Democracy

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(Gr. demokratia, from demos, the people, and kratein, to rule). Political doctrine that is favorable to the intervention of the people in the government. A model of the State that recognizes the people as the only source of power, and guarantees the election of national, regional or local administrative bodies by popular vote, establishing public control of the management of the state. The pillars of d. are: representation, separation of powers and respect for the rights of minorities. When any or all of these fail, we find ourselves outside real d. and have fallen into the hands of formal d. Different combinations have been attempted in order to avoid this problem, from the representative d. adopted by the West to the “directed” d. of some Asian countries in the 1960s. It has also been claimed that some forms of corporativism, in opposition to the liberal democracies, are the ideal and “natural” exponents of d. Lastly, in some bureaucratic dictatorships, the term “popular d.” has been used to denote the exercise of real d. In reality, such an exercise of real d. begins in the social base, and it is from there that the power of the people must emanate. It is from municipalities and towns, whence the principle of real, plebiscitary and direct d. ― a new political practice ― must be generated. Direct d. presupposes the personal participation of the citizenry in all decisions that concern the life of the community. Indirect d. functions through representatives elected by the citizens, to whom the latter delegate their powers for a certain period. D. has developed and continues to develop historically as a form of organization of the State, its contents are improved and elaborated, and its structure becomes deeper and more complex as citizens acquire more egalitarian rights. In the modern democratic State, the separation of powers (legislative, executive, judicial, law enforcement, etc.) is obligatory; suffrage is universal by direct, secret ballot, with monitoring of elections controlled by the people. The multi-party system is used. There is freedom of expression. The state is secular and there is separation of church and state. The basis of d. is rooted in the existence of a strong and broadly developed civil society that limits the State and controls its functioning. Even with all these characteristics, contemporary d. in practice possesses only a formal character, because it does not extend to the realm of production. Social wealth is concentrated in the hands of ever fewer, who through their wealth exercise a powerful and growing influence on crucial matters, international as well as national, and there is no system of checks and balances or true oversight of their economic power and their control of information and the media. This has led to the current crisis of modern d. that is manifested in the growing political apathy and low voter turn-out, rising terrorism and criminality, and the increasingly evident bureaucratization of the State. All of these factors are manifestations of the growing alienation that is undermining the very foundations of d. If we bear in mind that an absolute majority of the population of the world does not even enjoy these somewhat formal blessings of modern d., the picture appears even bleaker. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, in recent decades the scope of d. has broadened considerably on a world scale, with the end of colonialism and global condemnation of racism and fascism. In the sphere of production, the scope of d. has been reduced due to changes in technology, the size and nature of businesses, and the gradual decline of unions and cooperative movements. Widespread urbanization with the concentration of an increasing percentage of the population into megalopolises has reduced the scope of d. at the local level. At the same time, d. has been extended as a consequence of the increase in type and number of groups of people united by particular interests (artistic, sports, religious, educational, environmental, cultural, etc.). With the development of the information society and advanced communications technology, the possibilities for the further development of d. are now greater than ever. Regional, continental, and global integration and the development of supranational entities have extended d. at the international level, reinforcing the federalist movement in various forms. The development of nongovernmental organizations at the international level has also helped strengthen democratic principles. N.H. supports the process of democratization at all levels, but stresses the need for the development of d. particularly at the grassroots level, supporting the publication of neighborhood and community newspapers, the formation of local radio and TV stations, the development of computer networks for local communication, etc. Humanists are convinced that the fate of d. depends on the formation of the personality of citizens in the spirit of d., on their integral and harmonious development, on the creation of conditions favoring the fulfillment and improvement of their creative capacities, and success in raising the level of general and civic culture. It is also necessary to reinforce and encourage any new growth of democratic culture in the sphere of production and to apply and make use of every democratic advance at all levels of political life.