Deliberative Democracy essay

Democracy is arguably the most complex and difficult from all existing forms of government. It is filled with internal conflicts and contradictions, but its implementation requires arduous efforts. Democracy is aimed at ensuring accountability, rather than efficiency. Democratic government may not act as quickly as the dictatorial regime, but the commitment to a particular course may attract the broadest popular support. Democracy, at least in American terms, is in constant development. In its external manifestations, a form of government in the United States has changed little for two centuries. However, looking deeper, the undergone great changes can be noticed. Today, the democratic form of government is the basis principle of all international norms and values. It requires the involvement of a society in the implementation of the power. Virtually, it can be named the process of a social self-government. The work tries to present some of the main principles of the liberal and deliberative democracy, giving brief information about the history of these democratic theories, and explains the difference between their main ideas. There are presented some shortcomings of the democratic governmental system, due to the fact that any democracy is an evolving system. So it puts the aim to investigate why deliberative democracy in unachievable in practice.

The issue of democracy is one of the most relevant in a modern society for a number of reasons. In the popular literature, there are often simplified definitions of democracy, which should be viewed critically. Known in the history forms of democratic governance models are very varied. The paper is going to investigate the main difference in the conception of two democratic theories by a variety of reasons and find out the main distinguishing features of their practical implementation.

The Main Concept of Democracy

The etymology of the term democracy goes back to the roots of Greek words ‘demos’ and ‘Kratos’, which mean ‘people’ and ‘power’. In a literal translation it means ‘power of people’. Traditionally, it is believed that Greek Athens was the prototype of democracy in the ancient world. Formation of democracy as a complex system of the principles and theoretical models began much later, in 17th-18th centuries. This process began in developed European countries. A rapid development of trade, urbanization of cities and their becoming the centers of concentration and accumulation of financial resources, great geographic discoveries and the crucial economic role of the colonies for the Old World together with a number of important scientific and technical discoveries allowed make the transition from manual to machine production and develop transportation and communication systems. All this led to the contradictions in society between becoming more economically powerful third class and the old aristocracy. This contradiction supported radical changes not only in the political status of the third class, but changed the political regime in general. Relying on the political ideas of radical thinkers like John Locke, Charles-Louis de Montesquieu, Thomas Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson and several other political figures, the nations of England, France and the United States managed to overcome absolutism, laying the basic political, legal and economic principles of democracy in their countries, and created the necessary prerequisites for the restructuring of society. It contributed to the creation of a large middle class, which became the ground for future democratic regime.

The classic definition of democracy belongs to the American President Abraham Lincoln: “Democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. The etymology of this word defines a number of outgoing interconnected principles, without which democracy could not exist.

The factual implementation of democracy largely depends on the understanding of its essence. Democracy is the general treasure for people. History teaches that democracy represents the benefit for people only when it meets the political interests, people’s culture and lifestyle, required economic and social prerequisites. Otherwise, it grows in the chaotic power of the crowd and leads to anarchy.
The historical experience of the second half of the 20th century has shown that countries with democratic regimes have made greater economic success than countries with authoritarian regimes. This is due to the fact that democracy provides the best ground for the human participation in power implementation. That is why the governments of countries with democratic regimes typically commit less mistakes in administration, do not violate the civil rights and norms.

The concept of democracy is very contradictory. There is a confrontation between its main idea understood as the power of people and the inability to implement this power in practice. Famous English philosopher Karl Popper considered democracy irrelevant. In fact, democracy as a direct power of people is impossible, because there are no tools to control and influence the direct rule of people. Moreover, the rule of people is ineffective since the overwhelming majority of them are unable to resolve specific problems of the state and society. The ruling majority in a certain circumstances can express violence. 

Democratic form of government has its principles that distinguish it from other political principles of government. It presupposes that all citizens of the country realize the political will and take responsibility for their representatives chosen to the government. it occurs due to the will of the majority that should have the goal to protect the fundamental rights of each individual in a society. Elections in a democratic society cannot only be a smokescreen behind which lurk dictators or one single party represents a genuine competition for winning the support of the people. Democracy presupposes equal rights for all people and structures of a public control over the implementation of the laws. A modern democracy is becoming a value for people. They do not want to be wheels and cogs of any kind of a system.

Generally speaking, democracy has different forms and principles due to a certain political atmosphere and social structure of the country. During the history, people elaborated various concepts of democracy that determine the relation between its main ideas and practical realization. The main argumentative are the concept of liberal and deliberative democracy.

Liberal Democracy

The Classical Liberal Democracy was the first formed into a theory concept and the model of its practical realization. The main argument of the liberal theory is the priority of a will of an individual in spite of the governmental needs. According to it, liberal democracy puts civil freedom as the independence of the private life from the political power. It supports the main rights and freedoms of an individual. The presence of these individual political rights and freedoms gives him the opportunity to participate in the implementation of power and affect the country’s political life according to personal and public needs.

Liberal democracy does not deny the form of direct expression of the political will. However, it prefers to express it through a representative. It gives the opportunity to combine an ideal democracy and its practical implementation. Accordingly, democracy is understood as a responsibility of government. It is able to make decisions and take responsibility for them. The main elements of a representative democracy are determined in the Constitution by restrictions and political domination. Because of that liberal democracy is often called constitutional democracy. The essence of liberal democracy was reflected in the American Constitution. Liberalism was originated and developed as the ideology of the bourgeoisie. Classical liberal democracy leads to a polarization of society and possible conflicts.
Today, the theory of liberal democracy is very popular. However, in practice all the rights and freedoms are impossible to implement. The main critics of the liberal democracy argue that it is oriented into personal benefits, which can harm the idea of common decisions and equal rights. In a result, such approach can lead to chaos, because society is pluralistic. Such model is irrational and illogic, because cannot lead to the equal rights which are the main purpose of democracy. Personal needs of each individual do not reflect social needs. The main lack of the liberal model is a concentration of the power in hands of the most influential group.

The concept of its model of democracy presupposes that the widespread involvement of educated citizens to participate in the implementation of power, decentralization of political decisions, public control will contribute to the achievement of genuine equality and freedom as the most important principles of democracy. Given the impossibility of moving to direct democracy, supporters of liberal democracy offer a mixed form of political organization.


Deliberative Democracy

Deliberative democracy is an institutionalized dialogue between the authorities and the institutions of civil society. It is a rational discourse that has the form of discussions, persuasion, argumentation and compromise. This model of democracy is based on the conviction that man is able to go from the client to the role of the citizen of the state. He is inclined to independence, is ready to compromise and even to abandon its preferences to achieve the agreement. Forerunner of the normative model of deliberative democracy can be considered John Dewey, who did not offer the concept of a dominant position of the majority, but has drawn attention to the mechanisms of achieving power by this majority. He stressed the importance of public discussion and debates during which the agreement between different social communities must be reached.

From the main concept of liberalism, the effectiveness of public sphere requires the neutral arguments and factual equity of the dialogue. The supporters of a liberal idea sustain on a procedural criteria and firm restrictions of the political debates, while a deliberate concept does not support such approach. In such way, the political space should be neutral, according the liberal approach.

In general, deliberative politics and deliberative democracy represent a special socio-political vector directed to rational discussion of the social problems. It has firm requests from the government. According to Lasse Thomassen, who studied Habermas’s main concepts and works, underlines that the political scientists see the perspectives of social development only in the development of democratic values and principles.

The ideas of deliberative democracy are formed by Habermas in the context of his theory of communicative action. Habermas believes that the process of stabilizing of a society, establish public order through the action of individuals, based on common understanding. The idea of communicative interaction in the process of coordinating the actions depends on the nature of the verbal communication. According to Habermas, a model of communicative action is a discourse. This is why in the analysis of communicative actions he takes the idea of self-sufficiency during the speech. Habermas suggests that consensus can be reached in a result of rational criticism of the values by people. These values are the highest principles of goal setting, determining the overall vision of social activity. He is particularly disappointed by the practice of democratic socialism, as well as flawed democratic reformism. He noted that according to orthodox communist representation, social emancipation should be achieved through a political revolution. However, the last decades the theory achieved great attention from the masses. Habermas’s approach became very popular. His idea about the debates and common participation in the discussion seemed to resolve the biggest social problems.

The supporters of deliberative democracy consider that its main principles could help achieve main liberal wills. For example, common dialogue can help to resolve problems of marginal groups, which liberal democracy is unable to solve. Deliberation means communication between individuals for the acceptance of collective decisions that reflect the needs of everybody. The results of a free discussion represent a free choice of the participants based on the law. However, not all issues can be solved with this method. That is why deliberative democracy is so hard to implement in the practical governmental process of power realization. It is difficult to satisfy wills of different social structures, because they are based on different needs.


The Problem of Practical Realization of Democratic Principles

The practice shows that democracy has various theoretical concepts and practical models of their implementation. However, the theoretical consideration is based on a real experience. The history of mankind knows various types of political regimes. Democracy is the most civilized and developed between them. Nowadays, democratic principles are widely spread in the world and massively supported by the majority of people in democratic countries. Without its cultural, social and political ground, the political process is held in undemocratic forms. All the theories have particular principles of the realization of democratic values and norms at the political level.

Democracy is not the ideal political form of government. it has many questions of its political implementation accordingly to the form and model of social relations and political structure. The problem is in the influence of citizens on policy and their control over the public authorities. Even in case of perfect elections, it is naïve to believe that voting once in several years, permits the citizen to participate in the realization of power and have a control over it. The referendum as an essential element of direct democracy is also far from the ideal democracy. In a modern society, media take the position of the most powerful political structure. According to Cass R. Sunstein, “a communication market is rapidly moving in the direction when many newspapers allow readers to create personalized electronic editions, containing exactly what they want, excluding what they do not want”. Although media sources are considered to be independent, in reality they do not depend on people, but on their owners. They represent a means of government influence and are used primarily by government, remaining not available for the absolute majority of citizens. The scientists underline that the “increasing attention is being devoted to methods for making democratic processes more deliberative”.

The mentioned above does not question democracy as a principle of political organization of society. It is primarily about the problems of practical realization of democratic principles and forms, even in those states that represent a sample of the sovereignty of the people. It is hard not to agree with the words of Winston Churchill: "democracy is a bad form of government, but humanity had not yet invented anything better". In general, collective concepts of democracy do not distinguish an individual, society and state. Despite all the differences the collective concepts of democracy have some features in common. They deny the individual autonomy, the idea of the absolute power of the majority in a society, its uniformity and priority in the power implementation.

On one hand, deliberative democracy gives all people to realize its political will. However, it has also negative features. The biggest problem lays in a difficulty to combine the interests of different social groups. Youth and old people, women and men, poor and rich have different expectations and requests. It makes difficult to organize their equal participation in the state power realization. Emphasizing in the interests of a certain social group, government discriminates other. It violates basic principles of democracy. The extension of the actual equality puts the freedom under the question. According to Lasse Thomassen, “latter the public sphere became the basis for government as the idea was that the laws should be based on rational will, which would in turn emerge from the rational debate of the public sphere ”.

In practical realization, principles of deliberative democracy are hard to achieve. There are no tools and mechanisms to control this scheme of power implementation. In the countries with a developed market economy, public organizations play the major role. Finally, the entire population cannot be represented in the organizations according to its interests. Such organizations have the best material and financial possibilities to influence the government.
Despite the substantial differences in practical realization, liberal democracy is has the strongest position. It has great historical experiences by having overcome different political situations. Deliberative theory has a well developed theoretical ground, however few practical possibilities. Thus, public sphere that has certain procedures of democratic action, according to the principles of deliberative democracy due to its structural, functional and organizational constraints is not able to solve urgent problems. In addition, public opinion, with no legislative function, but using the communication procedure of the deliberative operational policies, can only indicate the specific directions for the use of political power in making policy.



The liberal and deliberative democracies are the most contradictory. They both have a right to exist and are based on logical postulates aimed to achieve the main democratic principles. However, both theories have problems in their practical realization. There is a clear confrontation between those who advocate the idea of the discussion and the policy that supports the positions of liberal democracy. This confrontation is often interpreted as antagonism between the supporters of the deliberative approach and the supporters of the ideals and principles of liberal democracy by those who describe the real political practices. Both democratic models are actively developing, nowadays. Modern liberal principles are based on a classical liberal theory. If liberal democracy boils down to the formal legal equality and freedom, then the deliberative democracy has the aim to achieve effective freedom and equality and ensures real participatory of broader groups of the population in the realization of power. The idea of deliberative democracy is widely discussed not only by academic political scientists, but also in the political elites and society. Deliberative principles that presuppose a national dialogue can solve the main problems of the liberal theory and hasten the democratic changes. However, in terms of political modernization, increasing political competition and the growing struggle between traditional and modern democratic principles, there is a significant weakening of democratic mechanisms. This process shows that despite a substantial critic of the liberal model, deliberative theory is impossible to implement in practice.

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Deliberative Democracy essay

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