The Essential Concepts and Principles of Democracy


This paper discusses the impact of the principles and concepts of democracy on racism; it also examines how the concepts and principles shape racism as an item of public agenda.

The Impact of Principles of Democracy on Public Agenda

Racism is an issue that has been in the public domain for many years. Racism is a term that constitutes the perceptions, practices, and actions that reflect the view that people are grouped in terms of distinct races (Blee, 2009; Jackson, 2012). Even though it started many centuries ago, it has continued to dominate the public agenda (Kundnani, 2012). Racism is a serious problem that affects groups and individuals; its effects include different forms of discrimination based on color. Besides, it also results in feelings of neglect and hatred among people of different cultural and social backgrounds (Gotkowitz, 2011).

One of the democratic principles impacting racism entails respect for human rights (Dworkin, 2008). This is exemplified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Darraj, 2010). With the declaration of human rights, racism has substantially diminished in many countries, especially in the United States.

Constitutionalism is also a crucial principle of democracy that has impacted racism as an item of public agenda (Hardin, 2003). Democracy recognizes certain fundamental human rights and freedoms (Hardin, 2003). However, the prospects of infringing such rights and freedoms have been diminished through the process of constitutionalism. The constitution prohibits racism in all forms (Hardin, 2003). To this end, the provisions of a constitution, like that of the United States, constitute the framework within which issues of racism are discussed by the public members. This means that constitutionalism protects people against racism by providing the means through which racists may be dealt with (Hardin, 2003).

Political participation is also an important principle of democracy. In the democratic states, all adult citizens should be allowed to freely and fairly take part in the political processes (Espinosa, 2012). Since political participation is one of the principles of democracy, the debate about racism has been based on the levels at which different races participate in the political activities of their states (Espinosa, 2012). In this case, the public opinion may be skewed in a certain direction, depending on how the government handles the principle of political participation (Espinosa, 2012).

How Democratic Concepts and Principles Shape the Public Agenda

The democratic concepts and principles have been established through a series of research studies (Norris, 2010). Therefore, the democratic concepts and principles provide specific guidelines for establishing democratic governance (Norris, 2010). It is also important to note that the members of the public are increasingly becoming aware of these concepts and principles through education and the media (Norris, 2010); this scenario has encouraged the members to focus on how the government handles issues related to racism (Bowen, 2008). This implies that the way the government utilizes democratic principles and concepts to deal with racial issues greatly determines the direction of the discourse on racism as an issue of public agenda.

The Democratic Concepts and Principles

The first principle is liberty. Liberty is the power to act and live independently without unnecessary forms of coercion. Liberty is one of the key principles of democracy (Patton, 2010). Democracy is important to a country’s governance process, especially where individual citizens have the right to self-determination (Patton, 2010). In this case, for citizens to achieve self-determination, liberty must be a crucial component of the democratic process (Patton, 2010).

A free press is another principle of democracy. In a democratic environment, the press should be left to operate freely without the influence of the government. According to some scholars, democratic governments should not have institutions that regulate the contents of the press (Patton, 2010). Democracy encourages the free flow of information within the public domain, which is only possible where the press is free from the influence of the government (Patton, 2010).

Democracy demands that certain inalienable human rights must be respected. The rights include the right to life, liberty, and freedom. According to scholars of democracy, these rights are especially important where there are minority groups (Patton, 2010).

The rule of law is one of the most important principles of democracy. This principle means the rule by legal means. The rule of law protects fundamental social, economic, and political rights. It is therefore the best alternative to lawlessness and dictatorial governance (Patton, 2010).

The Fundamental Principles and Concepts that are Necessary for Democracy

One of the principles of democracy is the rule of law. The rule of law means that all individuals, including those in power, are not above the law. In this regard, the rulers must rule by the law. The absence of the rule of law leaves space for lawlessness and dictatorial tendencies in a state (Patton, 2010).

The other fundamental and essential principle is the recognition of human rights. Without the recognition and the protection of human rights, democracy may not prevail. Lack of human rights may result in misrule and autocratic leadership styles, the consequences of which are likely to be civil unrest and poor governance. Therefore, human rights constitute a very crucial principle that fosters democracy within the society (Patton, 2010).

The development of democracy depends on the rule of the majority and the protection of the rights of the minority. One of the dictates of democracy is that the majority must carry the day. This principle is fundamental and essential for the sustenance of democracy. However, it is important to note that where the majority rules the minorities are likely to be neglected. Therefore, their rights must be protected by the ruling majority through the process of constitutionalism (Patton, 2010).

The Desirable Concepts and Principles that are not Essential to Democracy

Some several concepts and principles are desirable but not essential to democracy. One of the concepts is that of compromise (Urbinati, 2008). Even though the concept of compromise is important in terms of democratic development, its non-existence cannot impede the development of democracy (Urbinati, 2008). The role of compromising in a democracy is in the resolution of disputes that arise in society due to competing interests. However, it is worth noting that different alternative dispute resolution mechanisms can be used instead of the concept. There is also the concept of direct democracy (Urbinati, 2008). Direct democracy is important to the development of overall democratic governance. However, when it comes to representation, direct democracy is not essential; this is because most democratic countries practice representative democracy. Even though direct democracy is fundamental, allowing all citizens to vote on every state policy and project may not be efficient (Urbinati, 2008).


Based on the analysis, democratic principles and concepts are very important in terms of fostering democratic governance. There are essential principles, like the rule of law and the respect of human rights, that are critical to the development of democratic governance.


Bee, K. M. (2009). Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Bowen, J. D. (2008). A Subtle Kind of Racism: Elites, Democracy, and Indigenous Movements in Modern Ecuador. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest.

Darraj, S. M. (2010). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.

Dworkin, R. (2008). Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Espinosa, G. (2012). Religion, Race, and Barack Obama’s New Democratic Pluralism. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gotkowitz, L. (2011). Histories of Race and Racism: The Andes and Mesoamerica from Colonial Times to the Present. Durham, CA: Duke University Press.

Hardin, R. (2003). Liberalism, Constitutionalism, and Democracy. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Jackson, P. (2012). Maps of Meaning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kundnani, A. (2007). The end of tolerance: racism in 21st century Britain. London, UK: Pluto Press.

Norris, P. (2010). Public Sentinel: News Media and Governance Reform. Washington, D.C: World Bank Publications.

Putton, P. (2010). Deleuzian Concepts: Philosophy, Colonization, Politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Urbinati, N. (2008). Representative Democracy: Principles and Genealogy. Chicago, US: University of Chicago Press.

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