Summary: In about 4000 words, this entry defines democracy, discusses direct democracy's origins and development, and explores a variety of different forms of democracy.
The essential definition of democracy, according to the entry, is "the rule of the people." The word "democracy" derives from an ancient Greek term--demokratia--which, when translated, means roughly "the people's power." The concepts people and rule both pose conceptual problems. Who or what constitutes the people? What does it mean to rule? In large part, this is why there are many different definitions and variations of democracy.
A direct democracy is one in which the people themselves make the laws and rules--no representatives are involved. Direct democratic systems evolved as early as ancient Greece, and the entry describes in detail the scope of citizen participation. Direct democracy remains an ideal in the modern era, but it seems increasingly hard to achieve. One particularly difficult issue is the size of contemporary nation-states. Many scholars believe true direct democracy is possible only in small states. The entry briefly introduces the work of Rousseau and Marx on this topic.
The remainder of the entry is devoted to a description and analysis of participatory democracy, statistical representation, functional representation, corporatist democracy, people's democracy and plebiscitarian democracy. For each of these concepts, the entry provides a definition or a detailed description as well as illustrative examples.