Get complete information on the purpose of the evolution of democratic regimes


The term democracy is an ancient political term whose meaning is derived from the Greek words demos (people) and Kratia (rule or authority). Hence it means ‘rule by the people’.

The Word demokratia was first used by the Greeks towards the middle of the fifth century to denote the political regimes of their City States. The usage was part of the ‘classical’ classification of regimes that distinguished rule by one (monarchy), several (aristocracy or oligarchy) and the many (democracy).

The advocates of democracy have always debated the question as to who should compose the demos. Both the classical Greece as well as in modern times the citizen body has always excluded some individuals as unqualified.


When Athenian democracy was at its height in the fifth century BC, only a small minority of the adult population of Athens comprised the ‘demos’, or those able to participate in the political process. It is only in the twentieth century that universal suffrage and other citizenship rights were extended to all, or almost all, permanent residents of a country.

For instance, universal adult franchise was introduced in Germany in 1919. A year later it was introduced in Sweden. France introduced universal adult franchise only in 1945, just a couple of years ahead of India.

Along with the changing notion of what properly constitute the people, the conceptions as to what it means for the people to rule have also changed. The political lives that lend legitimacy to these institutions and systems enshrined in them are radically different from the democratic regimes of classical Greece, the Roman Republic, or the Italian republics of the middle ages and early Renaissance.

Thus, with the winning of universal suffrage, the democratic theory and practice turned to issues of democratic nation building as there was shift of the locus of democracy from the small scale of the city-state to the large scale of the modern nation state.


The assertion of national independence got reformulated in democratic terms as democratic regimes came to be identified with the right of collective self- determination. Consequently even where the ‘new’ post-colonial regimes could not ensure self-government, they nevertheless called themselves democratic on the strength of their experiences of anti-colonial struggle.

In the similar vein, one can refer to the people’s democratic regimes of the second and third worlds which asserted their democratic legitimacy in the language of economics, pointing to their collective ownership of capital production and distribution, work: for all under planned economy, while neglecting the political and legal rights, multi-party electoral system and parliamentary politics.

The democratic regimes in the western countries relied on traditional political and legal language, emphasised electoral and civic rights, democratic constitution and institution and the formal liberty and equality of the political system.

The above brief historical sketch of the evolution of democratic regimes shows that democracy has been subjected to marked ambivalence and intense philosophical and ideological debates. It acquires distinct characteristics depending on the nature of the countries they are based: East or West, developed or developing ones.

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