Models of Democracy
Traditional comparativists sought to distinguish between
different types of regime: that is clusters of regimes which
share sufficient characteristics to enable them to be considered
as belonging to a group of similar regimes.
Comparative politics traditionally operated a tripartite division
of the world into: liberal democracies, Communist regimes,
‘third world’ states (this last being the most unsatisfactory of
the three). None of these categories was ever satisfactory.
The Political Development school of the 1960s and 1970s
assumed eventual convergence to liberal democratic norms
Liberal democracy was assumed to be superior…
The ‘loss of clusters’
The traditional tryptic has been challenged by
the evolution of history, not least the collapse
of communism in 1989-1991.
Unit of analysis less likely to be single
country, more identifying explanatory
variables across countries
Liberal Democracy aka Gordon
political competition for the highest offices of state, as expressed by
competing political parties,
the free interplay of interests, and an acceptance of political and economic
alternation in power ( or at least the theoretical possibility of it).
recognition of a boundary between the state and civil society, implying
freedom of the media. (liberal democracy)
recognition of the rights of legal opposition.
a recognition of constitutionalism: i.e. that political processes are
regularised by reference to respect for duly established rules and
constitutional norms. This might take the form of a written constitution, or
an unwritten form; but of greater importance than this is the extent to which
each branch of government theoretically operates within the strict
parameters of legal rules, safeguard against arbitrary government.
Limitations and criticism
This classic definition of liberal democracy is rather a formalistic one; it
does not consider, by itself, whether democracies are capable of providing
effective government, of delivering the goods.
It is one based on a model of competitive elitism: alternative elites stand by
ready to conduct the affairs of government. It is one that requires a minimal
Too much participation can be destabilising; in one version of this (Lipset
and Bendix) democratic stability requires limited participation.
The claim sustained by the liberal democracies to allow for the free
interplay of democratic forces has in most cases proved accurate: this can
be measured by the fact that most of the core 20 liberal democracies have at
some time managed an alternation in power.
Moreover, it has been rare for any one government to remain in power for
more than ten years
Limitations and criticism 2
Marxist critique: the liberties safeguarded by liberal democracy are
excessively negative and formalistic, designed primarily to safeguard
existing property relations
Marxist critique of the notion of pluralism - i.e. a dispersal of power
throughout the political, social and economic systems - is a myth; that the
pluralist idea of fair interaction between competing interests is erroneous,
with the odds heavily stacked in favour of those possessing capital; and that
the idea of democracy itself is a misnomer, since power is exercised by a
small pro-capitalist elite.
liberal democracy has proved intolerant of genuine attempts at
revolutionary change: any attempt fundamentally to challenge the norms of
capitalism, e.g, has invited a reversion away from democracy towards
dictatorship- such as in Chile with the overthrow of Allende's Marxist
government in 1973.
Reverse: attempts to impose democracy through arms, as in Irak.
Huntingdon: crisis of civilizations and imposing democracy through the
barrel of a gun. S. Huntingdon, The Third Wave: Democratization in the
Late Twentieth Century, 1991
Six Models of European Democracy
D. Held, Models of democracy,1987, 1996, 2005
Held 1: Athenian Democracy
Small communities, direct participation &
sovereignty (polis) over all public affairs
Office short term, by election, lot & rotation
Women & slaves excluded
Domination by demagogues & factions as/ more
likely than ‘deliberation’; instability
Held 2: Competitive elitist democracy
Theoretical roots in Weber & Schumpeter
Influenced by the protective model of democracy;
dominant 1945-70s – rather similar to the model
Key feature: competition between alternative elites
Governments are strong within parliaments, but
subordinate to elections, and hence parliaments, over
time. This is particularly apposite to describe British
Participation limited and intermittent. Too much
particpipation destabilising (Lipset and Bendix)
Held 3: Legal Democracy (Consensual
State strongly constrained by the law/the ‘rule
Separation (sharing) of powers emphasised
Minimum role for state in society
Markets and free trade should be given fullest
Epitomised by l.C20th ‘neo-liberal’ trend
Held 4: Participatory Democracy
Inspired by developmental democracy & in C20th by
Macpherson & Carole Pateman
A knowledgeable, participating citizenry is essential
Participation in regulating the state, local
community/ies and the workplace
Party elites directly accountable to members
Need for consistency between power structures in
public and private spheres. Democracy can not thrive
of structures of civil society remain authoritarian.
Driver behind new social movements, participatory
Beyond Held: Social Democracy
Dahrendorf: 1945-1980 welfare states added a
substantive (material) basis to the largely procedural
basis of liberal democracy. Democracy consists in a
set of rights and duties, including expectations of
welfare rights. Democracy is a form of social
Bobbio: ‘Rolling back’ the welfare state implies
rolling back/undermining democracy itself
R. Dahrendorf, After Social Democracy, 1980
N. Bobbio, ‘Liberalism old and new’ in: idem. The
Future of Democracy, 1987
C. Crouch, Postdemocracy, 2004
Early C21st world-historical peak for democracy, in terms of its
But there are many problems in established democracies.
Everywhere there is increasing abstention, dissatisfaction with
performance of democratic regimes, a challenge to the
effectiveness of democratic regimes
There is also, specifically, a problem with American democracy,
which is bound to impact upon European countries. US leadership
of democratic world established in the 1930s, on the basis of the
Roosevelt Welfare state, when most of Europe turned Right. But
since the 1980s, USA has changed fundamentally: it no longer
represents value-based, or normative leadership.
For Crouch, post-Democracy is NOT non-democratic, nor anti-
democratic, but it is satisfied with residual democratic and welfare
rights. Individual market-based economic rights have the primacy
over social or political rights
In post-democracy, social movements are less vibrant, especially
those of Labour,,, and the trade unions are marginal actors
unions are marginalised
State as policeman → more prominent role for the state in
regulating everyday lives, a more instrusive state
Wealth gap grows; taxation less redistributive with moves to
the global economy
The poor return to pre-democratic condition of non-
participation: in the US, this is flagrant, but is also evidence in
western European democracies, where electoral registration
has declined. Poor do not register; either because they do not
have a home, or because they fear the State (for taxation
The nature of political communication is changed in an age of
mediatisation and soundbites. Genuine discussion in the public
space fades away.
Lijphart’s Majoritarian and
Lijphart, A. (1984). Democracies.
Patterns of Majoritarian and
Consensus Government in twenty-one
Lijphart, A. (1999). Patterns of
Democracy. Government Forms and
Performance in Thirty-Six Countries.
Lijphart’s Majoritarian and
Concentration of executive power in a single party majority
Domination of Executive-Legislative relations by the
Executive/ an active legislature influencing policy
The prevalence of a two-party system/ a multi-party system
A majoritarian electoral system(first past the post or two
ballot)/ a proportional electoral system
A pluralist interest group system, with ‘free-for –all’
bargaining/ a corporatist style pattern of interest mediation
Unitary and centralised government / devolved or
Unicameral concentration of legislative
power/powerful second chamber representing societal
Flexible constitutions/written constitutions
Legislative sovereignty re the
constitution/constitutional arbitration in a system of
shared and separated powers
Executive-dependent Central Banks/independent
European democracies, for Lijphart, could be divided
according to these two poles. In practice, individual
democracies would lie somewhere between the two
extremes. Britain, for example, as the archetype of the
Westminster model, was clearly the representative of
the first camp; more divided countries, such as the
Netherlands, of the second camp.
This model has long been very influential, as a basic
way of differentiating between European
Lijphart’s 1999 study
study increased also addressed the issue of substantive
outcomes. He considered which, of majoritarian or consensual
democracies, performed better in relation to: A) Economic
performance and B) Democratic quality.
Lijphart’s main conclusion was that consensus/negotiation
democracy pole is far superior to the majoritarian, ‘winner-
takes all’ one.
Lijhpart found that there was little difference between
Consensual and Majoritarian democracies in relation to
But that consensual, non-majoritarian democracies ensured a
much higher democratic quality.
The consensus model ensures a positive logic of negotiation
and compromise; whereas the Winner takes all system is
inherently conflictual and negative sum.
Lijphart’s concept of consociationalism was also very influential for
many years. According to the consociational model, divided societies –
such as the Netherlands or Belgium – could nonetheless support
effective and consensual political systems, as a result of elite-level
compromises between the main pillars represented in a society.
In a society divided by issues of religious identity, for example, elite
level accommodation ensured broad support for the system.
The Lijphart model was a critique of the pretensions of the Westminster
model of democracy and celebrated the fact that negotiation,
compromise and coalition produced not only fairer, but also better
A CRITIQUE OF LIJPHART
One such critique was that of Paul Penning. The first criticism: that this
model betrayed the empirical reality, as much in Majoritarian systems, as in
TheMajoritarian model did not necessarily produce a winner takes all
mentality, because regular alternations in power meant that governments
exercised power with caution.
Likewise, the negotiated consensual and consociational mechanisms of
divided societies did not always succeed in producing a fairer, or more
The role of institutional incentives could be overstressed in these accounts.
In the consociational model, as in Belgium, this has clearly broken down,
with territorial elites ‘repillarising’ Belgian society.
P. Pennings, ‘Parliamentary control of the executive in 47
countries’, paper prepared for the ECPR, April 2000 @:
Penning argued that the Lijphart model exaggerated
differences – and explained these overly in relation to
institutional, rather than societal arguments.
The dichotomous view of there being two types of
democracy is highly misleading. Contrary to
Lijphart’s assumptions, strong executives do not
automatically imply weak legislatures: this is far too
mechanical and assumption, one that relies too much
on structure and not enough on agency explanations.
Role of electoral system and
There have also been criticisms about the role of the
electoral system. PR systems can create stalemate and
instability, just as easily as they can create
compromise and flexibility. On the other hand, ‘…
majoritarian electoral systems and moderate multi-
party systems, in particular, tend to generate slightly
higher levels of institutional confidence than
alternative arrangements' (p.234).” Institutional
confidence is maintained because Majoritarian
democracy can contribute to rapidly forming and
maintaining stable governments”
Democratizing the Economy while
Economizing on Democracy?
Economic benefits/Democratic Drawbacks
Prosperity, consumerism, rising middle classes
State denationalized, decision-making dispersed
Capitalism is European (and Global), Democracy Local
Government by, of and for the people + with
Political participation, citizen representation, effective government
+ interest consultation
EU level: governance for and with
National level: government by and of
Puts pressure on National politics
EU: policy without politics Nat’l : politics without policy
Challenges to National Democracy
Citizen demobilization or radicalization
Interest group politics, social movements, INGOs
helps with ‘associative democracy’ with the people
does little for representative democracy by and of the people
‘civil society’ not what it seems: expertocracy
National government responses?
Blame-shifting, credit-taking on policies
Silence on ‘polity’ issues
Blame-shifting increases sense of powerlessness
Whether ‘risk society’ (Blair)
or ‘protection in globalization’ (Sarkozy)