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Article

Democracy  

Ludvig Beckman

Democracy is a term that is used to denote a variety of distinct objects and ideas. Democracy describes either a set of political institutions or an ideal of collective self-rule. Democracy can also be short for a normative principle of either legitimacy or justice. Finally, democracy might be used to denote an egalitarian attitude. These four uses of the term should be kept distinct and raises separate conceptual and normative issues. The value of democracy, whether democratic political institutions or democratic self-rule, is either instrumental, non-instrumental, or both. The non-instrumental value of democracy derives either from the alleged fairness of majority rule or from the value of the social relationships enabled by participation in democratic procedures. The instrumental value of democracy lends support from a growing body of empirical research. Yet, the claim that democracy has a positive causal effect on public goods is inconclusive with respect to the moral justification of democratic institutions. Normative reasons for democracy’s instrumental value must instead appeal to the fact that it contributes to equality, liberty, truth, or the realization of popular will. Democracy as a principle of either political legitimacy or justice is a normative view that evades concerns with the definition and value of democracy. Normative democracy is a claim about the conditions either for legitimacy or justice of either public authority or coercion. Debates in normative democracy are largely divorced from the conceptual and empirical concerns that inform studies of democracy elsewhere. The boundaries of the people entitled to participate in collective decisions is a question that applies to all four uses of democracy. The boundary question raises three distinct issues. The first is the extent of inclusion required among the members of the unit. The second is if membership in the unit is necessary for inclusion or if people that are not recognized as members are on certain conditions also entitled to participate. The third and final issue concerns the boundaries of the unit itself.

Article

Liberalism  

Samuel Freeman

Liberalism in politics is associated with nonauthoritarianism, the rule of law, constitutional government with limited powers, and the guarantee of civil and political liberties. A liberal society is tolerant of different religious, philosophical, and ethical doctrines and allows individuals to freely form and express their conscientious convictions and opinions on all matters and live according to their chosen purposes and life paths. In economic terms, liberalism is associated with an unplanned economy with free and competitive markets, as well as private ownership and control of productive resources. The basic institutions that are characteristic of a liberal society are constitutionalism and the rule of law; equal basic rights and liberties; formal equality of opportunity; free, competitive markets with private property in means of production; government’s obligation to provide public goods and a social minimum; and the fiduciary nature of political power to impartially provide for the public good. Liberals interpret these basic institutions differently. Classical liberalism regards extensive property rights and economic liberties as basic, while libertarians see all rights as property rights and as absolute. High liberalism regards economic liberties as subordinate to personal and political liberties and subject to regulation, with redistribution of income and wealth to mitigate gross inequalities and provide all citizens with adequate resources to guarantee the worth of their basic liberties and opportunities.

Article

Comparative Political Regimes: Consensus and Majoritarian Democracy  

Matthijs Bogaards

Ever since Aristotle, the comparative study of political regimes and their performance has relied on classifications and typologies. The study of democracy today has been influenced heavily by Arend Lijphart’s typology of consensus versus majoritarian democracy. Scholars have applied it to more than 100 countries and sought to demonstrate its impact on no less than 70 dependent variables. This paper summarizes our knowledge about the origins, functioning, and consequences of two basic types of democracy: those that concentrate power and those that share and divide power. In doing so, it will review the experience of established democracies and question the applicability of received wisdom to new democracies.

Article

Autocracy  

Erica Frantz

Dictatorships have dominated global politics for hundreds of years, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the absolute monarchs of Europe. Though democracy has since spread to much of the world, about 40% of today’s countries are still ruled by dictatorship. And yet, compared with democracies, we know very little about how dictatorships work, who the key political actors are, and where decision making powers lie. Political processes are opaque, and information is often intentionally distorted. Political survival depends not on maintaining the favor of voters, as in democracies, but on securing the backing of a considerably smaller coalition of supporters. The absence of a reliable third party to enforce compromises among key players means that power-sharing deals lack credibility, and the threat of forced ouster is omnipresent. Uncertainty pervades authoritarian politics. Modern autocrats respond to this uncertain environment in a variety of ways. They use political parties, legislatures, elections, and other institutions typically associated with democracies to lessen their risk of overthrow. Despite the façade of democracy, these institutions are key components of most autocrats’ survival strategies; those that incorporate them last longer in power than those that do not. The specific ways in which autocratic institutions are used and the extent to which they can constrain leadership choices to prevent consolidation of power into the hands of a single individual, however, vary enormously from one dictatorship to the next. Better understanding the conditions that push autocracies down a path of collegial versus strongman rule remains a critical task, particularly given that the latter is associated with more war, economic mismanagement, and resistance to democratization.