Working Paper

IDS working papers;118

Democracy, Law and Comparative Politics

Published on 1 January 2000

This paper is a revision of democratic theory from the perspective of its inadequacies for including into its scope many of the recently democratized countries, as well as some older democracies located outside of the Northwestern quadrant of the world.

fter warning that it is a first step in a larger and more ambitious endeavor, the paper begins by critically examining various definitions of democracy, especially those that, claiming to follow Schumpeter, are deemed to be ‘minimalist’, or ‘procesualist’. On this basis, a realistic and restricted, but not minimalist, definition of a democratic regime is proposed. After this step, the connections of this topic with several others are explored, including political, social, and welfare rights; the state, especially in its legal dimension; and some characteristics of the overall social context.

The main grounding factor that results from these explorations is the conception of agency, especially as it is expressed in the legal system of existing democracies’ although the effectiveness of this system and of its underlying conceptions of agency vary quite widely across cases. The approach of the text emphasizes legal and historical factors, while also tracing, in several comparative excursi, some important differences among various kinds of cases.

Publication details

published by
O'Donnell, Guillermo
IDS Working Paper, issue 118
1 85864 306 6


About this publication

Related content

Student Opinion

Support for first-generation learners

Rachna Vyas, IDS student, MA Governance, Development & Public Policy

27 March 2024


The sanitation circular economy - rhetoric vs. reality

Deepa Joshi & 2 others

18 March 2024