On democracy

Gagnon, Jean-Paul (2010) On democracy. QUTE Magazine.


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 internationally. 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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ID Code: 35758
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Democracy, Jean-Paul Gagnon
ISSN: 1838-4943
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: 11 Oct 2010 22:05
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2013 04:04

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