Dictionnaire de la Science Politique

Authors: Hermet, Badie, Birnbaum & Braud
Summary: This 1124 words entry starts with a brief definition of the dual nature of democracy: democracy as a regime type based on political legitimacy (procedural definition), and democracy as an ideal (normative definition). This dual nature is implied in the etymology of the term because 'democracy' means government of the people, but also government on the people. As a regime, democracy has not always been the first choice (Plato, Aristotle), and usually it has been assimilated to representative form of government.
Making the history of the debate concerning the concept, the authors distinguish three main positions: the first position concerns the way to conciliate the two democratic principles of freedom and equality; the second position is about the two faces of democracy as a real regime and as a utopia; the third position concerns the relation between state and society.
More recently, the defence of minorities (in the elitist version of Sartori) and the diffusion of sources of power (in the poliarchy of Dahl) became new issues concerning the concept of democracy.
At the end of the entry, the authors give their own definition of democracy: democracy is a way to organize political power; its legitimacy is provided by popular sovereignty, but the exercise of that sovereignty is delegated to a specialized group of people, regularly and freely elected. Those people have to respect minorities in the political game. At the very end, there is a short sociological note, which attributes the acceptance of the uncertainty of each political outcome to democracy, whereas the authoritarianism tries to guarantee the certainty of those results (Przeworski).