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British Democracy Vs. American Democracy Essay

4852 words - 20 pages

Participatory Democracy. Are we Involved

Democracy is based on people’s participation in the political life of their own communities. Participation can assume different forms and express itself in diverse manners: it can be direct, indirect or mediated in nature. History has shown very different ways of involvement and long phases of lacking involvement, varying in the course of time. The very idea of democracy has considerably changed, demonstrating an ample openness to adaptation and innovation. This capacity to adjust and improve is the essential characteristic of democracy. Today, the democratic form of government is universally accepted as superior over others. Here, it is ...view middle of the document...

Democracy thus means ‘ruled by the people’. As every term is a product of its own time. The word ‘democracy’ originates in ancient Greece where the first experiment with democracy appeared in the Greek city of Athens in the 6th and 5th century B.C. The concept of democracy in Athens was based on the participation of the ‘free citizens’ in governing the city [1]. It meant that the people’s direct participation was at the centre of political activity. The most characteristic aspect of Greek democracy was that citizens took part in the political life without any form of mediation. For this reason, some writers believe that man at that time was more ‘politicus’ than ‘oeconomicus’ in nature, since he dedicated only little time to productive activities in favour of the participation in the political arena.
Over the more than twenty centuries of history and progress to follow ancient Greece, democracy has profoundly changed its forms. The most significant difference between the first form of democracy in ancient Greece and its modern version is the way of exercising democracy: in its ancient form, democracy was a direct one, while modern democracy follows a representative mode. Direct democracy is a system, which could work properly in small communities, such as the city state, and it requires the participation of all citizens and the agreement of a majority in the decisions-making process. For nation states with large populations, as in the European states since the 16th century, democratic systems need to be conceptualised in a different way. The concept of representation substituted, inevitably, the notion of direct democracy. What is more, man today is certainly more ‘oeconomicus’ than ‘politicus’, and therefore, he must delegate his political rights to representatives.
The concept of representative democracy means that citizens express their right of participating in political life by the instrument of the vote, through the election of representatives. Representation was not originally created for democratic institutions. In fact, during the Middle Ages, it was a corporative and oligarchic form of exercising power. With the extension of suffrage, however, it became the main characteristic of democracy. Originally, the right of voting was the privilege of the upper-middle and middle class, until eventually it was extended to the working class. Only in the 20th century did suffrage finally become universal. The representative kind of democratic system is much more complex than the direct one, as it needs an apparatus of rules to function, a law that establishes the criteria of elections, the separation of the powers, the existence of universally accepted rules about the right to vote, the existence of more than one party, a method to balance different powers, an electoral system, freedom of information etc. There are many varieties of representative democracy but there can be no doubt that this is the main modern,...

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