What is a Democracy?: Toward a Working Definition
This chapter presents the working, operational definition of democracy adopted throughout the remainder of this volume—a political system possessing competitive elections plus the protection of political liberties. However, to understand this perspective better, we need to have a sense of the range of views of what constitutes democracy.1 In the following pages, we discuss several different contending orientations: democracy as process, participatory democracy, and democracy as polyarchy. Then, we briefly summarize three widely accepted databases upon which scholars draw in exploring the roots of democracy—because, in part, each of these identifies defining characteristics of democracy. The purpose of surveying the differing conceptualizations and operationalizations is simply to isolate defining characteristics of democracy by reviewing the larger literature.
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