The political regime is a personification of the state status, which describes the way of the political system organization and relations of the government with its society. Modern scholars have identified several political regimes, and democracy is one of them. The degree of the democratic government is one of the most important criteria for its development. Thanks to it, the state is able to establish the purpose of its existence and conditions of its achievement. Democracy is one of the most effective ways to implement set plans and improve the society, for example. This paper describes the concept of democracy, in general, researches its history, and analyzes principles and approaches.
The first concept of democracy appeared in Ancient Greece. Aristotle believed that democracy is the rule of all. However, with time, it became clear that the rule of the people does not mean the engagement of literally all. It is believed that democracy as a form of government was founded by a primitive society, which created the so-called military democracy. Military democracy implied the ability to control only the armed men. Furthermore, ancient Athens established a direct policy of democracy, which presupposed the board only by adults and free men. Only these members of the community had the right to participate in public meetings and vote. In turn, in ancient Athens, women and slaves had no political rights at all.
The founders of the direct democracy of Athens had no successful political system. The political regime in Athens distributed only a few thousand inhabitants. In addition, Athens government could be changed and acquire some features of tyranny. For example, the Athenian democracy was the cause of Socrates’ death. Also, a well-known commander, Themistocles, was expelled from the city, because he was better than the residents of the settlement. Finally, it should be noted that the economy of Athens was built on slavery, which was a contradictory feature of a democratic form of government.
Since that time, the concept of democracy has been experiencing a constant change. However, it has undergone the most dramatic transformation in the XVII-XVIII centuries. The English Revolution of 1688 and the War of Independence in North America (1775-1783), as well as the French Revolution of 1789, gave the foundation and shaped the basic principles of democracy. New laws in contemporary England, the Bill of Rights in the United States, and the declaration of human and civil rights have become symbols of democratic values that exist so far.
It is possible to describe the essence of democracy through a certain set of values and procedures. The first and the most important one is the sovereignty of people. A democratic form of the government means that people are the sole source of power. They elect representatives and change them periodically. In addition, the principle of sovereignty of people means that the constitution and form of the government can be changed at the will of the people, in compliance with all legal standards and procedures.
The second element of democracy is the frequency of the main election of authorities. It allows for the implementation of the legal mechanism of inheritance of power, which is recognized by all people. The state power comes from fair elections for a specific limited period. In addition, the universal suffrage and secret ballot constitute the third element of democracy. Democratic elections presuppose competitive nature of the election campaign, as well as free choice.
An important element of democracy is a guarantee of the fundamental human rights principles that characterize the relationship between the state and citizen. Freedom is the basis of such a relationship. A citizen that is protected by the authorities against any encroachments of other citizens characterizes it, as well. The General Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948 by the UN General Assembly, included such freedoms as the freedom of speech, persuasion, and poverty.
Political rights are an integral part of modern democracy. Under this concept, there is the power to participate in the governance process and influence decisions of legislative and executive bodies. For example, every citizen of a democratic country has the right to elect and be elected, and to have freedom of political expression and the right to demonstrations, for example. Social and economic rights, the implementation of which is an essential condition of the political equality, complement political rights. Socio-economic rights of democratic states include the elimination of any social inequality, as well as raising the level of the citizen participation in the political life of the country. Such rights include secured living conditions, for example, adequate standard of living, social security guarantees, and the right to education.
Modern political scientists distinguish two types of democracy: direct and representative one. Direct democracy implies a lack of communication between the will of the people and its embodiment in decision-making. In such a manner, citizens are involved in own training, decision-making, and dealing with its consequences. Athens had a similar kind of democracy; its popular assemblies gathered every nine years, with a view to adopting some strategic decisions. Many modern companies and organizations use direct democracy, where the common solution is achieved through holding meetings. The use of this method is limited by the factor of territory. It depends on the degree of decentralization of decision-making within an organization. In addition, the form of direct democracy presupposes the elections process, in which people have an opportunity to choose representatives of the government.
Representative democracy implies an indirect expression of the will of people. In representative democracy, the will of people is expressed through the institution of intermediaries. In many advanced countries, political leaders play the role of intermediaries as they receive the right to rule as a result of the election campaign. They must embody and implement the will of the society by using the laws and taking necessary decisions. Political leaders have a close relationship with the people; it is based on the authority and responsibility.
Direct democracy has several important drawbacks, including the lack of competence and balance of people’s power. Also, a high degree of manipulation of the general idea of politicians, and the uncontrolled spread of opinion and gossip, which prevents the adoption of strategic decisions, cause some difficulties, as well. In turn, representative democracy also has some disadvantages, for example, the government bureaucracy and weakened democratic control. In addition, in representative democracy, so-called pressure groups have priority in making decisions. Therefore, it is possible to say that both forms of democracy have certain strengths and weaknesses. The simultaneous use of both forms is the most effective political regime.
Democracy may have a large number of models and concepts. Political science, for example, philosophy, determines the identical and competitive theory of democracy. The identical theory describes people as a single body, which has a common will. At the same time, the emphasis on the theory makes direct democracy, partially or totally, inhibiting the representation. According to the identical theory, sovereignty is the exercise of the common will of people, in which every citizen expresses an own opinion to the benefit of the society.
The competitive theory asserts that the society comprises different groups that have varying interests. Therefore, people cannot express own will fully; thus, the existence of conflicts and misunderstandings in the society is acceptable. Consequently, there exists a concept of political will. It is a basis for the principle of majority. In turn, competitive democracy is the basis for liberal ideas.
The liberal conception of democracy is based on the personal autonomy. The idea of the concept is that an individual must be protected from any external pressure as much as possible. Because of its closeness, the concept has many disadvantages. For example, absolutizing the possibility of participation of all citizens in the government causes considerable difficulties.
Modern researchers have identified two main approaches to democracy: the substantial and procedural one. Supporters of the procedural approach consider a full-fledged democracy a form of the government, and support procedures that enable people to express their will, including meetings, demonstrations, and elections, for example. The substantial approach focuses on the actions of elected authorities, considering the essence of democratic governance in the public policy. Supporters of the substantial approach believe that it is the ideal way to solve problems of national minorities, as well as the realization of civil rights and freedom from discrimination. Due to its versatility, the substantial approach has a number of theories, including the majority theory, the theory of participative democratic, pluralistic theory, polyarchy, and the theory of elite democracy.
To summarize, it should be noted that democracy is a form of political regime, which is based on the recognition of the source of power of people. The aim of democracy is to ensure justice and equality in the country’s population. However, the main guarantee of the successful building of a democratic regime is a developed political culture of the population. Therefore, a set of measures is needed for providing a democratic style of the political culture of the population, as well as the change of socio-political structures, for example. Nevertheless, it is a laborious and time-consuming process.