Democracy and Democratization: Processes and Prospects in a Changing World

By Georg Sørensen | Go to book overview
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cratic India. I am not suggesting that this contradiction between democracy (or nondemocracy) at the national level and nondemocratic tendencies (or the opposite) at the local level can be widely generalized. The core of the matter is that a national framework of democracy does not guarantee real democracy at the local level and an authoritarian national framework does not completely block democratic elements at the local level.

Yet one can expect such contradictions to become less pronounced in the long run. In other words, in the long run, democracy at the national level and democracy at the local level tend to reinforce each other, but in the short-to-medium run there may be discrepancies between the two. It is important to be aware of these discrepancies in overall assessments of democracy.


CONCLUSION

Democracy means rule by the people. A more precise definition is difficult to formulate because democracy is a dynamic entity that has acquired many different meanings over the course of time. Much of this dynamic comes from changes in society and from the different interpretations by analysts of the consequences of these changes for democracy. With the very different levels and ways of development of societies in today's world, it is not surprising that the meaning of democracy continues to be the subject of debate.

Yet for analytical purposes we need to develop a concept that provides a clear identification of what democracy essentially is. The core of political democracy has three dimensions: competition, participation, and civil and political liberties. When we study the status of democracy in a specific country, the first step is to look for these three elements. In this context it is helpful to consult one of the indexes on democracy--for example, the Freedom House index. In order to make a comprehensive assessment of democracy, one must carefully scrutinize the individual country as well because democratic systems vary greatly in their institutional patterns and along other dimensions. Socioeconomic conditions also affect the quality of democracy. Finally, it is necessary to be aware of the international setting above and the local conditions below the level of national government.

It can be argued that this procedure is too comprehensive and requires analysis of "everything." It is true that one will often have to stop short of completing all of these stages. Even in the present volume the discussion is limited to the transition from authoritarian rule to political democracy and to the consequences of democracy. Yet it is important to be aware of the full agenda if one wishes to evaluate specific cases of democracy in a more comprehensive manner.

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