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All about types of democracy and the likelihood in Belarus

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в Беларуси

The era of domination of democracy has been ongoing for 100 years ― the majority of States proclaims the ideals of democracy, enshrines them in the Constitution. However, in half of the examples from them is just a name, and political systems of different countries differ greatly. It is therefore useful to know the basic theories and models of democracy. Let’s start with a brief excursion into the history of modern democracy.

The rise of democracy

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиThe number of democracies on a scale of political regimes Polity 4 ― despite temporary setbacks, democratic countries are becoming more

The path to the popularly elected presidents and parliaments began with three revolutions (English, American and French) and continued throughout the nineteenth century.

The first attack the ideas of people’s power on the dominating monarchical principle was repelled with the military defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of the reign of the Bourbons in France. However, the democratic-Republican spirit of the French revolution left an indelible mark. Since the restoration of the monarchical order in 1815 until the outbreak of the First World war in 1914 all of Europe was systematically expanded political participation and representation of the people.

In the United Kingdom after 1815, the electorate consisted of some 500,000 wealthy owners (about 4% of the population over the age of 20 years). The reform bill of 1832 lowered the requirements for ownership of the property and expanded the number of voters up to 800 000. The next increase to 2 million happened with the second reform bill of 1867. In 1884 the limitations on ownership was further weakened, and the electorate increased to about 6 million people (almost a third of the population older than 20 years and more than three quarters of all adult men), says Hans-Herman Hoppe

The democratization process continued and gained momentum. Revolution, the first quarter of the XX century completely buried the old order. New era “gave rise to the need for justification of mass (or mass legitimation) forms of government and institutions, as well as a completely new political entities such as people. When traditional legitimacy, as well as the principles of dynastic succession was widely discredited (that happened later in the period after the First world war), had to change and justification of political rule”, writes the political scientist Jan-Werner Mueller

During the cold war opposition between democracy and totalitarian/authoritarian regimes has finally entered the scientific mainstream. The scientists wanted to identify the minimal set of properties characteristic of each mode.

Andrew Heywood made some typical questions to determine the political regime:

  • Who actually holds the power? Does political participation of the top companies or it covers the entire population?
  • How is public acceptance or obedience — through the use of force or threat of force, through the process of negotiations and “bargaining” through the compromise?
  • Does the government control centralized or decentralized? What are the constraints and balances operate in the political system?
  • How is the conquest and the transfer of power? Is the system open and competitive or closed to competition of political forces?
  • What is the relationship between the state and the individual? The balance of the rights between the government and citizens?

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиOn the basis of such criteria arose indices of democracy, often they reflect the subjective opinions of experts, but some idea all the same give. The index of democracy in 2017 from The Economist Intelligence Unit. The index is made up of five categories, reflecting the state of democracy: electoral process and pluralism, government activities, political participation, political culture, civil liberties. In the final ranking countries are divided into four categories: full democracy (score of 8-10), flawed democracy (scores 6-8), hybrid mode (4-6 points), authoritarian regime (0-4 points)

But it is impossible to give a deceptive feeling that democracy works by the same rules that can be mechanically memorize and repeat. The electoral system, citizen participation, the role of parties, the model of separation of powers ― all of this is implemented quite differently. It is impossible to copy the Swedish or the American experience, if there are no relevant conditions. Each country formed its own set of political norms that are only partially repeated in other places. There are only some General patterns that have developed during the evolution of the political theory and practice. And the most popular of these is liberal democracy.

Liberal and illiberal democracy

Classic liberals are equally critical of the absolutism of monarchs and the power of the crowd. The dictates of the monarch or of the people threatened by natural human rights. Unlimited democracy is easily transformed into a collectivist dictatorship:

“Subverted the laws, the courts are dispersed, powerless industry, the dying trade, unpaid debts, the people, impoverished, plundered the Church, the army and civil society in a state of anarchy, anarchy, a state device, each human and the creation of God, sacrificed to the idol of public trust, and as a result — national bankruptcy,” wrote Burke in “Reflections on the revolution in France.”

This prospect frightened, so liberal democracy had to reconcile the democracy with individual freedom. Developed various options of checks and balances to prevent concentration of power. Best of all, these problems are analyzed Alexis de Tocqueville.

“Tocqueville saw the main danger to freedom in democracy, which he, like the ancient authors, was inclined to be regarded as a negative phenomenon, which is expressed primarily in the dominance of the principle of equality and the collective will as the highest court, do not allow any manifestations of individual freedom. Dynamics of democracy for him is determined by its internal contradiction — restrepia of the individual from traditional constraints of class society, she at the same time creates a new, and much stronger forms of social control. He defines this new phenomenon in old terms, speaking of democratic despotism and the”tyranny of the majority”.

This new kind of despotism is much worse than all previous forms of despotism and tyranny, it establishes a new level of control over the individual, seeking not just to the physical coercion of the individual, but to influence the minds and souls of people. Tocqueville strove to find some contrast to this new form of despotism in the aristocratic principle that contains in itself the idea of inalienable and hereditary rights of the individual protected. Tocqueville stands in world history as the Creator of a new theory of democracy, namely liberal democracy, where the principle of formal equality combined with guarantees of minority rights and individual liberty”, — writes the historian Andrey Medushevsky

A classic example of liberal democracy ― the United States since President Andrew Jackson. Supporters of Jackson “were very supportive of the idea of free enterprise and free markets, while they are not with less zeal were opposed special subsidies and monopoly privileges granted by the government business or any other groups. They are considered very important to minimize the size of the government both at the level of the Federal and state level. They believed that the role of government should be reduced to the protection of private property rights. In the monetary sphere this involved the separation of the state from the banking system and a shift from inflationary paper money and banking with a fractional reserve the system based exclusively on specie and 100% reserve”, — was noted by Murray Rothbard

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиAndrew Jackson, U.S. President from 1829 to 1837 years. Considered one of the founders of the Democratic party. It is called one of the most cruel presidents of the United States. He adopted the Law on the eviction of the Indians, resettling indigenous peoples in the so-called Indian Territory (now the state Oklahoma)

The classical liberal model severely restricts the political sphere. National defense, foreign policy, the rule of law are typical questions for public efforts. Everything else is solved at the level of local communities, mutual aid societies and other private initiatives. This prevents people from government interference in the private life, the imposition of alien values and standards. A democracy protected the development of parliamentarism and the electoral qualification, which reduced the influence of socialist parties. But with the expansion of suffrage enfranchised democracy owners have gradually gone into oblivion. The growing popularity of the left and growing government intervention buried the classical model of liberal democracy.

Progressive intellectuals of the late XIX – early XX century tried to “developing democracy” model of the active state, solving numerous social problems. Her to this day defend the left-wing liberals, green and social-Democrats. The term “liberal democracy” has become synonymous with Western political regimes ― the open society of Karl Popper. Peak of faith in liberal democracy came in the years after the Soviet collapse, when it was fashionable to talk about the “end of history”.

“Liberal democracy is based on three different sets of rights: property rights, political rights and civil liberties. The first provides owners and investors with protection against expropriation. The second ensures that the group is winning in electoral competition, can come to power and determine policy on your own — if this policy does not violate the rights of the other two categories. Finally, the civil rights guarantee people equal treatment before the law and equal access to public services like education,” — said the analyst Dani Redrik and the Scharoun Mukand

Later, it became clear that not all follow this pattern. In 1997, Fareed Zakaria introduced in the political science model of “illiberal democracy” ― a combination of free elections, restriction of civil and political rights. From this moment on “democracy with adjectives” has grown by leaps and bounds: the sovereign, limited, proprietary, formal ― not only as transitional regimes in Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. In General, the enthusiasm for liberal democracy in recent years has fallen sharply. Talk about the crisis of democracy captivated the Western media for Brekzita and victory trump, when experts and leading media have found that the outcome of the vote does not meet their ideas about beauty.

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Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиThe reaction of the supporters of Hillary Clinton to the message on the election of the President of the United States Donald trump, November 8, 2016, photo by REUTERS

The right-wing liberals never approved the extension of governmental functions, but they still appreciate democracy for political stability. Mises argued that it “allows the government to adapt to the desires managed without a violent struggle”. Since the purpose of the state consists in protecting property rights, maintaining law and order and peace that is needed is a system that guarantees the observance of these conditions. The aristocracy and the monarchy can’t provide, when faced with a crisis of legitimacy. Faith in the monarch and special rights of the elite easily lost under the influence of revolutionary theories and practices.

The credibility of democratic institutions more stable. Accordingly, the probability of large shocks is much lower. But how significant this advantage is so dangerous reverse side of democracy when the “on behalf of the people, for the people, by the people” systematically violate human rights. Much harder to resist the aggression of the state against the liberty and property when it is covered by the will of the majority. This is most noticeable in the following model of democracy.

Collectivist democracy

The collectivist model of democracy typical of France during the revolution:

“The democratic tradition is in its origin mainly French, and in the XIX century enters with individualistic liberalism in antagonistic relations”, — said Hayek.

Since Russo her supporters believed in the total sovereignty of the nation, the source of which is the refusal of man from part of their rights. The General will is embodied in the results of referendums and decisions of the people. Collectivist democracy is most clearly evident in acousto and the Paris commune .

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиIn the Paris commune abandoned the liberal principle of separation of powers, all decisions of the elected Council and its commissions

In the twentieth century totalitarian understanding of democracy championed by the supporters of fascism, national socialism and communism. Here’s what he wrote major ideologue of fascism Giovanni Gentile:

“The fascist state is the nation state and, as such, the democratic state par excellence. Thus, the relationship between state and citizen (not a particular citizen, but all citizens) are so close that the state exists only then and only in so far as and when a person acts as a reason for its existence.”

The “true” organic democracy fascists opposed to the “rotten bourgeois system,” he says, only fascism overcomes the alienation of the state and the individual, reducing them into one (for more on fascism can be read here). Similar arguments were heard in the USSR and countries of “people’s democracy” ― socialist regimes like East Germany, Poland, Korea etc.

“Use of the democratic environment (parties, elections, referendums, national Assembly) has turned into a sustainable practice, even the most rigid dictatorship continue the game in a democracy. Such regimes ― the brainchild of the era of mass politics (with the exception of remaining absolute and dualistic monarchies). Fictitious election campaign manual parliaments and helpless in the opposition need dictators for the illusion of legitimacy of their rule. Critics always talk about the enormous risk of slipping all democracies in such a collectivist dictatorship.

Democracy is a collectivist idea, namely, that we must all solve together, and these decisions become obligatory for all of us. This means that in a democracy, almost everyone has social significance. Fundamental limits of such collectivization does not exist. If the majority (actually the government) wants, it can issue a decision requiring us all to walk the streets in medieval armour, because it’s safer. Or dress up like clowns, because this raises the mood. No individual freedom. But complete freedom for a growing government interference in people’s personal lives. This is what happens in democratic societies.

Policy, of course, may change and sometimes even reverse — for example, from more regulation to less, and Vice versa, but in the long term, Western democracies are steadily moving towards greater intervention in people’s lives, to greater dependence on the state and to higher budget costs.”

Frank Karsten, “On the other side of democracy”

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиA similar model was implemented in the USSR and other socialist bloc countries: East Germany, Poland, North Korea etc. As we can see, in reality, collectivist democracy turned into a dictatorship of a certain group.

The moderate scenario collectivist model ― solidarity and Christian democracy. Major philosopher – neotomism Jacques Maritain was looking for a compromise model that will reconcile the extremes of individualism and collectivism. Martina said: “For democracies today the most important task is to develop social justice and improve the management of the world economy, and to protect themselves against totalitarian threats from the outside and totalitarian expansion in the world. But the pursuit of these goals inevitably involves a risk that too many functions of public life will be controlled by the state from above, and we inevitably will have to take that risk until, as long as our understanding of the state is not restored to the original and genuine democratic basis, until, as long as political society does not renew its structures and consciousness, so that people will be better able to realize the freedom, and the state will become a real instrument of the common good for all”.

The Christian Democrats influenced the modern human rights movement in terms of a combination of collective and individual rights, they tried to keep a sense of community based on democratic procedures. This moderate approach helped to heal the wounds of post-war Germany and Italy, where Christian democratic parties have dominated for many decades.

Pluralistic democracy

In a modern democracy can be viewed from different points of view , one of the most influential was the model of a “pluralist democracy”. It comes from the fact that the main participants of the political struggle of interest groups, not individuals or the whole nation. Pluralist theory was inspired by the work of Arthur Bentley, who noted in “managerial Process” (1908) that “society is nothing like the combination of different interest groups, and their number is limited to only one measure, the interests for which they are created and operate”.

Interest groups can be very diverse ― traditional community (clans, tribes, communities), powerful institutions like the Church, trade unions and business associations, and numerous NGOs. To achieve their goals using their entire Arsenal of means, including the promotion of their candidates to the authorities, political activism and lobbying. Most modern democracies fit this description.

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиThe conditional model for the formation of elites in a pluralist democracy

The pluralist model creates a culture of tolerance of diversity of opinions and interests. It is very important for modern complex societies in which coexist many religious and ethical systems, styles of life and political movements. However, the pluralist model there are two fundamental risks:

  •  The war of all against all. Plurality (Harold Laski, David Truman, Robert Dahl) believed in the power of democratic consensus, but of conflict between the groups often escalated to such an extent that there is a real risk of disintegration of society into warring factions. For example, what compromise can be supporters and opponents of abortion? Or adherents of the “Russian world” and the fighters for national revival? The worst example of this scenario became modern Iraq, where instead of a pluralistic democracy after 2003 began a bitter battle, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Only a developed civil culture prevents such an outcome, so not all have a pluralistic system has a chance to succeed.
  •  Fatigue from pluralism. A relatively small pressure groups have higher motivation and good opportunities to succeed. Up to a certain point, most easier to submit to the activists than to fight back. The bureaucracy responds to the signals from the pressure groups, therefore, the active minority (“green”, for example) turns your ideas into new regulatory standards.
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Writes Nassim Taleb, “when a moral rule is formed, is sufficient a relatively small number of intransigent supporters, distributed geographically in order to dictate a new society norm”. But gradually the pressure increases and a huge number of people feel a growing anxiety and discontent. At the exit there is a phenomenon called “populism” when the “forgotten people” vote for the restoration of the status quo. In other words, in a pluralist model contains a mechanism of self-destruction ― sooner or later appear policies that will relieve most of the pressure groups. In our eyes this is happening in Eastern Europe, where the popularity of the parties of Viktor Orban, Jaroslaw Kaczynski , and Andrew Babish was motivated by fatigue from the European bureaucracy, the culture wars, etc.

Elitist democracy

The opposite model is an elitist democracy. The dispute between “plurality” and “elitists” is a long time in political science. The elitist principles of democracy derived from the work of Gustave Lebon, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Gaetano Mosca, Vilfredo Pareto and Robert Michels. By the way, one of the outstanding representatives of this school of thought was born in Belarus Moses ostrohirs’ke.

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиMoses Y. ostrohirs’ke ― a classic of political science, the author of “Democracy and political parties”. In his honor in Belarus named ostrogorski Centre

“The political function of mass in a democracy is to manage it; they will probably never be able.
Virtual driving will always be a small minority, in a democracy as well as autocracy. The natural property of all power is concentration, But it is necessary that the ruling minority has always been under threat. Mass function in a democracy is not to control but to intimidate the Directors. …These Directors will behave differently if they have to deal with more educated voters; they will be more intimidated. That is why it is doubly important in a democracy to raise the intellectual and moral level of the masses: together with it automatically raised the moral level of those who are called to stand out above the masses,” —

M. J. ostrohirs’ke “Democracy and political parties”

The democratic elitist model ensures free competition for votes. Elections — update tool of power and social control, but the rest of the time the citizens give control in the hands of politicians.

Politicians Give T. and L. Ziegler describe the elitist model:

  • there is a minority with power and distributing wealth, and for the majority, defines the state policy;
  • elite is formed mainly of representatives of higher socio-economic stratum of society;
  • the transition to the elite must be slow and continuous to maintain stability and avoidance of radicalism;
  • elite is United in the approach to the core values of the social system and the preservation of the system;
  • public policy reflects not the demands of the masses, and the prevailing interests of the elite;
  • the ruling elites are subject to relatively weak direct influence from the indifferent citizens

A classic example of elitist democracy ― Japan. The liberal democratic party with short breaks leads since 1955. The indestructible Alliance of the bureaucracy, large companies and leading mass media makes the outcome almost a foregone conclusion. Occasional reshuffle of Prime Ministers does not change the fact, as all leading politicians are well known to the family. For example, the father of Shinzo Abe , was foreign Minister and grandfather was Prime Minister. “The Japanese parliamentary opposition is like the chorus in classical Greek tragedy. Her repetitive comments about the state of the nation and mourning for the sins of the LDP ritual and harmless,” — writes the journalist Karel van Wolferen. The Americans introduced a democratic procedure did not interfere with the rule of the elites.

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиLeftist sociologist Charles Wright mills developed the theory of the ruling elite ― interpenetrating privileged groups

The elite model is good because it increases the responsibility of politicians and increase the quality of control. Modern politics often resembles a freak show with singers, athletes, comedians in the role of mayors, deputies, presidential candidates, etc. When there are informal entry barriers, can avoid random people. The negative side is corruption, decision-making in favor of the elite. The prolonged stagnation of Japan is a good example of the inability of ruling groups to carry out reforms and to abandon support of privileged corporations.

“Learn to participate by participating”

Another model is participatory democracy (K. Patman, N. Bobbio, P. Bakhrakh and other, mainly leftist authors). This is the exact opposite of elitist models ― need to involve citizens in decision-making, to hold regular referenda, public hearings and citizen initiatives (as they used to say Carol Patman “learn to participate by participating”). Elements of participatory democracy can be found in most European countries, although often recall the Swiss experience of direct democracy.

At first glance there is nothing better than active citizens engaged in the life of the country. But it is worth remembering that, in practice, it is about constant decision making of some people over others. Moreover, the range of issues in the modern world is almost unlimited. Costs nothing to vote for any initiative, if they’re not directly affected. For example, to ban religious schools, knowing that your children will not go there. This is the way most can make life absolutely unbearable. Collective irresponsibility and tyranny of the crowd is a key risk participatory democracy. Probably, this model is best suited at the local level, where people are more aware of the consequences of their decisions.


Of course, this model of democracy is not exhausted. Here we are talking about some of the basic approaches. Some of them will be relevant for Belarus the answer to this question depends on the scenario of democratization (if it happens). If the current leadership would remain in power for another couple of decades, the system can gradually be transformed into an elitist democracy or hybrid regime (“democracy with adjectives”) with a modest participation of the opposition. The majority of Belarusians became estranged from political activity, so this scenario is quite possible.

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиAfter the dispersal of the square-2010 and the brutal suppression of the “silent protests” in Minsk in summer 2011, interest in politics in the Belarusian society significantly slept. Photo of 19 December 2010 in Minsk.

The pluralist model is feasible with a revolutionary democratization. Then on the surface will have numerous fault lines in our society: relationship to Russia and the West, to the national revival, the free market. The closest example of a divided democracy ― Moldova, which is chronically rocked by corruption scandals in the background of the confrontation between Pro-Russian and Pro-European forces.

However, the success of market reforms leave the chance for the formation of democratic consensus and overcome the ghosts of the Soviet past. The key is the clever use of “Windows of opportunity” that opens in a time of rapid political change. If it is wasted, the chance for profound reforms drastically reduced. In General should agree with Fareed Zakaria ― very difficult to maintain a stable democracy without the full capitalism:

“It is important that democracy had organic roots in the society. How you can support these organic roots? I thought a lot about it. The experience of Western democracies in some sense unique; over the millennia in the West have seen dozens of events — from the emergence of an independent Church to a kind of feudalism in which feudal lords were very strong against the kings. You can go back even further in time and look at the geography and the way of structuring of Europe that led to the emergence of many independent national units. All of these factors were of great importance.

But the most effective and viable variable is capitalism. It is a force that has changed the world for the last three hundred years. Capitalism has completely destroyed three thousand years of written history. He completely changed the feudal and agrarian society. But most importantly he’s healthy capitalism can operate in South Korea, it can act in Taiwan, he can work in Chile, he can work in Israel, he can work in Ireland. The best thing about capitalism that interests me, is its political and social consequences. It creates an Association of people, independent of state authority. People love to talk about civil society, and it’s great, but the most important is the ability to stand up to organized state power. It can only the Church and capitalism. In my opinion, if you look for something that can lead to such changes, then the best thing to do is encourage entrepreneurship and capitalism”, —

Fareed Zakaria, “Illiberal democracy five years later”

Всё о видах демократии и вероятности её в БеларусиThe author — master of political science Maxim Stefanovich

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