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Comparing of The Maximalist and Minimalist Democracy

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Democracy, according to Abraham Lincoln former American President is a government of the people by the people and for the people. In other words “Democracy is a system of government in which all the people of a state or polity are involved in decision making”. Most theories of democracy are based on the principle of “government by the people”. This implies that people participate in the making of crucial decisions that influence their lives and determine the societal environment. Bühlmann (2008) defines “Democracy as a system of government by which political sovereignty is retained by the people and exercised directly by citizens. ” In etymological terms, the word democracy comes from ancient Greek (demokratia), which combines demos, the “people”, with kratos, meaning “rule”, “power “or “strength”.

Democracy is a system of government where by people participates in government either directly or through representatives periodically elected by themselves. It is the government of the people by the people and for the people. Minimalist democracy refers to government of the people that is supposed to promote just effective governance. Maximalist democracy refers government of, by, and for the people. Best representation, high participation and greater possibility of social justice. Based on a maximalist understanding of democracy, it entails the characteristics of the representative and participatory types of democracy, but considers the social prerequisites of citizens also essential for fair and meaningful democratic participation. Therefore, looking at both definitions of maximalist and minimalist forms of democracy adheres to the following principles. Hence draws the following similarities which includes;

Firstly, in both, people’s fundamental freedoms and fundamental, however, human rights are much more than a mere component of democracy. They represent sine qua non requirements for the well performing of a democratic system. The development and evolution of human rights are only possible when humans live in a democracy, given the fact that it is only within this system that the population itself can draw up the laws that will rule and publicly control the three powers: the legislative power (power to propose and vote for laws: for example in Madagascar, this is the role of the Parliament), the executive power (power to enforce laws: in Madagascar, this is the role of the President of the Republic and the Government) and the judiciary power (power to make and to promulgate laws, in addition, for example, the High Constitutional Court).

Moreover, human rights are only efficient when the State power is linked to an autonomy and independence right, and when all the individuals are treated on equal terms in front of this justice. In the same way, it is essential, in any democracy, to establish a clear separation of powers, so that the judiciary can be autonomous and independent. The result will be a triangular relation between Democracy, Human Rights and Separation of Powers, which thus represent interdependent elements.

Secondly, in both maximalist and minimalist elections constitute one of the most important pillars of democracy. These are the texts of electoral law that rule and clearly define both the organization of these elections, and how to undertake the deduction of the votes in order to assign them to the corresponding seats. This implies that there is an active electoral law and a passive electoral law. Citizens who can use active electoral law have the right to vote whereas those who can use passive electoral law have the right to be elected. In most cases, the whole electorate can use both types of right. Democratic elections are free when citizens have the right to choose from several candidates or parties that can run for the election without any restriction. They must also be free to decide whether they want to use their right to vote or to abstain from doing so, if they prefer allow for people to choose a leader of their choice through free and fair elections.

Thirdly, both uphold the rule of law, which stresses that there are fundamental principles and procedures that guarantee the freedom of each individual and which allow participation in political life. There is, first of all, the right to a free blossoming of individual personality. To sum it up, the power of the State is linked to the laws that rule it. Thus, the notion of Rule of Law is directly opposed to that of “Police State “or “Despotic State”. In a democratic State, all the citizens are equal in front of the law, even state employees and administration. The latter can only take action when it has been vested with the accruing responsibility by law or by the Constitution. The rule of law is then always founded on the respect of law and Constitution. This is a system that holds the State accountable for its acts in front of the citizens and it also gives the latter the opportunity to take a stand and to react according to its acts. In this State ruled order, citizens are completely free to take part in political life as well.

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Fourthly, both uphold separation of powers, there are three State powers within a State and these includes; legislative power draws up and adopts laws, executive power enforces laws and government policies and judiciary power represents the legal framework for exercising the power. Separation of powers means “division” of the State power. In a democratic State, the power of the State can be controlled and influenced efficiently, first and foremost, by itself. The State power must then be distributed among several organs. In general, it is the constitution of a country that settles how the State power is to be distributed among different organs and what attributions are to be assigned to them respectively. In general, it is the Constitution of a country that settles how the State power is to be distributed among different organs and what attributions are to be assigned to them respectively. As a general rule, there are two government systems that need to be distinguished: the “parliamentary regime” and the “presidential regime”.

In parliamentary regimes, the government stems from the parliament that is elected by the people. Ministers within the government can also be vested with a double mandate. The government is put in place by the Parliament and can be destitute in the same way at any time by the latter. The government attributions and that of the parliament interlock. In general, it is the government that deals with documents for the drawing up and proposals of law. However, it cannot decide anything on the way those bills are passed. Each bill is subject to a vote at the parliament; consequently, the government depends on the parliament for passing the bills that it puts forward. Additionally, political parties play a very important role as the majority at the parliament constitutes the necessary requirement for accession to government seats. According to Hetherington, K. (2009) as the concept of democracy is highly contestable almost everyone has a different view on what it means to call a country a democracy, or to call it more or less democratic than another it’s not surprising to see that most of the research projects that have attempted to measure democracy such as Polity IV, Freedom House for example have chosen a different definition of democracy, and are, therefore, actually measuring something different the minimalist and the maximalist one. The former could, for example, view democracy as no more than a system of regular elections, and measure simply the presence or absence of elections in different countries. The latter, on the other hand, could include in its definition of democracy stuff like rights protections, freedom of the press, division of powers for example and measure the presence or absence of all of these things, and aggregate the different scores in order to decide whether a country is democratic or not, and to what extent. However, having looked at the similarities between the minimalist and maximalist forms of democracy, the following are some of the differences.

The use of a maximalist definition of democracy would make it possible to rank all types of regimes on such an ordinal scale. A maximalist definition of democracy would include a relatively large number of necessary attributes of democracy, and the combination of presence/ absence/partial development of each attribute would almost make it possible to give each country a unique ranking the ordinal scale. Such a wide- ranging differentiation is an advantage for progress analysis. A binary scale does not give any information on the quality of democracy. Hence, it would be better to speak of measuring democratization rather than measuring democracy and democratization not only in the sense of a transition from authoritarian to democratic governance, but also in the sense of progress towards a deepening of democratic rule.

While, the minimalist definition of democracy necessarily focuses on just a few attributes of democracy. As a result, it is impossible to differentiate between degrees of “democraticness” of different countries. Moreover, the chosen attributes may not be typical of or exclusive to democracy (such as good governance or citizen influence), and may not include some necessary attributes. For example, Polity IV, perhaps the most widely used measure of democracy, does not sufficiently incorporate actual citizen participation, as opposed to the mere right of citizens to participate. Hence, it’s not fair to say that a country that gives its citizens the right to vote but doesn’t actually have many citizens voting can hardly be called a democracy. The maximalist democracy measurement system offers a lot of information and the possibility to compare countries beyond the simple dichotomy of democracy/nondemocracy, but it may be rejected by those who claim that this system is not measuring democracy as they understand the word whereas minimalist system will measure something that is useful for many people as no one will contest that elections are necessary for democracy for instance, but will also reduce the utility of the measurement results because it does not yield a lot of information about countries.

On the other hand, the minimalist camp claims that there is a sense that the people need a supreme authority or state that seeks to shape and regulate social life while the maximalist democracy views that social life of its citizens should not at any point be regulated because it is viewed as a violation of human rights.

Further, in the minimalist there is a notion that people should be led as opposed to ‘participate’ in public affairs. According to Joseph Schumpeter’s view supports that the state takes power from the people, as the people are just as willing to submit to it. He accepts that people can grasp local or personally specific political issues, but he believes that they have no incentive to participate in national or international issues. His theory claims that the peoples’ lack of skill or capacity means that they are easily manipulated. His vision could certainly help to provide an explanation for example, of the political affairs in Nazi Germany and the mass votes for the victorious National Socialist Party (his book was written during World War II). While in the maximalist, people actively participate in public affairs public participation is an action or a series of actions a person takes to involve themselves in affairs of government or community. These activities include voting, attending meetings, participating in public or private political discussion or debate on issues, signing a petition on a desired government action or policy, volunteering in community activities and contributing money to a political party or candidate of one’s choice among other similar activities so that the citizen can know if their participation is adding value to the governance process or not.

In conclusion, democracy can be defined: minimally ‘in terms of procedures such as competitive elections’ and maximally ‘in terms of ideas of participation, deliberation and the direct involvement of citizens in government. However, the maximalist is that the measurement will are more open to controversy. The more attributes of democracy are included in the measure, the higher the risk of disagreement on the model of democracy as people have differentiate as about the number and type of necessary attributes of a democracy, even of an ideal democracy. On other hand the minimalist definition makes it very difficult to differentiate between countries. It would make it possible to distinguish democracies (minimally defined) from nondemocracies, but it wouldn’t allow measuring the degree of democracy of a given country.

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Comparing of The Maximalist and Minimalist Democracy. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
“Comparing of The Maximalist and Minimalist Democracy.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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