With Athens in Ancient Greece as its birthplace, the word ‘democracy’ is composed of dēmos (people) and kratia (power). Its popularity is proved by the preference given to it over other forms of governance even today. What also predominates is a myopic vision of what democracy should be, rather than adapting it seamlessly with the present. Hence, it becomes imperative to answer certain questions. What is democracy? What does it entail? Is it really the ‘best’ form of governance?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines democracy as, “the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.” There is indeed, no ‘one’ type of democracy. The overarching influence of the Western conception of this system of governance should not render one ignorant to its fluidity and flexibility. Depending on whether there is an appropriate system of checks and balances within the three organs of government - executive, legislature and judiciary - as well as predominant socio-economic, religious and political thought, democracy can metamorphose into different forms.
At the core of the United Nations lies a strong support for democracy and good governance. Now, economic factors are not its only predeterminants. Guarantee of fundamental rights and elevation of human dignity is also taken into account.
This paints a very utopian picture of this form of governance. However, since the very conception of democracy is buttressed by the will of the people and the representatives, maintaining a fine balance between competing interests and development is difficult. Dominant ideologies, control by the elites, political will of the representatives as well as their personal sympathies, etc. have the capacity to hinder democracy from achieving its goals. At the same time, it certainly remains a means to guarantee development. The right to dissent as well as participation of civil society allows a space for the status quo to be challenged.
Increased deliberations, inability to satisfy every section’s needs, corruption and mismanagement may lead to disillusionment. But we need to realize that any idea is far from perfect. It is the will of the people that determines its efficacy. There is, as the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, ‘A Wisdom in Crowds’- “If the people are not utterly degraded, although individually they may be worse judges than those who have special knowledge, as a body they are as good or better.” This is, perhaps, the beauty of democracy.
Bose, Tapan. “Burma’s Final Solution | GUEST COLUMN | Nepali Times.” Archive.Nepalitimes.Com, May 2017, archive.nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/GUEST-COLUMN/does-democracy-deliver-development. Accessed 23 Sept. 2020.
Cambridge Dictionary. “DEMOCRACY | Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” Cambridge.Org, dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/democracy. Accessed 23 Sept. 2020.
“Tyranny, Democracy, and the Polity: Aristotle’s Politics.” Farnam Street, 21 Feb. 2017, fs.blog/2017/02/aristotles-politics/. Accessed 23 Sept. 2020.
United Nations. “Democracy.” Www.Un.Org, 20 Nov. 2015, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/democracy/. Accessed 23 Sept. 2020.