Unit 3 Study Guide: Democratic States and Democratization

3a: Define democracy.

    • Define suffrage, democracy, republic, majority rule, parliament.
    • Define participatory democracy, constitutional monarchy, liberalism.
    • List and describe some of the most notable characteristics of a democracy.
    • Define the fear Plato and Alexis de Tocqueville had regarding democracy and the tyranny of the majority.
    • Define checks and balances.
    • List some additional ideas James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay included in The Federalist Papers to prevent a tyranny of the majority from developing in the United States?

As in all forms of government, many variations and types of democracy exist. Nevertheless, key components of democracy endure, such as some type of participation or involvement from their citizens.

James Madison (1731–1836), Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804), and John Jay (1745–1829) authored The Federalist Papers, a series of 85 articles published in New York newspapers under the pseudonym Publius to make the case for democracy in the United States, and convince the people to ratify the U.S. Constitution. They shared the fear Plato and Alexis de Tocqueville had regarding the tyranny of the majority. They installed certain incentives and institutional checks and balances to prevent any one faction from creating a tyranny in the United States.

Review these definitions of in the section Democracy from Boundless Sociology.

Review Ian Shapiro's discussion of Plato's and Tocqueville's fear of the tyranny of the majority in his lecture Democracy and Majority Rule (I), (timestamp 4:27 to 14:06).

Review Ian Shapiro's discussion of The Federalist Papers in Democracy and Majority Rule (I) (timestamp 15:02 to 50:39).

3b: Differentiate between representative (indirect) and participatory (direct) democracy.

    • Define and provide examples of government institutions that offer direct (participatory), and representative democracy.
    • List some ways voters participate in democratic government.
    • How do direct and indirect forms of democracy allow different voices to be heard.

Citizens experience different levels of involvement in their democratic governments. Most democratic governments only invite their citizens to vote or get involved in certain types of decision making, for reasons of time and expediency. For example, in the United States, voters elect legislators to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to represent them when they make laws. Voters also elect a president to execute the laws. Many democracies around the world have similar parliamentary systems.

Review Democracy from Boundless Sociology, and the section Forms of Government from Boundless Political Science.

3c: Identify prominent characteristics of democratic states.

    • List and describe some typical precursors and components of a democratic state.
    • List and describe some typical ideals for democracy.

Many of us have a general idea of what democracy entails, but no one country has incorporated every element at any one time. For example, in every democratic state, we can all point to past and present examples of practices or inequities that are hardly democratic, such as slavery, restrictions on voting rights for certain demographic groups, injustices based on economic class, and racial discrimination that restricts access to certain necessary goods and services. Every country has a history that includes examples of restrictions on free speech, a free press, and freedom of assembly.

Nevertheless, many of us push our governments to meet the ideals for a democratic state. For example, the readings in this unit mention democratic ideals that include: free, open, transparent, and competitive elections; freedom of the press; the freedom of religion; the respect for the rule of law; the freedom to assemble and organize; the ability to hold elected and appointed public officials accountable; protections for personal property; protections for minority populations; and, a respect for human rights.

Review this material in the article Conceptualising and Assessing the State of Democracy in the World Today by Bryant Edward Harden, and Democracy and Development: The Role of the UN.

3d: Identify trends in democratization.

    • Identify some components of democratization.
    • What do the scholars in the resources in this unit have to say about the trends toward democratization?
    • What elements in society can discourage the creation of democratic institutions?

The trend toward democratization is not linear. Many states falter on their path toward democracy, backtrack, or simply get stuck in limbo. Creating legitimate democratic institutions can take decades, even centuries, to take root. For example, while several populations rushed to democratize during the recent so called Arab Spring, democratic transitions have seemed too slow and falter in many areas. Russia, following the demise of the Soviet Union also seemed to be moving toward a more democratic government, but now appears to have settled on a more autocratic system. It is difficult to say whether these reversals present examples of temporary or permanent setbacks. Do you think these trends toward and against democratization are beneficial to the purpose of creating a civil society?

Review Conceptualising and Assessing the State of Democracy in the World Today by Bryant Edward Harden, and Democracy and Development: The Role of the UN.

Review some reasons why the uprisings in the Middle East in 2010 did not immediately result in the creation of new democratic institutions The Arab Spring: Prospects for Democracy (timestamp 15:55 to 32:30).

Review the struggle and failure to install democratic government in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union Nationalism and Legitimation for Authoritarianism: A Comparison of Nicholas I and Vladimir Putin by Sean Cannady and Paul Kubicek.

3e: List the six major explanations for democratization.

    • Name ten catalysts that have prompted a transition from authoritarian, or dictatorial, to democratic forms of government.
    • Why did each of these catalysts promote democratic government?

The key causes for democratization are difficult to establish, but social scientists have an idea about some of the conditions that may lead to democratization. Do all of the reasons they provide mean democratization will necessarily result? Can you think of any states that may have fulfilled these conditions, but have not democratized?

Review Democratization from Wikipedia.

3f: Explain and assess if democracy improves economic outcomes.

    • Do you see a causal relationship between democratization and economic growth?
    • Do you think a repressive society can foster economic growth for its entire population, not simply support a wealthy governing class?

Many politicians believe democratization will lead to higher levels of economic growth for most members of the population. They argue that a government that promotes an open democratic society, where people are able to meet freely with others to exchange ideas, will improve the economic well-being of their citizens. Economic progress is a benefit frequently touted as a reason for promoting democratic transition. When these promised benefits do not emerge, domestic friction and animosity toward the democratic process can emerge.

Review Democracy and Development: The Role of the UN.

Review how President Vladimir Putin blamed liberal democracy for Russia's economic collapse in the 1990s. He promoted nationalistic fervor and used the economic downturn to justify returning Russia to autocratic rule in Nationalism and Legitimation for Authoritarianism: A Comparison of Nicholas I and Vladimir Putin by Sean Cannady and Paul Kubicek.

Unit 3 Vocabulary

      • Alexander Hamilton
      • Alexis de Tocqueville
      • Autocracy
      • Checks and balances
      • Civil society
      • Constitutional monarchy
      • Democracy
      • Dictatorship
      • Direct democracy
      • James Madison
      • John Jay
      • Liberalism
      • Majority rule
      • Minimalist standard
      • Monarchy
      • Oligarchy
      • Parliament
      • Participatory democracy
      • Polyarchy
      • Representative democracy
      • Republic
      • Rule of law
      • Suffrage
      • The Federalist Papers
      • Totalitarianism
      • Tyranny of the majority
Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 7:03 PM