chapter  3
Revolutions and ideas of democracy: from the past towards the present
Pages 21

Democracy as a working political system does not happen; it is made. There are limits, therefore, to the benefits of being guided by hypotheses from empirical political theory and historical sociology, which draw on hindsight, in gaining understanding of paths to democracy. Paths to democracy emerge, at least in part, from the political ideas and debates shaped by experiences of the time: ideas which draw on knowledge of past and contemporary political systems, both at home and abroad, and in reaction to the political events and actions of the day. In a well regarded text on democracy Arblaster (1994) stresses the importance of popular action to the history of democracy, arguing:

It was not primarily ideas … but popular action, and above all the eruption of the French people into politics in the years of the Revolution, that transformed the modern history of democracy. At a stroke, we might say, political ideas which had only been aspirations or dreams in the minds of philosophes or popular radicals, were placed on the agenda of real politics, not only in France, or even Europe, but globally.