Democracy: from the concept finding the sense

Democracy: from the concept finding the sense

Alejandro Ramírez Padrón

Andres Bello Catholic University, School of Law (Venezuela)

Undergraduate (5th semester)


 ESSAY TOPIC: Is it important to live in a democracy?


To talk of democracy is a complex act and, at the same time, a daily activity. It can be observed how since its appearance in Ancient Greece was arranged as a topic for discussion and today, in modernity, remains on the table, perhaps treated in different ways, valued differently, with more or less extensive ranges, but finally, it continues to speak of democracy and thereby leading to awareness the importance by which continues in the history of human thought, the need that leads to evoke it in the passage of time in our societies.

If you are looking for its etymological meaning will understand it as "the domination of the masses", referring the term "domination" not in a formal sense, do not confuse it with the vote, but instead, referring to the "power to decide for itself on key issues and do it with knowledge of cause"(1). Denoting that the word itself keeps, in essence, 1) the ability to decide, and 2) the elements that make valid the decision-making capacity, in the words of Cornelius Castoriadis, and being one of those elements, the "do it with knowledge in the cause" and "do it on essential issues", since it would not make sense that people speak out without doing it with knowledge about what is going to pronounce; just as it would not make sense to deny them the ability to express themselves on the essential things, those who truly saved the fate of the polis.

Many at the time of defining democracy, cite the magnanimous Gettysburg Address delivered by Abraham Lincoln, "The government of the people, by the people and for the people". However, the advancement of our times it is imperative to leave aside conceptualizations that although beautiful, at the same time vague. Being required the formulation of concrete definitions that allow us to defend the substantial elements that make it up. The difficulty of this work is that at first glance it seems that it is a term that does not have a unique significance, but it is possible its objectification on the basis of the elements of consensus that come close to the democratic ideal.

It is of the utmost importance from the concept of democracy, because from there, it is only possible to understand its importance. I can say that, in order to understand democracy, it is necessary to understand a dimensional vision. In the first place, analyze it from a formal dimension; secondly, perhaps the most innovative, from a substantial dimension.

In the formal alludes to the concept handled by most of the most famous authors around the world, from Bobbio, Sartori, Popper, passing by Dahl, Waldron and even by jurists such as Hans Kelsen. This vision makes mention of the proper procedure to ensure the will of the people, says Ferrajoli "the basis of who (the people or their representatives) and how (the rule of the majority) of decisions"(2). It is the perspective more classical, inherited from the Greeks who, although it is necessary to cheer on the existence of a democracy, it is not enough to affirm the existence of a. It is only a method to form public decisions.

In this second dimension, the substantial, is largely the importance and validity of the concept. This dimension concludes my conceptualization, explaining the legitimating factor that directs the content of democracy. Thus preventing a concept, based on the majority principle, admit the abuse of minorities, becoming the government of men and not in the government of laws that both warned us Aristotle. The substantial dimension constitutes the real change of democratic paradigm that has been brewing since the end of the last century product of anti-democratic deviations that are democratically-lived during WWII, when by formal democratic means came to power and through the substantial democracy was destroyed.

The substance of democracy comes to affirm the principle of the reason for the non-existence of absolute power, even the power of the majority. All majority must respect fundamental rights, inherent and inalienable to all men alike. Allowing to establish that it is undecidable for a majority and what not.

The democracies are difficult to implement them, as Rousseau we confessed that "If there were a nation of gods they would govern democratically; but a government so perfect is not suitable for men"(3) or as claimed by Castoriadis "the Athenians found no democracy among other wild flowers that grew in the Pnyx”(4) not to be neither natural nor commonly found. But why care?

It is wise to watch the terrible results of the dehumanizing effects of democracy in the experience of Nazism and fascism, as more modern radical groups and even in cases such as the Venezuelan, regimes are perverted from a democratic status to become authoritarianism or totalitarianism. In the same way, always the same route. Starting with the accumulation of powers, from there to subjugate the political and social factors, disobeying and suppressing the plurality characteristic of democracy, finally, transgressing fundamental rights and disrupting the dignity, being always an unforgettable tragedy in the history of mankind.

Another importance of democracy is that it is a trait of modernity. Although it is true that the Greeks were created, but they did it because they assumed the responsibility of giving their own laws without interference of the gods or fate, because they replaced the center of their city and of the social life of "a palace of the king, as at Cnossos, to a public square"(5). Constituted a genuine revolution in humanity. They departed from the primitive peoples and its heteronomy, that tendency to believe that its rules have been given by someone else (gods, spirits, deities, etc.). Thus opening the doors to society to claim permanently on their notions of justice, wondering if they are on the right path and can change the course of being necessary, a situation that does not exist when it is stated that the government and its rules come from God providing it with an eternal character.

Previously, it is stated that the validity of the concept is in the integration of the substantial dimension, here, as the limit to the majority, is the importance of the viability of democracy, avoiding that by decision of the majority finish "legitimately" abolishing itself (democracy), as happened in the experiences cited of Nazism and fascism, not being purely theoretical premises. In addition, this dimension is not only to impose limits but also to give repairs. Michelangelo Bovero said that democracy is the " people power"(6), Now, this affirmation does not only consist in the fact that the citizen rests the political rights for self-government; but also it must be understood in a finalist sense, that the citizen corresponds, without differences, a group of counterpowers that are the rest of the fundamental rights (freedom, social rights and many other ranges) to which all power cannot face, nor that of the majority. Creating a double sense of "people's power" tied to the double dimension of democracy and doing with it, an identity between democracy and people's power that attends to its linguistic origins. Finally, this duality allows the State to be used for purposes that are not its own, always respecting human rights that predate the State and democracy and that rejoice in human dignity.

By means of the foregoing, it is possible to consolidate a State that generates a response to citizens, with a State-citizen relationship of participatory interaction of consultation endowed with breadth, mutually obligatory and equal, producing a democratic regime and a satisfied society(7). Because "more than procedural mechanisms, a democracy, is to respond to the common good"(8) for the development and generation of opportunities. Not only on paper, differentiating the norm from reality, understanding that a vote and a process does not form it, also attending to its meaning and its values.

There to finish, from the concept, you must understand how precious democracy is. Being a sign of our era and the past, that since its arrival has not lost value but on the contrary it has expanded the way of understanding it and of loving it. It exemplifies the greatest achievement of the western world. It springs up as an element of civilization, allowing us to channel the need to respond to problems, in a unison in a society with such different individuals. Guaranteeing a development in peace and with full guarantees of fundamental rights in the development of human life.



  1. Castoriadis, C. (2007). Democracia y relativismo. Madrid: Trotta.
  2. Ferrajoli, L. (2009). Paradigmas de la democracia constitucional. Buenos Aires: Ediar.
  3. Rousseau, J. El contrato social. Madrid: Edimat.
  4. Castoriadis, C. (2007). Democracia y relativismo. Madrid: Trotta.
  5. Vernant, J. (1993). Los orígenes del pensamiento griego. Barcelona: Paidós.
  6. Bovero, M. (2002). Democracia y derechos fundamentales. Isonomía N°16, abril 2002.
  7. Tilly, C. (2007). Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Fukuyama, F. (2014). Political Order and Political Decay: From the Insdutrial Revolution to the Globazation of Democracy. New York: Straus, Farrar and Giroux.

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