Jul 24, 2004

Evolution of Democracy - Part 1

I have finally started the translation of my article (based on my MA thesis) - evolution of democracy. I think it is not that bad - maybe you will find it interestning. I did try to write it for people, not for some abstract idea. You can judge yourself (and PLEASE, let me know what you think) - the first chapter:


Democracy is the most common political system of the modern world. Majority of people live in the countries that call themselves democratic. During the last few decades majority of changes in the political systems of various countries have been in the direction of democracy, not against it. In our time and place democracy is the dominant type of governance and nothing seems to threaten its position.

Can it be argued that there is some kind of process behind it? Perhaps a process of evolution of state and political system (like democracy)?

To answer this question, we have to consider two definitions – the definition of the state from sociology and the definition of evolution from biology.

Famous sociologist, Max Weber, defines the state 1 as an organization of people that has a monopoly on legitimate violence in a particular geographic area. The definition used in the international law (based on the Montevideo convention of 1933)2, the state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states . An important factor in the differentiation of the states is their political system3.

As for definition of evolution, for our purposes, it will suffice to use a broad definition of evolution: any process of growth or development that entails change4.

States are not a living entities, but they seem to be subject to many of the same rules that living beings are. Furthermore state entities also possess some qualities of the living beings5:

  • growth – states often try to increase their territiroy, population or wealth

  • metabolism – states consume, transform and store resources (both tangible like natural resources and intangible like know-how of its citizens)

  • movement – while states rarely move, this can happen (consider governemnts in exile); their borders can change and withing them there is a substantial amout of movement (changing borders of provinces, flow of people and resources, etc.)

  • reproduction – while states can't have offsprings in the biological sence, they often try to spread their ideals (political, economical and cultural) and create state entities similar to themselves (consider for example the rivalisation between communist and democratic ideals during Cold War)

  • responce to stimuli – states will react to action of other states (for example, military agression)

Sociologists have already coined the term 'cultural evolution' - the progress of a society through successively better stages'. Why then, if society can change, shouldn't we apply the same reasoning to the entity of a state?6

Taking into consideration the above facts and definitions of evolution and state it can be said that evolution in the context of states and their political systems can be defined as 'process of change of organisations (states) in the face of competition for the limited resources in their surroundings', where changes can be viewed as changes of borders and political systems, and limited resources in their surroundings mean the limited territory and resources (natural and human) of Earth.

1Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2004 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State)

2Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montevideo_Convention)

3White, 2004 (users.erols.com/mwhite28/20c-govt.htm)

4Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2004 (pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ewolucja)

5Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life)

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_evolution)

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