• Typology: classification system for claiming broad similarities or differences
  • Aristotle’s typology based on two questions:
    • who rules?
    • in whose interest?
Who Rules Lawful (common good) Lawless (private interest)
One Monarchy Tyranny
Few Aristocracy Oligarchy
Many Polity Democracy
    • modern concept of “democracy” = polity — constitutional democracy
  • Dickerson and Flanagan’s modern typology
    • Political System:
      • Liberal Democracy
      • Transitional Democracies
      • Autocratic (authoritarian & totalitarian)
    • Institutions — relationship between legislative (make laws) & executive (enforce laws & enforce laws)
      • Parliamentary / Presidential / Hybrid
      • Unitary / Devolution / Federalism / Confederation

Liberal democracies

  • form of political system which emerged in Northern & Western Europe, and European North America
  • “a system of government in which people rule themselves, either directly or indirectly (through chosen officials) but in either case subject to constitutional restraints on the power of the majority” (D&F, 269)
  • Robert Dahl argues historic sources include:
    • Greek city-state: assemblies, officials elected by lottery
    • Roman Empire & Italian city-states: election of important officials
    • Northern Europe: Ting (local assemblies) and Althing (national assembly); elected king responsible to Ting and limits on his power; equality among citizens
    • commonality: limited to ‘free men’; oppressive of ‘others’, esp. women; often popular rule gave way to one-person or one-group rule; only few participated or believed in the underlying ‘logic’
  • four operating principles:
    • 1. equality of political rights: right to vote and right to engage in civic duties & public offices
    • 2. majority rule: each vote counts equally, so majority vote wins
      • majority = 50%+1
      • plurality = the most
      • qualified majority = certain number above 50%+1
      • unanimity = everyone agrees / votes for the same option
    • 3. political partication: representative democracy
      • population votes for leaders who rule
      • leaders rule (laws & policy & expenditures) within the constraints of the law
      • vs. direct democracy: everyone takes part and votes on all laws & policy & expenditures
      • some other options: referendum, initiative & recall (D&F 274-275)
    • 4. political freedom: rights to engage in political activities (speech, writing, organizing, election, etc.)


    • means ‘self-rule’, but refers to absolute rule by one person or group without limits imposed by law, political institutions, etc.
    • various types of autocracy:
      • despotism: one person rule through fear
      • authoritarianism: “authority that may or may not rest on wide popular support but that is not put to the test of free eletions” (D&F 309)
      • most are statist:
        • state is final controller of politics, economics, and society is engage in engineering all three directly or indirectly (right-wing and left-wing)
        • do what they think works for the state (regardless of ideology)
Right Wing Left Wing
no to limited political pluralism no to limited political pluralism
no ideology, but anti-communist official ideology, anti-captalist & anti-liberal
limited political mobilization massive political moblilization
no pre-existing plan for social transformation pre-existing plan for social transformation
favourable to capitalism favourable to socialism
    • Totalitarianism is different from both because:
      • focussed on personality of one person — ‘cult of personality’
      • reduces the problem or solution to one factor
      • one party state, loyalty to party from all social institutions & people
      • monopolize ideas
      • widespread use of terror
      • state overrides laws & not bound by them
      • planned & controlled economy
  • Problems of all systems:
    • elite rule: unnecesary evil or necessary evil?
    • majority v minorty rights
    • public interest (common good) v private interest (individual or group interest): what counts as what? eg. private property, national defence, public education
    • how much political autonomy? — state, individuals, groups, etc.
    • how much state intervention in the economy and society?
    • how much political participation of ‘non-state’ actors, eg. business, unions, etc.?

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