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posted on 27 September 2016

What is Democracy, Anyway?

Written by

If you think you know the answer, think again! Here is what Wikipedia - Democracy has to say: "No consensus exists on how to define democracy". Besides, you may have heard of "liberal democracy", but what about "conservative democracy"?

In this article, I will succinctly define what democracy is, as used in all my publications.

1. Introduction

Democracy was born in Ancient Greece some 2,500 years ago. It is called Athenian democracy. Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia - Athenian democracy.

It was a system of direct democracy, in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills. Participation was not open to all residents: to vote one had to be an adult, male citizen who owned land and was not a slave, and the number of these "varied between 30,000 and 50,000 out of a total population of around 250,000 to 300,000."[1]

Athenian democracy eventually failed.

2. Democracy: Wikipedia's definition

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia - democracy (September 4, 2016).

Democracy, (from Greek: "δημοκρατία") or "rule of the commoners", was originally conceived in Classical Greece, whereby political representatives were chosen by lot (as in a jury) from amongst the male citizens: rich and poor. In modern times it has become equated to elections or "a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity ... elect representatives to a parliament or similar assembly", as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary.[1] Democracy is further defined as a "government by the people", especially "rule of the majority", "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation ..."[2]

3. Democracy: my definition

I largely agree with Wikipedia's definition, but will make it simpler: one person, one vote, without discrimination (e.g. race, gender, or religion).

4. American democracy

Read: What Is American Democracy, Anyway?

5. Democracy: worldwide

Apparently, there are two "types" of democracy:

  1. Liberal democracy: It is also called western democracy, including American democracy.
  2. Conservative democracy: it is used to describe Islamic democracy (e.g. Turkey).

Let's look at them one by one, respectively.

5.1 Liberal democracy: Wikipedia's definition

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia - liberal democracy (September 4, 2016).

Liberal democracy is a political ideology and a form of government in which representative democracy operates under the principles of classical liberalism. It is also called western democracy. It is characterised by fair, free, and competitive elections between multiple distinct political parties, a separation of powers into different branches of government, the rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and the equal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and political freedoms for all people. To define the system in practice, liberal democracies often draw upon a constitution, either formally written or uncodified, to delineate the powers of government and enshrine the social contract. After a period of sustained expansion throughout the 20th century, liberal democracy became the predominant political system in the world.

5.2 Conservative democracy: Wikipedia's definition

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia - conservative democracy (September 4, 2016).

Conservative democracy (Turkish: Muhafazakâr demokrasi) is a term coined by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey to describe Islamic democracy ... In its broadest sense, the term 'conservative democracy' highlights the compatibility of Islam with democracy, a western-oriented foreign policy, neoliberal economics and secularism within government.[2][4] Since the view has been reflected in several economic, foreign, domestic and social policy initiatives, the term 'conservative democracy' has been referred to as a floating signifier that encompasses a broad coalition of ideas.[5] In contrast and because of its broad definition, the term has also been accused of being a red herring designed to conceal a hidden Islamist agenda but maintain public support.[6]

5.3 Summary

To me, the two words "conservative" and "liberal" refer more to the social aspect than to the economic (or fiscal) aspect, like burkini vs. bikini, as shown by the image below.

6. Closing

Here is my definition of democracy: one person, one vote, without discrimination (e.g. race, gender, and religion). With that, let's carry on the discussion with clarity.

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