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UNIT-5 DEMOCRACY NOTES | Political theory: Concepts & Debates | Studyship BA Hons

Hi students, welcome to Studyship. Below given notes are for the paper Political theory: Concepts and Debates. As being DU alumina , notes are as per DU syllabus of BA Hons political science for semester 3. Would love to hear from you all if liked the notes, so let's start...


Introduction: Democracy stands as a cornerstone of modern governance, encompassing various principles, practices, and debates. Understanding democracy involves exploring its conceptual foundations, the dynamics of liberal democracy, multiculturalism, toleration, and the ongoing debate regarding representation versus participation.

a) Democracy: Idea and Practice

Idea of Democracy:

  • Democracy originates from the Greek "demos" (people) and "kratos" (rule), emphasizing rule by the people.

  • Principles include political equality, participation, majority rule with respect for minority rights, and accountability.

Practice of Democracy:

  • Representative Democracy: Citizens elect representatives to make decisions on their behalf.

  • Direct Democracy: Involves citizens directly participating in decision-making, often through referendums or assemblies.

Challenges in Practice:

  • Issues such as voter apathy, populism, inequalities in participation, and the influence of money in politics pose challenges to democratic ideals.

B) Liberal Democracy and its Critics

Liberal Democracy:

  • Combines democratic principles with liberal values, emphasizing individual rights, rule of law, and constitutionalism.

  • Emphasizes protections for minority rights, freedom of speech, press, and an independent judiciary.

Critiques of Liberal Democracy:

  • Challenges to individual rights due to state interventions in the name of security or surveillance.

  • Criticisms of liberal democracies as serving the interests of the elite or powerful groups.

C) Multiculturalism and Toleration


  • Advocates for recognizing and accommodating cultural diversity within society, ensuring equal respect for different cultures.

  • Emphasizes cultural rights and the importance of social inclusion and recognition.


  • Stresses the acceptance and respect for diverse beliefs, practices, and opinions, even when disagreeing with them.

  • Encourages peaceful coexistence and dialogue among different groups.

Debate: Representation vs Participation


  • Emphasizes elected representatives making decisions on behalf of citizens, providing expertise and efficiency in governance.

  • Criticisms revolve around potential elitism, detachment from citizens' needs, and unaccountability.


  • Advocates for increased citizen engagement in decision-making processes, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability.

  • Challenges include feasibility, potential for manipulation, and time-consuming nature of direct participation.

Conclusion: Democracy, as both an idea and practice, encapsulates principles of political equality, participation, and accountability. The framework of liberal democracy faces critiques regarding the balance between individual rights and state power. Multiculturalism and toleration underscore the importance of recognizing diversity within societies. The debate between representation and participation highlights the tensions between efficient governance and citizen empowerment. Navigating these complexities requires ongoing dialogue, institutional reforms, and a commitment to upholding democratic principles while accommodating diverse societal needs for a more inclusive and responsive democratic system.

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