The term democracy is derived from the Greek word demos and kratos, the former meaning ‘the people’ and the latter ‘power’. Democracy thus means ‘power of the people’.
The following are the definitions of democracy:
Definitions of Democracy:
(1) Democracy, according to the Greeks, is the Government in which people rule over themselves. Aristotle considered it as a perverted form of government. Herodotus says, the democracy denotes that form of government in which the ruling power of the state is largely vested in the members of the community as a whole.
(2) In the words of President Abraham Lincoln, it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
(3) According to Bryce, “Democracy is that form of Government in which the ruling power of a state is legally vested, not in any particular class or classes but in the members of the community as a whole”.
(4) “Democracy”, writes Mazzini, “is the government of the best and wisest, for the progress of all and through all”.
(5) Prof. Seeley says, “Democracy is a government in which everybody has a share”.
(6) According to Dicey, “Democracy is a form of government in which the governing body is a comparatively large fraction of the entire nation”.
(7) Professor A.B. Hall, in his work on “Popular Government”, defines democracy as “popular government in the last analysis and for all practical purposes as being that form of political organisation in which public opinion has control”.
(8) According to Gettell, “Democracy is that form of government in which the mass of the population possesses the right to share in the exercise of sovereign power”
Generally democracy is a form of government and we have given definitions of important writers above, but certain writers have made a distinction between democratic government and a democratic state. For example, Hearnshaw, while giving the meaning of a democratic state, has said, “A democratic state, m short, is simply one in which the community as a whole possesses sovereign authority, maintains ultimate control over affairs and determines what sort of governmental machinery shall be set up because democracy as a form of state is not merely a mode of government; but is merely a mode of appointing, controlling and dismissing government”.
It is thus evident that in a democratic state people have the rights to give a shape to the government, to appoint it and to dismiss it. The people appoint a new government after some years through elections, and express their will on important matters through the press or other means.
The Communists give a new meaning to democracy. They deny the need of democratic government, but emphasize the necessity of a democratic state. A democratic state to them is only a socialist state in which there should be the dictatorship of the proletariat.
They ridicule the Western system of democracy with its economic and social inequalities where domination is of the capitalist class. But the Communist state are really not democratic states where there is only one party and where there is no freedom to form other parties.
The dictatorship of the proletariat ultimately becomes the dictatorship of the Communist Party and the power of the state is exercised only by a few leaders of the Communist Party. In fact, democracy is a form of government in which everybody has a share irrespective of his or her political views, and everybody is provided equal opportunities for self- development.
Western system of democracy is the Capitalist Democracy, with its economic and social inequalities. The socialist writes lay stress on economic democracy because they feel that without it, democracy cannot be called real.
Economic Democracy means no economic disparity and everyone should enjoy equal opportunity in the society, there would be no unemployment, the living standard of the people should be raised and they should have economic security. This is possibly only when there is no exploitation. The establishment of socialism is a sure way to guarantee this to all the citizens.
Kinds of Democracy:
There are two types of democracy:
(1) Pure or Direct, and
(2) Indirect or Representative.
When the people themselves directly express their will on public affairs, the type of government is called pure or direct democracy. The people formulate laws in a mass meeting. Hearnshaw has said, “A democratic form of government, in the strict sense of the term, is one in which the community as a whole, directly or immediately, without agents or representatives, performs the functions of sovereignty”.
Direct Democracy was established in ancient Greek city-states. In India, direct democracy was seen in Vajji Sangha during the Buddhist Periods. Today when large and complex societies have emerged and when area of is very extensive, direct democracy is impracticable. This system now prevails only four Cantons of Switzerland. They are Appenzell, Uri, Unterwalden and Glarus.
Representative or Indirect Democracy:
In a Representative or Indirect Democracy the will of the state is formulated and expressed not directly by the people themselves, but by their representatives to whom they delegate the power of deliberation and decision-making.
John Stuart Mill has said in this regard that “Indirect or representative democracy is one in which the whole people or some numerous portion of them exercise the governing power through deputies periodically elected by themselves”.
Another writer Bluntschli has said, “In the representative democracy the rule is that the people govern through its officials; while it legislates, and controls the administration through its representatives”.
This type of government was established in England in the seventeenth century. In France, it was established in 1830 and in Italy in 1948. In Germany it was established after the First World War according to Weimer Constitution. Again this system was established in West Germany after the Second World War. In India direct democracy was introduced in the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909.
Today this system is seen in many countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, West Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Belgium.
Basic Principles or Requisites of Democracy:
The main basis of democracy is liberty and equality. The people enjoy maximum liberty and equality because criticism of the people is not only tolerated in this system, but it is also encouraged. In Great Britain, the leader of the Opposition is paid by the government and he is consulted by the Prime Minister in national emergency.
For example, when South Rhodesia threatened to declare its freedom unilaterally and when later on it declared its freedom, the British Prime Minister consulted the leaders of the Conservative Party and Liberal Party. When Pakistan invaded India during August-September, 1965. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri consulted the leaders of Opposition parties.
The late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri conferred with the leaders of the Opposition parties before leaving for Tashkent for talks with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan on January 5, 1966. In Monarchies, Dictatorships, Aristocracies and Oligarchies the people and the Opposition parties have no say in matters of national importance.
Special emphasis is laid on equality in democracy and there is no disparity among the people on the basis of caste, creed, religion and position or status. For example, untouchability has been abolished in India.
Besides this, all are equal before law and there is no privileged class in India. It is essential to establish political and economic equality along with social equality. Thus, in order to establish political equality, all disparities on the basis of caste, religion, colour and sex have been removed in India and Adult Franchise has been introduced in order to give opportunity to all the citizens to contest election to Provincial Assemblies and Lok Sabha.
Efforts have also been made to establish social and political equality in democracies like England, Japan, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, West Germany, the United States of America and Italy. Political and social equality is useless without economic equality. The Indian National Congress passed a resolution in its Bhubaneswar Session in January, 1964 to bring about socialism through democratic means. Sincere efforts are now being made to implement this resolution.
Democracy can become successful only in a peaceful atmosphere, otherwise democracy has to face many difficulties. For this purpose Jawaharlal Nehru placed an idea of Panch Sheel before the world in 1954. Our government and many other democratic governments of the world are making efforts to promote world peace. India was the President of the Non-Aligned Movement and propagating this policy.
(4) The people as ultimate source of sovereignty:
In a democracy, people are the ultimate source of sovereignty, and the government derives its power from them. For this purpose elections take place in democracies at certain intervals. In India and England, General Elections take place after every five years and in U.S.A. after every four years.
(5) Fundamental Rights to the People:
In a democracy people are given fundamental rights because in the absence of these rights the development of an individual is not possible. Fundamental rights have been granted to the people in their Constitutions in India, Japan, U.S A., France and Italy. In England the rights and freedom of the people are protected through the Rule of Law, Charters, Acts of Parliament, and Judicial Decisions given from time to time.
(6) Independence of Judiciary:
In a democracy, it is responsibility of the judiciary to protect the fundamental rights of the people. In our country the Supreme Court and the High Court’s protect the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the people. Wherever judiciary is not free, the protection of fundamental rights is not possible.
(7) The people are considered as an end and State as the means in a democracy:
This is one of the main characteristics of democracy that individual is a mean and the state is an end. It means that the state makes use of the individual for its own interest. In a dictatorship no attention is paid to the freedom of the individual.
(8) Welfare State:
Democracy is a welfare state and m it special attention is paid to the welfare of the people as a whole and not to a particular class.
Future of Democracy:
Democracy, no doubt, has its own defects, but no government is a panacea for all human ills. This is better than other forms of governments. Aristocracy, Oligarchy and Dictatorship. Democracy is preferred by the disillusioned and frustrated people of the world because it still offers better prospects and some gleams of hope.
Burns has rightly said, “No one denies that existing representative assemblies are defective but even an automobile does not work well, it is foolish to go back to a farm cart, however romantic.” John Stuart Mill says. “After giving full weight to all that appeared to me well- grounded in the arguments against Democracy, I unhesitatingly decided in its favour”.
After World War I, Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy established dictatorship, but they restored to victory, violence and war to gain popularity, with the result that the World War started in which they were defeated and ruined. After World War 11, democratic governments were established in West Germany, Italy, Japan, Austria, India, Sri Lanka, etc. Many African countries have achieved freedom and all of them established democracy.
Though dictatorships were established in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Syria after military coups, yet, they are also leaning towards democracy. In the past, political parties were banned there, but now the ban has been lifted.
Press, people and political parties have now been given the freedom to criticize the government. The Communist governments are also proud of calling themselves democracies. Russian people say that they have established socialistic democracy in their country. Though we do not agree with this view, yet we can say that the future of democracy is bright and the world is now inclined towards it, because other forms of governments do not guarantee those rights.