Democracy versus “democracy”

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“Mahatma Gandhi, on being asked, “What do you think of Western civilization?,” was reported to have answered, “I think it would be a good idea”.” (Seattle Times, 1967)

Radio 4 has run trailers for the BBC’s “Democracy Season” and “Democracy Day” over the past month or so, posing questions like “can democracy work?”, “can we save democracy?”, and “how do we answer those that want to get rid of democracy?” Clearly, each of these assigns to the term “democracy” a quite specific meaning: electoral democracy, or, more precisely, the political system as it exists now. It should come as no surprise, then, that “Democracy Day is produced in collaboration with the House of Commons and” – that bastion of popular sovereignty – “the House of Lords”. Continue reading

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