chapter
5 Pages

D

The word 'democracy' was invented in classical Greece. Its original meaning was literally 'rule by the people'; where the people (demos) meant one section of the community, the poor and numerous. Thus it could be easily and uncontroversially contrasted with other forms of government, e.g. monarchy (rule by a single person) and aristocracy (rule by the wise and virtuous). However, in the modern world it is much less frequently used to describe a particular form of government - almost all regimes describe themselves as democratic in some sense or other - but has become something of an honorific label designed to persuade people of the value of a particular political system. Its descriptive content has almost entirely been replaced by its emotive meaning. A partial resurrection of democracy's descriptive meaning may be achieved by using an adjective to indicate the type of democratic regime that is under consideration. Thus we may legitimately speak of 'liberal democracy', 'people's democracy', 'majoritarian democracy', 'totalitarian democracy', 'constitutional democracy', etc.