Gagnon, Jean-Paul (2010) On democracy. QUTE Magazine. (In Press)
If one clear argument emerged from my doctoral thesis in political science, it is that there is no
agreement as to what democracy is. There are over 40 different varieties of democracy ranging from
those in the mainstream with subtle or minute differences to those playing by themselves in the corner.
And many of these various types of democracy are very well argued, empirically supported, and highly
relevant to certain polities. The irony is that the thing which all of these democratic varieties or the
‘basic democracy’ that all other forms of democracy stem from, is elusive. There is no international
agreement in the literature or in political practice as to what ‘basic democracy’ is and that is problematic
as many of us use the word ‘democracy’ every day and it is a concept of tremendous importance
I am still uncertain as to why this problem has not been resolved before by far greater minds than my
own, and it may have something to do with the recent growth in democratic theory this past decade and
the innovative areas of thought my thesis required, but I think I’ve got the answer. By listing each type
of democracy and filling the column next to this list with the literature associated with these various
styles of democracy, I amassed a large and comprehensive body of textual data. My research intended
to find out what these various styles of democracy had in common and to create a taxonomy (like the
‘tree of life’ in biology) of democracy to attempt at showing how various styles of democracy have
‘evolved’ over the past 5000 years.ii I then ran a word frequency analysis program or a piece of software
that counts the 100 most commonly used words in the texts. This is where my logic came in as I had to
make sense of these words. How did they answer what the most fundamental commonalities are
between 40 different styles of democracy?
I used a grounded theory analysis which required that I argue my way through these words to form a
‘theory’ or plausible explanation as to why these particular words and not others are the important ones
for answering the question. It came down to the argument that all 40 styles of democracy analysed have
the following in common
1) A concept of a citizenry.
2) A concept of sovereignty.
3) A concept of equality.
4) A concept of law.
5) A concept of communication.
6) And a concept of selecting officials.
Thus, democracy is a defined citizenry with its own concept of sovereignty which it exercises through
the institutions which support the citizenry’s understandings of equality, law, communication, and the
selection of officials. Once any of these 6 concepts are defined in a particular way it creates a style of
democracy. From this, we can also see that there can be more than one style of democracy active in a
particular government as a citizenry is composed of many different aggregates with their own
understandings of the six concepts.
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|Item Type:||Journal Article|
|Keywords:||Democracy, Jean-Paul Gagnon|
|Subjects:||Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600)|
|Divisions:||Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Division of Research and Commercialisation|
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright 2010 Jean-Paul Gagnon|
|Deposited On:||12 Oct 2010 08:05|
|Last Modified:||13 Oct 2010 00:48|
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