Democracy and legitimacy - Democracy - Democracy in practice

9 important questions on Democracy and legitimacy - Democracy - Democracy in practice

What are the central features of the worldwide accepted view of democracy (liberal democracy)?

- Indirect and representative form of democracy
- Based on competition and electoral choice.
- Characterized by a clear distinction between the state and civil society
- It provides protection for minorities and individuals

There are certain ways to to interpret this form of liberal democracy. What are these?

- Pluralism
- Elitism
- Corporatism
- The New Right
- Marxism

What is a pluralist democracy?

It refers to a form of democracy that operates through the capacity of organized groups and interests to articulate popular demands and ensure responsive government

1. A wide dispersal of political power amongst competing groups 
2. A high degree of internal responsiveness, group leaders being accountable to members
3. A neutral governmental machine that is sufficiently fragmented to offer groups a number of points of access
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What is the corporatist view on democracy?

In Fascist Italy this was the way to integrate managers and workers in the process of government

What is neocorporatism and peak associations?

Neo corporatism : a tendency found in Western polyarchies for organized interestst to be granted privileged and institutionalized access to policy formulation

Peak association : A group recognized by government as representing the general or collective interests of businesses or workers

How has the emergence of the New Right generated a critique of democratic politics?

It has focused on the danger of what has been called 'democratic overload': the paralysis of a political system that is subject to unrestrained groups and electoral pressures.
(shows also the bad side of corporatism: it empowers sectional groups to make demands on government. So it allows interest groups to dominate government. This leads to a drift towards state intervention and economic stagnation).

How is government overload a consequence of the electoral process?

Electoral politics amounts to a self-defeating process in which politicians are encouraged to compete for power by offering increasingly unrealistic promises to the electorate.
The economic consequences of unrestrained democracy are: high levels of inflation fuelled by public borrowing and a tax burden that destroys enterprise and undermines growth.

So New Right theorists see democracy in strictly protective terms (no social transformation)

What is the ruling class?

A Marxist term, denoting a class that dominates other classes and society at large by virtue of its ownership of productive wealth

What is the marxist critique on liberal democracy?

It focuses on the inherent tension between democracy and capitalism: between the political equality that liberal democracy proclaims and the social inequality that economy inevitably generates.

So power cannot be widely and evenly dispersed in society as long as class power is unequally distributed.

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