Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This 7,800-word entry has three parts: a description of the main traditions of democratic political theory, a summary of the contemporary debate over democracy, and a mention of the main types of democratic systems.
The three main traditions of democratic theory are classical, medieval, and modern democratic theory. Classical theory, associated with Aristotle, presents a typology of three regimes: monarchy (government by only one person), aristocracy (government by a few people), and democracy (government by the people). Medieval political theory, while largely a legitimation of princely rule, has a democratic component in the notion of popular sovereignty, according to which supreme power is derived from the people. Finally, modern democratic theory, associated with Machiavelli, poses two historical forms of government, monarchy and republicanism.
The second part of the entry summarizes the contemporary debate on democracy, and compares the different understandings of democracy in liberalism and socialism. Liberalism maintains that the only form of democracy compatible with the liberal State is representative or parliamentary democracy, in which the people do not make the laws directly, but elect a smaller group of representatives to carry out this function. The socialist theory of democracy focuses the labor place and on workers' councils, and might be better thought of as the economic democracy.
The last part of the entry introduces Schumpeter's formal or procedural concept of democracy. According to Schumpeter, democracy is best understood as a group of procedural rules that establish a government and determine how political decisions are made and executed.