Overview of Principles of Democracy and Equal Participation in Decision Making

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Introduction: On Societies and Decision Makers

In this presentation session we discuss the principles of democracy and their significance for decision making in our society. Human society is of various types, organized at many levels in many ways The great socio-political philosopher, Harold Laski, memorably defined society as "a group of human beings living together and working together for the satisfaction of their mutual wants." These wants nay be economic, religious, cultural and domestic, among others. The nuclear family is, of course, the basic social unit.

Nuclear families belong to extended families which belong to kindred groups, clans, ethnic groups and so on. But as human beings are born, brought up, seek or make their living and generally interact with others, they settle and function not so much in families or ethnic groups as in specific locations and territories, creating social units which we refer to as communities. The character and quality of the community and the direction and prospects of its development depend very much on who makes the critical decisions and how they are made.

Large and self-conscious groups consider themselves and may be considered by others as "nations", autonomous units of political organization and action. Over time, societies, tribes, territorial groups etc. have coalesced, merged, fragmented, segmented, regrouped into what today we recognise as nation states. Harold Laski defines the modern state as a nation state "which is integrated by possessing a coercive authority legally supreme over any individual or group which is part of the society." This authority is called "sovereignty". It is by possession of sovereignty that the state is distinguished from all other forms of human association.

But the state is not an abstraction. Like all institutions it must act through persons; hence not only through individuals but also through the many social, political and economic institutions acting on their own perceptions and strengths and in their own interest. The problem is: How do you reconcile the differences and make the state best serve the interest of its members. In response to this poser today we chant the mantra of DEMOCRACY.