In this analysis, the rational choice theory and sociological theory have been used to evaluate the democratic institutions. Under, the sociological theory, the focus would be centered on the corporatism1. Democracy refers to a set of principles that are considered to be very fundamental to the continuity of humanity2.
Although the actual concept of democracy varies from one democratic institution to another, the bottom line is that its main motive is to ensure that there is sovereignty of the populace. In addition, the concept of democracy makes sure that the elements such as civil liberty, political pluralism, and equality before in the civil societies should be allowed to operate outside the governments.
Democratic institutions always tend to be characterized by a sense of majority rule, though in some cases there have been incidences of the majority decisions, which oppress the minority groups. Importantly, the people should not allow the minority to control or hold hostage the entire country because of their own personal interest3.
The Rational Choice Theory
This theory is centered on the assumption that the behaviors of individuals are reflected in the society. That is what is evidenced at the societal level as a reflection of basically what people see and can enjoy fully while incurring the least cost.
People will always compare what they have to spend and what they get in return. Therefore, individuals can judge the state of particular societies and conclude that it is their desire to derive the greatest satisfaction without having to spend a lot of resources4.
In the political theory, the rational choice is what moulds voters, politicians, bureaucrats, autocrats, and others to behave in a particular manner. In most cases, the dictators prefer to undermine the value of education in the states that they govern so that the civilians continue to suffer from apathy, thus allowing them to cling to power for long5.
In fact, it is common knowledge that the implication of such actions would lead to increased levels of crime and weak economy, which cannot be easily avoided in the long run. This theory also explains why in some countries, the citizens are more concerned in participating in the political processes than in other matters.
For example, countries where people are enlightened with the fact that their daily lives are centered around politics. In fact, their economy will depend on the policies of the people they elect in leadership positions. Besides, they will tend to highly participate in electoral processes more than those from the society where people do not understand the significance of good governance.
For instance, when a state is taken a democratic institution, it is very easy to understand the extent of democracy based on the awareness and information that the citizens of that country have on their rights, freedom, and how they engage their elected leaders towards the new birth of democracy6.
Indeed, the rational choice theory helps in understanding the types of democracies that exist in the social and political system, as analyzed in the following discussion.
The rational choice theory postulates that, what many democratic institutions tend to concentrate on as the signs of democracy are certain ideal functions such as political expression freedoms, right to vote, right to freedom of expression, and right to be voted for among others.
Indeed, the most important issues about these are the fact that in the various forms of democracies, the people can either participate directly to make up a policy or participate indirectly through the votes cast by their representatives. Moreover, between these two issues, one could be regarded as more democratic than the other7.
The rational choice theory is linked to the direct democratic system, in the sense that it provides rational opportunity to the voters who are engaged in direct participation in decision making as opposed to when the citizens have the important participatory roles in the process, hanging on the mercies of intermediaries who make the most strategic decisions on their behalf.
Therefore, direct democracy is considered the most appealing of them all. These systems often affect the citizens since they are given the sole right to make decisions such as revoking elected members before their terms in office have ended.
Consequently, this will result in the failure to deliver, make amendments on the constitution or adopt of the entire constitutional documents. In addition, the members fail to propose bills through referendums, and in some cases they do not approve the financial year budgets in time8.
In spite of its appealing appearance, direct democracy has its social and economic implications that can either be positive or negative. First, focusing on a social dimension, it gives the citizens a sense of patriotism and pride as they will take credit of any positive impact of the decision made.
For example, if they pass a constitution that later brings massive reforms in the bill of rights and freedoms, they will always remember that it was their hard work and commitment.
Second, the citizens may be able to enjoy good governance as anyone who appears not to be respecting human rights will be revoked from office and a better person elected. The budget will also reflect what the people feel should be given priority in order for them to move forward9.
The negative implication of direct democracy is that it may bring disgrace, especially when critical processes such as the budgets are left to the people to make approvals. This can be very detrimental, especially in the communities where the levels of illiteracy are high, and then the budgets may reflect the wishes of the people who are very unrealistic to the implementation processes.
In fact, such activities should be left to the professionals. It can also be very costly incase a particular democratic institution will opt to use a direct system as that requires a lot of money to organize and carry out referendums. It also takes a lot of time to make a decision. Therefore, it will not be ideal when the decision to be made is urgent10.
Indeed, the rational choice theory has given the politicians the leeway to control and even misuse political institutions. Some other politicians can use this opportunity to try and sabotage their opponents with the aim of making them become unpopular by carrying out campaigns on wrong ideas and propaganda.
Direct democracy may also not be logical to adopt, especially in institutions where the voters have highly torn apart along their ethnic lines. This means that decision making in most cases will not be guided by reasoning, but by emotions. It will be very difficult to come up with the consensus that will please everyone.
Therefore, those who are defeated in the elections will always feel that they have been betrayed. Therefore, it is important to note that incase any institution is to adopt the direct system of democracy, and then it should clearly distinguish the kind of decisions that will need the direct involvement of the citizens and the urgency of the matter. This is to try and avoid a situation when the people are often called upon to carry out the referendum.
Before subjecting any decision to the public domain for approval, it is very important that the electorates are accorded valuable civic education that will include educating the people on the benefits and dangers of making certain decisions. The objective of this is to ensure that the citizens know of the impact of their decisions and to prepare them for tasks to be carried out and the responsibility involved11.
Focusing on the direct democracy, which some theorists call it the discursive theory. In this system, deliberation is the key aspect of the decision-making process, that is, both the majority rule and consensus decision-making are the main elements. It also includes authentic deliberation and not only simple voting to make a decision so as to legitimize the lawmaking process.
Despite the fact that it is not so different from direct democracy, one key aspect that tends to distinguish it from the former is that there are bodies, which come up to deliberate on the issues and make decisions based on the discussed findings and recommendations.
Historically, such phenomena had been witnessed in other parts of the world. For example, the ancient Greece, especially in the Athenian democracy of about sixth century BC, both the deliberations and direct democracy were practiced.
This meant that the deliberative democracy is to some extent, more complex than the direct democracy and can be practiced frequently and successfully by the elite decision making organs of the society. These organs can include the courts and legislative structures of the government12.
This theory allows that the deliberative system can be used in two institutions. For instance, in the populist-deliberate democracy that is comprised of the ordinary citizen groups who are responsible of making decisions directly on behalf of the people after having deliberations on the particular subject matter.
It is important to note that this system is introduced to try and curb the problem of varying public opinion on matters that affect the society. However, it does not concentrate on creating permanent laws.
The other institution where deliberative system can be used is the representative democracy, which is a body of elected persons who make decisions on behalf of the people13. This has been witnessed in the countries that have adopted this method for a long time, such as the United Kingdom and Germany.
Since these representatives are mandated to make critical decisions that will affect the future of the country, then it is important that deliberations are used to ensure that the adopted decision should not negatively impact on the democratic development of the country. This system has also its social and economic impacts14.
Focusing on the social aspect of the rational choice theory, this system denies the citizens the direct opportunity to decide on their own destiny through direct voting. In short, it creates a phenomenon that tends to overlook at the citizen’s solidarity.
Though, in some cases there is prior direct voting by the people, deliberations by the appointed bodies may see that the decisions made by the people are over-turned, thus making the role of the citizens irrelevant in the decision-making process15. Deliberation can also see that there is the continued perpetuation of the status quo by those who have been given the responsibility to make decision on behalf of the other people.
This problem happens because some political leaders may just be interested to defend the interest of groups that they belong to or those groups that they benefit from in one way or another. Therefore, it forces the aspect of division on what is rational deliberation and what is just.
Economically, this system may have a positive impact since the deliberation is done by a small percentage of the people. Thus the institution will not have to incur costs that are endured to organize a referendum. The other advantage about using the deliberation approach is that it is less time consuming and this makes it very ideal when it comes to making the decisions that require urgent responses16.
James Fishkin, in his book “Democracy and Deliberation,” had disapproved this theory on the ground that it did not clearly solve the problem of voting17. He disagreed with the whole concept of using opinion polls as a reflection of the reality of people’s views on the ground that only a small fraction of the people in the society are approached and interviewed.
According to Fishkin, this is not comprehensive. Therefore, most of the political theorists have agreed on the fact that the deliberative system should be adopted alongside other systems such as the direct democracy system so as to come up with the system that will solve the weaknesses that are witnessed in the deliberative system18.
Corporatism Theory (Sociological Theory) Analyzed
This is a theoretical based system of social, economic, and political institutions. This sociological theory attempts to create corporate groups of individuals in the society, who are capable of making independent and rational choices in the democratic institutions. In addition, it categorizes people in associations based on profession and common interest.
For example, ethnic groupings, patronage scientific affiliations, business, and labor among others. This theory is very unique in the sense that its interpretation is derived from an organic body.
It was in 1884 that a commission of social thinkers and theologians presented a report that summarized corporatism to be a social institution with a base of people groupings as per their social and natural interests. In short, it portrayed the image of men and women of certain common interest coming up to advance their motives.
Indeed, it can be compared with social functionalism, and it is based on the fact that both human beings and some animals show the signs of very strong corporate social structures19.
Kinship has played a great role towards explaining corporatism; that is, a democratic institution can adopt such a system as a basic unit for decision making. For example, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the family, ethnic, and clan identities are very common phenomena.
The Islamic and Chinese societies have also strongly upheld their clan corporatism. Importantly, in the ancient Greece, Plato came up with the ideas of communitarian and totalitarian, which were guided by natural-based hierarchy that could be organized based on classes. Individual interest was strongly condemned for the sake of communal interest since this theory is centered on the definition of democracy as the benefit of all the people.
It also strongly emphasizes on equality among the people, and the development should benefit the whole community rather than the individual20. Ancient Rome also adopted corporatism, that is, the people were divided into their religious groups. In fact, these groupings were neither based on profession nor military. This became the basis of political representation and participation.
In France, corporatism has been considered as a major contributor of the 1789 French revolution21. However, to some extent, many people have disputed such social classes as they deny the other less wealthy individuals in the society to have the opportunity to rise to certain social, political or even economic classes. Democracy advocates for equality, but socially it may lead to discrimination which is not justified22.
After the 1789 French revolution, corporatism collapsed across Europe as the new regimes were more concerned with the individual rights rather than the group rights. However, this did not last long because around 1850 corporatism emerged due to the activities of Marxism and classical liberalists who had started to advocate for the rights of both the working and middle classes.
They were fighting against class divisions, and with time Europe saw the emergence of trade union movements that took up the roles of negotiating for the rights of the workers23.
Focusing on another sociological perspective by Emile Durkheim’s theory on solidarity24, he believed strongly that there was no clear procedure or norm that could solve conflict between the trade unions and the employer. He did not support the way labor was divided in industrial capitalism since this was responsible for the great misery and anomie.
Therefore, this issue was to be addressed; that is, the workers needed the democratic avenues by which they could have their rights and privileges protected. This kind of democracy advocates for a more procedural manner of dispute resolution so that both the employees and the workers can be satisfied in the process25.
The corporatism is more concerned with the political outcome that is even or create a kind of democratic system, which wants the control of the economy to be both the private and government responsibility. Therefore, none of the two should at any point act as a monopoly26.
This theory assumes that there will be great harmony of the duty to represent matters and grievances affecting the professionals.
For example, matters to do with contracts of the works and other related aspects are left to the trade unions and employer corporations. According to the Italian fascism, the main intention of adopting this method in Italy was that it could easily accommodate divergent interests within the larger national economy27.
Moreover, neo-corporatism emerged from the post Second World War across Europe, and some of the proponents included both the social democrats and national conservatives. Though, it had almost collapsed in the 1970s, after the widespread inflation and rescission, it favored the economic tripartism that had very strong employer’s unions, labor unions, and government structures.
All these sectors came together to manage the economy, which was a good initiative because it was a clear sign of democracy to be adopted28. However, its major weakness is that it becomes very difficult to draw the boundary up to which either the government will manage or the extent to which the employers and even the workers will manage to reach without conflicts.
The other weakness is that many of those who own factors of production (employers) are the ones who succeed politically and find positions in the government. In some cases, where the government wants to come in and control the economy, it tends to scare away investors, and this may have negative effects on the economy.
Moreover, the adoption of corporatism theory caused many failures, especially when it was reported that all the political powers interfered with the whole process, and the most important were the controls of national assets. These were former state officers who mismanaged the entire system, thus it was destined to fail29.
This is because it was going to create a class of very wealthy individuals and these people would eventually abuse the rights and freedom of the other citizens. Indeed, the siloviks had seized the control of the most strategic elements of the state such as the media, administrative, and financial resources among others.
This was then followed by widespread human rights abuse and restricted democratic freedom. Socially, the values of human beings in Russia at that time were lost since the majority of the citizens turned to slavery due to oppression and mistreatments by the rich owners of capital30.
In sum, from the analysis of both the social choice theory and sociological theory on corporatism, it is evidenced that there is a clear relationship in the democratic governance, social, and the economic progress of a given state. Under this model, a particular institution may adopt a system of democracy that can either positively affect or negatively impact on the economic and social aspects of that society.
Therefore, it is prudent to urge all political institutions that intend to adopt democratic systems to do so objectively so as to survive in the long run, as evidenced from the rational choice theory and corporatism theory.
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Bessette, Joseph. The Mild Voice of Reason: Deliberative Democracy & American National Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Birch, Anthony. The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy. London: Routledge, 1993.
Blattberg, Charles. “Patriotic, Not Deliberative, Democracy”. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 6, no. 1 (2003):pp. 155–74.
Cammack, Paul. The New Institutionalism: Predatory Rule, Institutional Persistence, and Macro-Social Change. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Caputo, Nicholas. America’s Bible of Democracy: Returning to the Constitution. New York, NY: Sterling House Publisher Inc, 2005.
Castiglione, Dario. “Republicanism and its Legacy.” European Journal of Political Theory, (2005): 453–65.
Cohen, Joshua. Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
Cohen, Joshua. Deliberative Democracy and Democratic Legitimacy. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989: 17–34
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1 Peter Hall and Rosemary Taylor, Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1996), 23
2 CharlesTilley, Of essences and bonds in Durable (California: University of California Press, 1998), 24
3 Thomas Koelble, The New Institutionalism in Political Science and Sociology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 47.
4 Terry Moe, Power and Political Institutions (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 63.
5 Robert Dahl. Democracy and its Critics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 83.
6 Paul Cammack, The New Institutionalism: Predatory Rule, Institutional Persistence, and Macro-Social Change, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 78.
7 Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 63.
8 Peter Katzenstein, Small States in World Markets: industrial policy in Europe (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 16.
9 Carlos Nino, The Constitution of Deliberative Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 23.
10 Joseph Bessette,The Mild Voice of Reason: Deliberative Democracy & American National Government. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 67.
11 Robert Talisse, Democracy after Liberalism ( London: Routledge, 2004), 94.
12 Anthony Birch, The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy ( London: Routledge, 1993), 45.
13 Joshua Cohen, Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 53.
14 Kenneth Shepsle,“Studying Institutions: Some Lessons from the Rational Choice Approach”, Journal of Theoretical Politics 1 (1989): 139.
15 Jon Elster, Deliberative Democracy (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 97.
16 Philippe Schmitter and Lehmbruch Gerhard, Trends towards Corporatist Intermediation, (London: Sage Publishers, 1979), 29.
17 James Fishkin, When the People Speak ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 96.
18 Douglas North, Institutions and a Transaction-Cost Theory of Exchange: In Perspectives on Positive Political Economy (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 62.
19 Ethan Leibj, “Can Direct Democracy Be Made Deliberative?” Buffalo Law Review 54, (2006) 12.
20 Cario Castiglione, “Republicanism and its Legacy,” European Journal of Political Theory, (2005): 457.
21 Mark Granovetter, “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness”, American Journal of Sociology 91 no.3 (1985): 504
22 Joshua Cohen, Deliberative Democracy and Democratic Legitimacy ( Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), 19
23 Douglass North, Structure and Change In Economic History (New York, NY: Norton Publishers, 1981), 59.
24 Gabriel Almond, Separate Tables: Schools and Sects in Political Science (Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1990), 14.
25 David Copp, Jean Hampton, and John Roemer, The Idea of Democracy (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 54.
26 John Dryzek, Foundations and Frontiers of Deliberative Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 76.
27 Charles Blattberg, “Patriotic, Not Deliberative, Democracy”. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 6, no. 1 (2003): 169.
28 Christian Davenport, State Repression and the Domestic Democratic Peace (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 89.
29 Nicholas Caputo, America’s Bible of Democracy: Returning to the Constitution (New York, NY: Sterling House Publisher Inc, 2005), 102.
30 James March, and Olsen Johan, The New Institutionalism: Institutional Factors in Political Life (New York, NY: University of Bergen, 1995), 58.