration based on the separation of powers-legislative, executive and judicial. These bodies of government make equal each other, and none of them can usurp the authority of the State.
  2. Democratic governance provides formation of the major organs of the State by elections – parliament, the head of state, local governments, autonomous entities, the subjects of the federation.

Taken together the separation of powers, checks and balances, federal, party, public information and structure in terms of transparency can go through state authorities promote, within the framework of constitutional legality and constructive dialogue among different political forces, the establishment of political stability in society. (Inglehart , Welzel 2005, p114)

  1. A democratic state does not deny coercion, but rather its organization in some form. This encourages the essential duty of States to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens, addressing crime and other offenses. Democracy – it is not permissiveness. However, the coercion must have clear limits and carried out only by the law. Human rights bodies have not only the right but an obligation to use force in certain cases, but always acting only legal means and by the law. A democratic state can not afford “breaking” statehood, that is, failure of laws and other legal acts, ignoring the actions of public authorities. This state is subject to the law and requires the lawfulness of all its citizens.

Democratic state is in the fact that its organization had offered to citizens and their associations to influence the “content management solutions to government, to implement these decisions of regular social interests”. But to turn this possibility to reality, significant additional conditions are required. This, above all, is a democratic political regime and political and legal culture.

  1. The democratic political system is characterized by a high degree of political freedoms, the reality of political and legal institutions that allow it to influence public administration of society.

The democratic political system usually is reflected in the constitutions and laws that govern the development of forms of participation in political life: the institutions of representative and direct democracy, to guarantee the civil (private) and political rights and liberties, independent media, party pluralism, which includes a variety of opposition to the authorities, the division authorities, a broad self-government jobs and professions, guarantees for minorities, and many others etc.

  1. In any even the most liberal society, there are the bodies of power – this is the army, the internal affairs bodies, the police, intelligence, counterintelligence. The presence and authority of this diverse apparatus of coercion and violence are enshrined in the Constitution and specific laws. In cases of need to suppress large-scale performances in many countries, there are laws on the state of emergency, presidential government, which led to temporary restrictions of limited rights and freedoms of citizens. ( Shapiro 2001, p 160)
  2. The government can not do without a professional managerial staff, called in the sociology of bureaucracy (sociologists do not invest in the term of the negative sense, to which we are accustomed). But to this unit is not up on people and their representatives, not a bureaucracy in our understanding, there must be thought out a system of social control over its membership and activities, and the system of justice. In developed democracies, constitutional law usually contains thoroughly developed institutions (parliamentary and judicial accountability, the competitive system of acquisition of public service, etc.). Experience, however, shows that in these countries is not as rare a bureaucratic perversion (mismanagement, inefficiency, etc.), however, society and people have a strong legal tools to combat such phenomena.

As for the “socialist” and developing countries, where dominance of bureaucracy in the negative sense of the word – a widespread phenomenon, though, and in the constitutions and laws can be found many against the provision. They, however, are inactive or ineffective because of these factors – an authoritarian or totalitarian political regime and the low level of political and legal culture of society.

  1. A democratic regime can operate successfully only if there is a certain level of political culture. This means that all citizens abide by uniform rules for all (legal, constitutional) because of certain traditions of a given country. From the level and type of political culture is largely dependent nature of power, its form, related to citizens, the ways of violence and repression, used in emergencies.

The structure of political culture includes cognitive, moral-evaluative, and behavioral components. For example, the behavioral element of political culture in a democratic regime implies a conscious teaching of citizens to participate in political life: when discussing the projects of public documents and acts, in the plebiscites in the election of legislative, executive and judicial authorities in the various state and public bodies, and several other campaigns of public and political activity.

Advantages and disadvantages of democracy

As it was mentioned above that democracy have both positive and negative features. So, here it would be appropriate to speak about advantages and disadvantages of democracy. To my mind modern democracy is strongly different from the classical, though connected with it as well, and with the classical monarchy and aristocracy, and theocracy to timocracy, with other private forms of governance. The difference between modern democracies from the many early hybrid systems lies in the consistency and rationality of the connection time-tested political structures and related functions. What we call the democratic principles and procedures is essentially a rational means of ensuring the sustainability and stability of massive, dense and multi-layered political systems of today. Modern democracy as a result appears as a rational and critical development of complex political systems modernized heritage of all three eras, flexible and pragmatic use.

What does it mean to be a Democrat today? From the perspective of the problems discussed in the lecture to be a democrat means, above all, the ability to obtain unbiased and comprehensive assessment of the maximum number, and, ideally, all available alternatives. It also means the most complete knowledge of the political heritage of all periods of political development, the ability to efficiently absorb this heritage and use it in everyday political life.( Shapiro 2001, p 155)

By its very essence of modern democracy is alien to loop on stereotypes of modernity. However, the most significant indication of the reality of a new political era of the approximation is self-development of modern democracy, it is increasingly clear its distinction as compared not only with classical democracy, but with populist democracy, which is just and should be called the modern, leaving for a democracy that begins to approve a post today, the name or any other, which is not to the people of a new political era.


In some results, it must be said that democracy can be viewed in different ways:

Democracy can be viewed in the institutional dimension for characterizing the political regime, which is a certain amount of political and legal characteristics: in particular – the existence of civil society, the principle of separation of powers, the elected representative government on a competitive basis, etc.

Procedural term “democracy” is used to describe the life of community (both at the national or local level), including political parties and organizations, dominated by the principle of subordination to the will of a minority majority, its members have equal rights and responsibilities and to declare them equal access to the deliberations and decision-making.

In the cultural dimension democracy is linked with a culture of society (including political culture), based on the principles of individual autonomy, tolerance and civic responsibility.

In the value aspect, along with the political-institutional, procedural, procedural, and cultural aspect of the concept of “democracy” refers to the specific political and social value, is inextricably linked with the principles of freedom, human rights and creating conditions for maximal self-identity.

The interpretation of democracy as a political and social value, in our view, is synthesizing to the previous aspects of the democracy.

Although the eventual course of democratic development and deepening of the democratization process the difference between these dimensions is gradually shrinking, however, the disparity of institutional and procedural areas of the culture of the society or its dominant political values determine how the periodic crises in developed democracies, and the inconsistency and contradictions of democratization in transitional societies. (Diamond 2009, p88)

Similarly, many of the existing models of democracy focus on different aspects of democracy from above, or on a different value (for example, the value of political competition, and J.Schumpeter, or the value of freedom from F. Hayek).

The sovereignty of people is one of the mandatory source of any democratic constitution, though seemingly in our time in the civilized world, it’s disputed by no one. Historically, it emerged during the revolutionary struggle of people against feudal absolutism (XVII-XVIII cc.), and opposed the claims of monarchs in the unlimited power of the mandate, allegedly received from above. Thus, the notion of sovereignty developed further in the XVI century, Jean Baudin (France), to justify the undivided state power was used in the new sense: for the approval of the concept of a democratic state and the people. The constitutional principle of the sovereignty of the people and rulers today reminds about the source of power and, consequently, for the sake of whom this power is obliged to use.

The sovereignty of the people – this is the source of power. The will of the people, expressed in legally relevant ways, is the true and only foundation of the State; its mandate is based on the device, and any change in the form of state power. The sovereignty of the people is inextricably linked with the rights and freedoms of citizen. The people are never united in their purpose, because the various interests of social groups, therefore, to distinguish between the implementation of the sovereignty of the people from selfish ambition for power experienced by demagogues often very difficult, legal principles are helping only a small degree. ( Mandelbaum 2008, p46)

Hence the exceptional importance of the legal detail of the principle of popular sovereignty, the establishment of reliable guarantees for the realization of this principle in life. The development and protection of human rights and freedoms of citizens is the most important of these safeguards. (Copp 1995, p257)

Even though in this respect in the democratic countries there are different nuances, certain principles and practical approaches distinguish democratic government from other forms of state power:

Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens participate in government and take over the responsibility to society, either directly or through freely chosen representatives.

Democracy is a set of principles and practices that protect the freedom of human. Democracy – it is the institutionalization (the introduction of legal framework) freedom.

Democracy is founded on the principles of majority rule, coupled with the rights of individuals and minorities. All nations with a democratic form of government, respecting the will of the majority, zealously protect the fundamental rights of individuals and groups that make up the minority.

Democratic state guard members from the powers of central government and in the process of decentralization of state power by delegating some powers to the regional and local level. In this state with a democratic form of government are aware that local authorities should, to the maximum extent possible, be accessible to people and respond to their needs and aspirations.

Democracies understand that one of their main functions is to protect the basic human rights such as freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal protection of the law and the right to organize and participate fully in the political, economic and cultural life of society.

States with a democratic form of government hold regular free and fair elections, the right of participation in which is provided to all citizens. Elections in a democratic society can not only be a screen behind which hides dictators, or a single batch, and represent real competition for winning the support of the people.

Democracy requires the public authorities carry out the law and provides a situation in which all citizens receive equal protection under the law and their rights protected by the legal system.

Democratic state differ diversity, reflecting the unique political, social and cultural life of each country.

States with a democratic form of government based on fundamental principles have rather uniform practice. In a democracy, citizens not only have rights, but also commit themselves to participation in the political system, which in turn protects the rights and freedoms of citizens.

Democratic societies are committed to such principles as tolerance, cooperation and compromise. Democracies recognize that reaching consensus requires compromise and that he may not always be achieved. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”( Mandelbaum 2008, p90)

Society is faced with the problem of selecting those who can be entrusted power, when there was a need to solve problems requiring a hierarchically higher coordination activities in such a way the self-organized cells of the primary level, because the people they choose to be managers of their teams of the many.

This fact shows an opportunity to ensure that the formal democratic procedures of election administrators and the expression of trust (or distrust) to any candidate for the office (or officer) started to act first – personal, and then – a corporate self-interest, self-thumping people in the home and labor, i.e. democracy can be viewed as fake and formally perfect (in terms of management of illiterate) Democracy encourages all to choose or have the confidence of those whom nobody knows. Naturally, such an approach, any question may be imposed even in the “referendum”. There is another kind – true democracy (possible only in the management of literate societies), from the choice of escape, invited representatives of each hierarchical level in a vertical hierarchy of power to include in its membership for the work of professionals appointed to subordinate authorities and their representatives to create the next level of the vertical hierarchy of power from its ranks, and from among proven to subordinates, while preserving all of the society of real possibilities.


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  1. Political scientists distinguish three groups of rights associated with the growth of citizenship: civil (equality of all citizens before the law, freedom of speech, of religion, freedom to change residence), political (the right to elect and be elected, freedom of vote, the right to form their organization), social (the right Rights to a minimum standard of welfare, the right to have secured the living conditions and social security guarantees). Social rights are realized through the state social programs. Personal and group freedoms are protected by an independent, nonpartisan judiciary. In considering the prospects for the development of democracy, some authors point to the mainstream in the future requirements of the equality guarantees in the sphere of ecology.