The Analysis of Political Systems

By Douglas V. Verney | Go to book overview

VI
'CLASSICAL' DEMOCRACY

A. Theories of General Participation

IN this chapter we shall explore the basic notions of democracy. Those people who opposed absolute government in the eighteenth century and who wished the 'will of the people' to prevail were often attracted by the idea of 'pure' or 'direct' or 'classical' democracy, that is to say government by the people.

In practice, as we can now see, the democratic way of life implies far more, and is infinitely more complex, than the scheme outlined by the classical theorists of democracy. The growth of large states has meant the adoption of representative government. The variations of outlook between Left and Right, Catholic and Protestant, farmer and labourer, socialist and individualist, to say nothing of the uneven distribution of wealth and power have caused political parties to be accepted as part of the political process and not as mere factions. Pressure and interest groups are indicators of intensity of feeling by minorities about certain issues. Gone is the simple direct relationship of government and people which we may now call the 'classical' theory.

Yet the legacy of this classical period is with us still, in our theorizing if not in our political practices, and its influence on much American and Continental thought is profound. Even in Great Britain it is still regarded as democracy when this is reduced to its simplest elements.


1. WHAT IT IS

The classical theory of democracy has often been popularly summed up in Lincoln's famous phrase. Although this does not

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The Analysis of Political Systems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Part 0ne - The Structure of Government 15
  • II - Parliamentary Government 17
  • III - Presidential Government 39
  • IV - Convention Theory 57
  • Part Two - The Political Process 95
  • VI - 'Classical' Democracy 99
  • VII - Representative Democracy And Political Parties 115
  • VIII - The Political Process: Interests and Pressure Groups 129
  • IX - Elite Theories 157
  • X - The 'Iron Law of Oligarchy' 174
  • XI - Class War 186
  • Part Three - Conclusion 197
  • XII - Government and the Political Process 199
  • Index 233
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