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Today, 118 countries across the globe are democracies - that's 54.8% of all nations - and the number has been subject to drastic increase in the past decade. The word democracy originated in Ancient Greece in the 5th century BC and derives from two Greek words: ‘demos’, meaning people, and ‘kratos’ meaning rule. In a nutshell, democracy is ideally a system of government in which the people are involved in making state decisions. is traditionally viewed as ‘that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which the individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote’ (Schumpeter 1950: 269).
Liberal vs. Illiberal Democracy
Democracy can take many forms and not all democracies are the liberal ones which first come to mind therefore a clear distinction between liberal and illiberal democracies must be kept in mind. Both liberal and illiberal democracies identify themselves as having democratic institutional features such as elections but illiberal democracies fail to act in accordance to individuals’ civil liberties like a liberal democracy effectively would and are usually fixed democracies which do not hold fair elections in which all citizens freely vote.
Direct vs. Indirect Democracy
Democracy can also be direct or indirect: direct democracy occurs when people vote directly on laws and issues (so they are made by popular vote) whereas in an indirect democracy people elect representatives who then vote on laws and issues on behalf of the people. The latter form of democracy is much more common than direct democracy, with Switzerland being a rare example of a nation which uses direct democracy at some levels, like for cantons and federal state; here citizens have a lot more power than in a representative democracy as it is them transparently voting on each decision rather than being represented by an elected person.
The Liberal Democratic Peace Theory
Throughout the 1900s the Liberal Democratic Peace Theory (LDPT) became a theoretical form of democracy. The idea of perpetual peace is considered by philosopher Emmanuel Kant to be the ‘end to all hostilities’ (Reiss 1971: 93). This definition in itself proves that peace cannot be obtained when there is still fear of future wars or hostilities and as such it is an concept that to-date has not been reached. The democratic peace theory states that liberal democracies rarely, if ever, declare war amongst each other and sees world order as an obtainable prospect. The reasons behind this rationale are that liberal democracies will always seek diplomatic negotiation and collaboration before engaging in war-like behaviour, they traditionally have larger economies than non-democracies and as such are more committed to preserving their public wealth and lastly, generally speaking, liberal democracies do not have profound ideological conflicts with other liberal democracies as they share the same liberal fundamentalism and respect of civil liberties. This would mean that, according to the LDPT, if liberal democracies were spread and incorporated in all nations then we would have world order.
So there are some forms of democracy – how many of them did you already know? What are your opinions on the liberal democratic peace theory, will it ever work? Comment below!