Modern Democracy: Issues in Theory and Practice

By Hashmi, Dr Rehana Saeed | Journal of Political Studies, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

Modern Democracy: Issues in Theory and Practice


Hashmi, Dr Rehana Saeed, Journal of Political Studies


Abstract

Introduction

We live in a world where the chants of democracy and freedom echoed around the globe. Eastern Europe has left the deplorable totalitarian regimes half a century ago. The disintegrated republics from Soviet Union are constantly making efforts to replace the communist regime of seventy-five years. These excessive political changes in Europe have been remarkably heard across the globe. The premise of democracy has been mobilized in such an influential manner that today South and North America are regarded as the hemisphere of democracy. Africa is experiencing an exceptional era of democratic reforms. Moreover, new and dynamic democratic values are taking root in Asia.

Though the term Democracy is widely used in the social, political and economic realms of the contemporary era but it is still distorted and misunderstood by many circles of society. The reason behind its misconception is the rule of totalitarian governments and military regimes. Those have attempted to declare themselves as the legitimate representative of the people by setting representative tags upon them. The traces of real democratic essence can be found throughout the human history. It goes back to the era of Pericles (Greece) to Vaclav Havel (modern Czech Republic), and from Thomas Jefferson's deceleration of independence in 1776 to Andrei Sakharov's last speeches in 1989. (NU) All are significant emblem of democratic idea. This research attempts to highlight the real meaning and spirit of democracy in the light of such ideas.

Democracy: The Real Meaning

In the well-known words of Abraham Lincolns "democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people" (Pinsker, 1858) but democracy is much more than this phrase. There are various dimensions and underpinning concepts linked to it. In the contemporary era, democracy and freedom are usually used synonymously, but there are many differences in their connotations. Although, democracy is the set of doctrines and notions about freedom but in real sense it can be declared as a set of practices and procedures based on long evolving and convoluted history. In a comprehensive way, democracy is a systematic means to legalize and institutionalize liberty.

The major fundamentals of democratic society include constitutional and legitimate government, provision of human rights and equal implementation of law (rule of law). (NU) Another phrase that is considered the essence of democracy is the rule of majority. Although, in all democratic systems, citizens make political decisions by majority rules but this is not necessarily democratic for instance any system in which 51% of the majority is oppressing the 49% would never be regarded as just fair and democratic.

The democratic society does not based only on the rule of majority but accompanied by the provision and protection of basic rights. Rights do not depend upon the favor of majority rather the democratic law and institutions are the custodians of the rights of all citizens. (NU). Democracy extends beyond a set of constitutional principles and procedures determining the functions of a government. In a democracy, government coexists in a social fabric consisting of plethora of institutions which includes political parties, civil society, different organizations and associations. This assortment is known as pluralism. (NU) The underpinning principle of pluralism indicates that the various organized institutions and groups do not rely on the government for their survival and validity. Such organizations operate at local, national and even at international level. These may be diversified in their objectives and purposes. In this fast growing globalized setup, individuals are free to enjoy liberty and respond by taking full responsibility of a self-governance in the absence of strong grip of state. Following table shows the comparison of direct democracy, presidential democracy and parliamentary democracy. …

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