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The Struggle for Democracy
Lily Johnson 02/14/2020 01:36 PM CST


The problem of democracy and its role in the public life is one of the central problems in political science. Democracy has become a fundamental feature of the modern civilization, one of the manifestations of globalization of civilizational heritage. Today, there is no significant political movement that would not seek to implement democracy and that would not use this concept in achieving the objectives that are often far from true democracy. It is well known that the historical genesis of democracy is long and controversial. On the one hand, democracy gives the great opportunities to humanity, but it also gives rise to a number of problems. This essay aims to analyze how well American normative democratic theory compares to the actual practice of democracy. This paper also highlights the differences between a normative and empirical theory.

The discrepancy between the democratic ideal and real democratic practice in the USA allows speaking of normative and empirical approaches to the interpretation of democracy. The normative approach to democracy considers humanistic values and ideals as the basic tenets. This approach has the ability to attract people to action with the aim of establishing social equality, freedom, and solidarity. Democracy as a political reality has almost never had the power of people because it would mean that the public authority is a non-state form of government. For centuries, since its advent, the concept of ‘democracy’ has been identified with the state, and it has been preferably the power of majority over the minority. However, practice shows that democracy often acts as an organized minority. Thus, in the work of American political scientist Michael Parenti Democracy for the Few, modern democracy of the USA is presented as a formal legal consent of the passive majority for the rule of active and creative minority that has financial and economic, organizational, technical, and information resources. Many scientists believe democracy is not only impossible but also unnecessary. Moreover, such a type of government is inappropriate in terms of the efficiency of the state power since the vast majority of people are incompetent in solving specific cases of governance and society. In addition, the ruling majority, as well as people in general, under certain conditions may a tyrant just like an individual despot.

Thus, the empirical approach to democracy is abstracted from the social ideal that will never be implemented in practice. However, despite this, it is thanks to democracy that such an evaluative content has popularity in the world. The empirical approach to democracy is abstracted from the declared ideals of democracy and it sees it as it is in real life. American political scientist Robert Dahl suggests to use the term "democracy" only in the sense of the ideal; however, the real democratic practice he calls "polyarchy" (from Greek: poli - “many” and arche – “power”). According to Dahl, polyarchy is the power of minority, elected by people in competitive elections.

As for the US democracy, the first democratic republic appeared here, and its political institutions have reached a high degree of development. That is where the world's first constitution was drawn up. Regardless of all its shortcomings, it was imbued with a democratic spirit. Much has been done for the theoretical understanding of the phenomenon of democracy and the spread of the developed democratic theories and concepts outside the USA, especially after the Second World War. Democratic practice in America as a whole advanced the development of democratic consciousness. However, as Greenberg and Page, the authors of the book The Struggle for Democracy, highlight, the progress of democracy in the USA depends on the persistent and continuous struggle for democracy.

However, in the US political system as a whole, absolute monopoly of the two almost identical parties, representing the interests of big capital has developed, and it is far enough away from the multi-party democracy of the classical type. In the USA, there is a very limited possibility for any other parties. To participate in the elections, a party must be registered in each state, and the procedure is quite complicated; although, there is a continuously increasing number of voters that support neither Republicans nor Democrats. Democracy implies that citizens are able to influence the policy and that the government reflects the will of the majority and respects the minority interests. However, the impact of the citizens on policy and their control of public authorities can be problematic. Even under the condition of perfect elections, it is naive to believe that by voting once in several years, the citizen participates in the government or exercises control over it. The referendum, as an important tool of direct democracy, is also quite far from the ideal of democracy.

To sum up, when it comes to democratic countries, the first one that comes to mind is the United States. Opening the opportunities and political self-government for the US citizens, democracy has contributed greatly to America's transformation into advanced capitalist society. However, in reality, there is a disparity between the theory and practice of democracy in the USA, which gives the insight into normative and empirical approaches to democracy. Being a direct power of people, democracy is technically impossible, as there are no mechanisms to provide the direct government of people regarding any public issues at all levels. According to the empirical approach to democracy, it is an ideal that implies the equal participation of all citizens in government, and not only the USA but also the whole world has not achieved it yet.

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