Democracy and Autocracy

This article (German language only) guides teachers to lecture on democracy and autocracy. It identifies the key features of both concepts and compares them systematically.

The article also explains how democracies seek to solve the dilemma that government is a necessary evil. Only governments can provide some necessary services to societies. Yet, it should not become too powerful. State and society must balance each other.

Democracies turn into autocracies when formal institutions such as the separation of powers disappear or when the informal guardrails erode.

Moreover, inertness is a necessary feature of democracies often underappreciated. It helps protect the guardrails and optimizes problem solving.

Todays democracies expose two underlining long-term trends. First, political communication and action used to be channeled through formal organizations such as interest groups, churches, or political parties. Today, people prefer acting through informal channels in a flexible and more spontaneous manner. Second, in the past citizens mostly demonstrated political allegiance. Today they practice individualism by being politically assertive.