Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
L. Joseph Hebert
Democracy is an ancient Greek word meaning the rule (kratos) of the people (demos). It refers primarily to a form of government in which political decisions are made by a majority of the citizens (direct democracy) or their elected representatives (representative democracy). Democracy also signifies a country, society, or culture that possesses or tends toward a democratic form of government. Thus one might say that the future states of America knew democracy before officially gaining independence from the British Empire. Varieties of democracy and of democratic theory abound, but a remarkable consensus exists as to the value of democracy: To call a country democratic today is virtually synonymous with saying its government is legitimate. Since World War II, almost all countries, however authoritarian, have called themselves democratic and have held elections—even if fraudulent—to maintain this reputation. Direct democracy requires a small and close-knit society and is generally associated with historical ...