Development of democracy
The development of democracy goes back to ancient Greece. In the city-state of Athens, after long battles with the rulers, a democracy was established in which all free citizens decided equally in the moot (direct democracy). The restriction on free citizens, however, excluded large sections of the population, for example, all women.
During the Middle Ages democratic elements are limited to the free imperial cities, and in those to the more prosperous parts of the population.
In modern times, the development of democracy was formed by two factors: Firstly in the modern era large surface States with millions of inhabitants were established. These were clearly more unmanageable then the city-states of Greece. On the other hand, the philosophy in the Age of Enlightenment employed itself with the people as intelligent beings.
One question was how the freedom of individuals resulting from the new human image could optimally combined with the organization of the state. In particular, three political thinkers influenced their responses with the further development considerations:
- John Locke dropped from the freedom and equality of all people and saw the power of government limited by the consent of the citizens.
- Charles de Secondat Montesquieu saw the assurance of freedom as a key objective of the state and applies the separation of powers, to prevent abuse.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that man by his very nature is good, but the state prevents its development. He developed the theory of identitary democracy, where the people ally together in a social contract, and ruler and subjects are equal.
These various theories were subsequently put into practice, the first time in the year 1776 with the American Declaration of Independence.
After setback in the 19th century, it took until the second half of the 20th century until democracy could spread further worldwide and as a result becomes an increasingly influential form of government.
Theories of democracy
In a democracy, the state power, the power is assumed by the people. The people make the decisions. How the people comes to a common decision can be described in different theories.
The identity theory, which goes back to Rousseau, assumed that there is a single, objectively discernible general people's will. Rulers and subjects are the same, special dissenting opinions are not accepted. Only direct democracy is recognized. Representatives of all kinds, such as parties, are rejected as representatis of special opinions.
This view of things has the high risk to establish a democratic dictatorship through the suppression of divergent opinions.
The competition theory accepts the existence of different interests. These are articulated by the people's representatives (representative democracy). In the political decision-making process there will be a majority and it will enforce itself. For this to work, despite all different interests, there have to be a common basis.
In this model, there is a danger of unlimited rule of the majority. To prevent this there must exist minority rights.
The pluralism theory, based on the competition theory, also recognizes different interests. According to this theory the common good is not determined from the outset, instead it is the result of a compromise found with political battle . This competition works, however, only if there is a minimum consensus on certain rules of the game (values) (for example, that a political opponent is not regarded as an enemy). The State must ensure that these rules are not violated.
The characteristics of a democratic state
In addition to the basic message that in a democracy the power is owned by the people, there are other features that characterize a democratic state:
- Constitutional state
- Separation of powers
- Mediators between people and elected representatives - parties, media, stakeholders
Variants of representative democracy
There are two basic types of representative democracy, parliamentary democracy and presidential democracy:
In a parliamentary democracy the government depends on the majority in parliament. The chief of the government is elected by parliament. Germany is a parliamentary democracy.
In a presidential democracy, government and parliament are strictly separated. The chief of the government also is president and head of state and directly elected by the people. An example is the United States of America.