Guillermo O'Donnell

in Democracy, Agency, and the State

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199587612
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723384 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Democratization


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Based on a discussion of influential conceptions of democracy, this chapter proposes a definition of a democratic regime (or political democracy) which state that a democratic regime consists of reasonably fair elections and includes the right to vote and eventually be elected, and some surrounding ‘political freedoms’. It argues that, even though these are indispensable components, democracy includes other elements. The discussion of the undecidability of those freedoms, of the universalistic wager that is entailed by fair elections, of various aspects of the state that an attentive eye discovers under the formal characteristics of the regime, and of the agent that underlies the citizen that grounds democracy as its basic unit, or micro foundation, opens various avenues of inquiry that are pursued in the rest of the book.

Keywords: agency; democratic regime; polyarchy; political rights; institutionalization; universalistic wager; the state

Chapter.  4673 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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