LIVING DEMOCRACY : (1) Democracy Can be Practiced all the Time By Arvind Kumar Patel

People belong to the nation. Does the nation belong to them? Image- The New Leam Staff


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Democracy Can be Practiced all the Time

A life based on collective consensus is possible if we internalize the ethos of democracy in all aspects of our existence. Here is an insightful piece that shares how we may do this everyday.

Arvind Kumar Patel is a Ph.D candidate, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Democracy or democratic decision making is a familiar term. It is often taken as a form of government where people above a threshold age (generally 18 years or above) vote in periodic elections to decide who would rule them. In another sense, democracy is a method by which leaders/rulers are elected, or in more general sense, they are selected from a given list prepared by different political parties. To some experts the term selection is more appropriate than election because the electorate have to choose candidates from a given list; they cannot simply add their favorite candidates but must compulsively adhere to the given list. The political party with majority of candidates forms the government at the central level or in the states, as the case may be. In turn, the governments perform the task of governing the economy, the polity and the society to the best of their capabilities. In the words of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar “democracy is a form and a method of government whereby revolutionary changes in the economic and social life of the people are brought about without bloodshed”. While most of the readings of democracy associate it with a form of government, Dr. Ambedkar goes beyond and links it with a tool of social change. A genuine question is to be asked: is democracy only a method to elect political representatives?

The experts and specifically philosophers of democratic theory would give an answer in the negative. For them democracy is not merely a form of government rather it is something more. Democracy for them is predominantly a way of life. It is a way not only to govern a nation or states but to make decision in our day to day life. How to make democratic decision in our daily life? Take an example: suppose there are four persons in a family – husband, wife and two kids. They are discussing what is to be cooked at night for dinner. By taking consideration of availability of raw materials and expert opinion of the cook, if they arrive at a given set of foods liked by all, then decision will be a democratic one. Even if they take considerations of all the members and decide a menu liked by the majority (say the mother and the two kids), that decision will be a democratic decision. But, if the husband forces his choice of menu on the other three because of his economic might,  the decision arrived at in this way will be an autocratic one.

Take another example. Suppose a class is organizing a tour in the summer vacation. A section of students are in favor of a hilly region. Some of them want to go to visit a beach. There are others who want a camel ride in the desert. How to arrive at a decision? If the teacher takes vote and decides on the majority, the decision will be democratic. Suppose, there are some disabled pupils in the class and going to a hilly area is not possible for them. Taking this special situation under consideration, if those who are in favor of going to hills are persuaded and then the decision is arrived by consulting others, it would still be a democratic decision. On the other hand if decision is made by the whim of the teacher, without consulting the students, this kind of decision will be autocratic or in a more general sense a dictatorial decision. There are other possibilities as well. If the destination of the tour is arrived on the basis of choices of the most dominant or meritorious students, that kind of decision will be an aristocratic one. On the other hand if the decision is arrived on the basis of the choices expressed by some wealthy students, who contribute more than others in the monetary sense to finance the tour, then such a decision will be termed as plutocratic decision.

Hence, democracy and democratic decision making is not a subject matter of governments or books alone. We can have democracy in our day to day life: in our home, family, workplace and in our community. We can have a taste of democracy in our food, expenditure, finances and so on. We can enforce democracy in our general dealings with other people. And if we do so properly, we can make this world a better place to live in, a truly democratic world!

This article is published in The New Leam, JANUARY 2017 Issue( Vol .3  No.19) and available in print version. To buy contact us or write at

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