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Four Dimensions of Democracy

27 January 2015


Democracy is rule of the people, but this tells us little, and lack of conceptual clarity creates confusion and undermines productive discussion. This paper explores four dimensions of democracy, articulating ways we can think about and apply the concept. The first concerns who we mean by the people, and here a state is more democratic when its body-politic is more inclusive. The other three concern what it means for the people to rule, and pertain to the theoretical principle of democracy, sovereign structures that are democratic, and actual democratic practice within a state. Distinguishing the dimensions is important because states can be more or less democratic along different dimensions. Thinking in terms of the dimensions of democracy enables more precise and productive debate on democratic government. Moreover, it reveals ways that democracy may change and evolve in the 21st century.


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