Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952613 | Print ISBN: 9781412905794 | Online ISBN: 9781412952613| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Lisa A. Zanetti
The history of democratic theory reaches back for thousands of years. There is no single democratic theory but, rather, a collection of approaches to democratic theory that have a small set of common values: participation, representation, popular elections, citizenship, and the ability to choose freely among political options or alternatives. The enactment of democratic theory into practice, however, has been problematic and uneven because disagreement persists regarding the exact meanings of these common terms. Most Western philosophy, as well as practice, has emphasized maximum liberty over commitment to some form of the common good. This perspective does not mean that there are no common values; rather, the things that make us distinct as individuals are valued more highly than the elements that unite us, and our political systems reflect this. The meaning of the ancient Greek word demokratia was somewhat ambiguous. Literally, it meant “people-power” or “people-rule”—but it was demos ...