Dr. Peffley                               PS 271:  Political Behavior

Lecture Outline No. 1: 

Democracy and Political Behavior



I.     Democracy: from the Greek "demos" (people) and "kratia" (rule)

II.   Participatory or Direct democracy: practiced in ancient Athens, New England town meetings, Israeli kibbutz. Defining principles:

1.    All adult citizens participate in major decisions: the people are the government

2.    Participation and face-to-face democracy is enlightening

3.    Problem of scale


III. Classical Representative Democratic Theory (J. S. Mill, John Locke, Jefferson, Dewey)

"rule by the few, controlled by the many":  Fundamental principles:

A.  Popular Sovereignty: the ultimate source of authority rests with the people and the government does the people’s bidding.  Know it when we see it by:

1.    Govt policies reflect what people want

2.    People participate in the political process

3.    High-quality info and debate are available

4.    Majority rules

B.   Political Equality: Each person carries the same weight in voting and other decision making.

C.   Political Liberty: basic freedoms in the formation and expression of the popular will and its translation into policy.

D.  Delegate Representation

E.   Sophistication of the ordinary citizen

1.    Rational

2.    Informed:

3.    Politically active: 

4.    Pol. Tolerant:  

F.    Problems:

1.    Scale

2.    Complexity of issues:

3.    High quality information and debate available?


IV.Revisionist/Guardian/Elitist Democratic Theory (Joseph Schumpeter; Michels, Lippmann; really has roots in Plato's Republic and idea of Guardians). Another model of rep. demo, but with different assumptions of mass soph and different form of representation. 

1.    Background:  Democratic “realism” after WWI and WWII:  “ideal” forms of representative democracy are usually unstable because they rest on unrealistic assumptions of mas sophistication.

a)    Masses are unsophisticated, Lack capacity to govern.

2.    Elite Role: downgrade role of masses; upgrade role of elites

a)    Trustee Role of Representation: Much less responsive to public opinion.  Rep's should follow their own conscience

3.    Barriers to limit impact of universal participation as much as possible:

VII.            Empirical and normative uses of democratic theory

A.       Empirical:  Do the theory's  principles fit the "facts" of American political life? How applicable is the theory as a description or explanation of the current state of affairs? Revisionist theory claims to fit the facts best.

B.        Normative theory  evaluates rather then merely explains.  If the theory fails to fit the facts, it may be used as a reconstructive ideal, as a guide for change.  Direct democratic theory is primarily normative, while representative democratic theory is a blend of both normative and empirical.



                             Direct                                  Representative                            Revisionist                     

1.     Mass              Very active, informed              Some attentive enough to            very low; just select leaders

       Soph.             interested                             keep track of elected                      w/out deep reflection. Select

                                                                         officials                                        in- or out-parties based on

                                                                                                                             simple performance vs. issues.


2.     Human           Ave. citizen capable               Middle: capable of ration-            Not capable of self-govt. or

       Nature           of self-govt. Humans               ally selecting leaders,                  even intelligent selction of

                             very bright; very                      based on issues.                          leaders. Can't change

                             optimistic; high                                                                           lack of capacities.



3.     Mass              In actual decision-                Some may go beyond voting,            Vote only; the less

       partic.            making; expected to            but not necessary or                 involved, the better.

                             take part in all                  encouraged.

                             aspects of governing


4.     View of          Suspicious; disallow          Trust, but some cynicism.              Benevolent. Let them go

       Elites              them.                                                                                       along; they take care

                                                                                                                             of us.

5.     Elections        No elections of rep's;              Very imp. Elect. Rep's.                 Extremely imp. Where

                             Citizens are gvt.;                 Voting on issues means                 "guardians" are

                             policy decided by maj                rep's may govern with                       elected. Policy voting too

                                                                         mandate and are accountable           difficult for voters. Elites

                                                                         to voters.                                      given free rein to implement

                                                                                                                            whatever policies they want after


6.     Linkage          Congruent; masses    Some, though slippage on                  None necessary. Elites

                             make policy.                          specific issues.                           free to do what they

                                                                                                                             want betw. elections.