Dados vol. 42 n. 4 Rio de Janeiro 1999

Democratic theory and comparative politics

O’Donnell, Guillermo


The present article is a revision of democratic theory from the perspective of its inadequacies to account for the new - and not so new -, democracies located outside the Northwestern quadrant of the world. It begins by examining various definitions of democracy, especially those that claiming to be Schumpeterian, are deemed to be minimalist, or processualist, and proposes a realistic and restricted, but not minimalist definition of a democratic regime. The connections of this topic with several others are then explored, including political, social, and welfare rights, the state, mainly in its legal dimension, and some features of the overall social context. The main grounding factor that results from these explorations is the conception of agency, as it is expressed in the legal system of existing democracies, although widely variable across cases.

Keywords: democratic theory, comparative politics, political theory, democracy

DOI: 10.1590/S0011-52581999000400001

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Democratic theory and comparative politics