What is … democracy?

Though few openly oppose universal suffrage and parliamentary sovereignty, after Brexit, many have questioned or even sought to challenge the results of popular democracy in practice, often using the language of democracy to do so. As George Orwell wrote of democracy in Politics and the English Language: ‘not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.’ So what do we really mean when we talk about democracy? Does it mean referendums, or simply parliamentary democracy? And what about so-called participatory democracy and other forms of localised power dispersal? And what did democracy mean historically to the Ancient Greeks or to the Levellers?

Filmed at the Battle of Ideas 2017, the speakers are Carne Ross, Dr. Rachel Hammersley, Mick Ali Miraj and Mick Hume. The chair is Jacob Reynolds.

Battle of Ideas session details