The Meaning of Democracy and its Determinants
Hanspeter Kriesi (ed.), How Europeans View and Evaluate Democracy, Forthcoming
40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2014 Last revised: 21 Aug 2014
Date Written: July 30, 2014
What does "democracy" mean to people? Do different individuals hold different views about what democracy is or should be? What explains those differences? This article looks into these questions and gives an account of the sources and explanations of different understandings of democracy among Europeans. We advance a basic and simple argument. Individuals that came to acquire a privileged position in society have an interest in defending the political and institutional status quo. Since "democracy" can be understood in different ways, with some understandings closer and some further from that status quo, social status and social hierarchies help determine which version of democracy people come to endorse. In other words, people who enjoy privileged positions in society are more likely to espouse a conception of "democracy" consistent with the political status quo than individuals with lower social status. We rely on the 6th round of ESS surveys from 29 European countries using multilevel models in order to test the hypotheses that result from the main theoretical argument.
Keywords: meaning of democracy, liberal democracy, direct democracy, social justice
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