In the article “What Democracy Is . . . And Is Not”, Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl define the modern political democracy as “a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens, acting indirectly through the completion and cooperation of their elected representatives.” Through their definition, Schmitter and Karl then outline the concepts, procedures and principles that make up a democracy, emphasizing the fact that “there are many types of democracy” and that “the specific form democracy takes is contingent upon a country’s socioeconomic conditions as well as its entrenched state structures and policy practices.” Within the article, Schmitter and Karl provide nine concepts that define democracies. The first concept being the existence of a regime or system of governance that is institutionalized. Second, “democracies depend upon the presence of rulers” that can command their citizens. Third, the existence of the public realm which “encompasses the making of collective norms bound on society and backed by the state.” Fourth, democracies have citizens. The fifth defining concept is competition amongst different factions while the sixth defining concept, elections, is the most popular distinction yet. Seventh, majority rule, whereby the decisions in a democracy involve the combined preferences of more than half of the people involved in the process. Schmitter and Karl emphasize that cooperation is also a central concept, in that “actors must voluntarily make collective decisions binding on the polity as a whole” and “they must be capable of acting collectively through parties, associations, and movements in order to select candidates, articulate preferences, petition authorities, and influence policies.” Finally, representatives are a key aspect in defining a democracy as they tend to do most of the work. Schmitter and Karl then go on to describing the procedures that make up a democracy. They lay out Robert Dahl’s generally accepted list of conditions: decisions about policy are constitutionally vested in elected officials; frequent and fair elections are conducted to choose elected officials; “practically all adults have the right to vote”; “practically all adults have the right to run for elected office”; “citizens have the right to politically express themselves without severe punishment”; “citizens have the right to seek out alternative sources of information which are protected by law; “citizens have the right to form independent political associations or organizations.”Apart from these, Schmitter and Karl propose two addition procedures: “elected officials must be allowed to exercise their constitutional powers without being subject to overriding opposition from unelected officials” as well as, “the polity must be self-governing.” They then outline two principles that define democracies. The first principle is that citizens are expected to follow the decisions made by the government as long as the decisions do not violate their rights. The second principle stated that “all democracies involve a degree of uncertainty about who will be elected and what. policies they will pursue.” Finally, the authors also provide a general list of misperceptions about democracies. Schmitter and Karl provided a great detail of the general aspects of democracies without limiting them to specific levels of development or culture which prevents from readers forming notions that specific types of states can be democratic. They also emphasized and focused on the fact that democracies vary and that there are flexible political mechanisms and processes that democracies consist of hence allowing the explanations provided to be applied to various different examples of democracies. It prevents the definition of a democracy from being restrictive to a specific set of procedures, concepts and principles. However the article does not discuss the idea of freedom or liberalism at all in regards to citizens which ties into the fact that their definition of the modern political democracy whereby Schmitter and Karl state that “rulers are held accountable for their actions in the public realm by citizens, acting indirectly through the competition and cooperation of their elected representatives”. With this definition the citizens’ ability to choose their leaders is undervalued and hence the aspect of freedom within the regime, which should be a key distinguishing aspect of a democracy is essentially ignored. Schmitter and Karl stated that the citizens are a key concept defining a democracy yet by stating that the “rulers are held accountable” they ignore the fact that an individual’s ability to vote for their leaders is the basic concept of a democracy as technically both the citizens and rulers should be held accountable, the citizens for choosing their rulers and rulers for promising certain things to their people. Overall, Schmitter and Karl’s article on defining a democracy is a great introduction to the course as they provide a broad and flexible definition of democracies as well as highlighting the common misperceptions that come along with them. 

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