ABSTRACT

The nature, varied characteristics and survival of democracy are never far from the thoughts of social scientists. Academics have argued about it, wars have been fought over it and politicians of varying hues have claimed to practice it. We shall leave any discussion of definitions until later chapters but, at a minimum, most people would expect democracy to enable citizens to have some choice over who rules them and some control over the actions of their rulers. The desirability of such an arrangement can be expressed in a variety of ways, but again one could begin with minimum expectations. Any alternative would allegedly be much worse. Tyrants would imprison us without trial, confiscate our property and tax us without our consent. They might then use the revenue for purposes that suited them rather than us, such as building royal palaces while we starved. Democracy might not prevent all these excesses all the time, but we might feel that on balance democracy is a better arrangement. If democracy goes beyond meeting our minimal expectations, and helps to foster a sense of community, greater tolerance of others, a willingness to compromise, a willingness to share wealth more equitably, or a feeling in pride in national achievements, so much the better.