What are the Contemporary Challenges to Democracy?

Read this article to learn about the Contemporary Challenges to Democracy !

From the map of democratic nations of 2012, one can observe that at least one-fourth of globe is still not under democratic government in these parts of the world there is a foundational challenge of making the transition to democracy and instituting democratic government.

This involves bringing down the existing non-Democratic regime, keeping military away from controlling government and establishing a sovereign and functional state.

Most of these nations face the challenge of expansion.

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This involves applying the basic principle of democratic government across all the regions, different social groups and various institutions ensuring greater power to local governments, extension of federal principles to all the units of the federations, inclusion of women and minority groups etc. falls under this challenge.

It also means that less and less decision should remain outside the domain of democratic control. Most countries including India & US face this kind of challenge.

Challenge for every democracy-of deepening of democracy is faced in every democracy in one form or the other. This involves strengthening of the institutions and practices of democracy, those institutions that help people’s participation and control.


This requires an attempt to bring down the control and influence of rich and powerful people in the making of governmental decision. This challenge takes a different path and meaning in different parts of the world.

However, among the important challenges to contemporary democracy are as follows:

1. Development

2. Diversity


3. Gender

4. Globalisation

1. Development

The slow pace of development in India is sometimes attributed to its adoption of democracy, while the developmental successes of the East Asian economies are attributed to their lack of democracy.

However, the comparative studies undertaken by scholars present mixed results and do not conclusively establish either that democracy inhibits development or that it facilitates it. Background historical conditions, the nature of economy and society, significantly affect developmental outcomes.

Logically, to the extent that people have the right to make claims upon the state and to insist that the state be responsive to their needs, democracy is potentially a powerful weapon against poverty and deprivation.

If the poor in developing democratic societies have failed to use this weapon effectively, this should be blamed not on democracy per se, but attributed to the concentration of economic and social power that predisposes the state to act in ways that are biased in favour of dominant classes and social forces.

So defined, development should make political participation more meaningful, even as democracy provides channels through which people can press their claims for development upon the state.

2. Diversity

This challenge has also been difficult to accommodate because classical democratic theory has envisaged the individual, and the individual alone, as the legitimate bearer or subject of rights. Within such theory, it has been near-impossible to conceive of groups as the bearers of rights.

In recent years, the communitarian critics of liberalism have argued that individuals are not the autonomous pre-social creatures that liberal theory makes them out to be. Rather, they are formed and constituted by the traditions and communities in which they are located. Hence, minorities must be given group rights in order that their cultures may be protected from assimilation by the dominant culture.

3. Gender

It is notable that, even in Europe, the home of liberal-democratic theory, the granting of the suffrage to women has right to vote as recently as 1971. Even today, women in Kuwait do not possess this Tight. In many countries where they do possess democratic political rights, women continue to lack political and economic power.

In 1993, it was estimated that women owned only 1 per cent of the world’s property and earned 10 per cent of world income. Women account for barely 4 per cent of the heads of state across the world, and 5 per cent of cabinet ministers/national policy-makers. In national legislatures, they accounted for just 10 per cent.

4. Globalization

The institutions of democracy as we have known it are inextricably linked to the idea of the sovereign and territorially defined modern national-state. So are its principles and practices, whether these pertain to the nature of citizenship or the idea of self-governance through consent and representation. Thus, a democratic political community is assumed to be one whose borders are coterminous with those of a territorial nation-state.

To the extent that it entails transcending national borders, globalization is increasingly changing all this. Globalization, as we know, increases the intensity of transnational flows of trade, finance, capital, technology, information and even culture.

In so doing, it makes it difficult for democratic governments – particularly in the countries of the South – to control their own affairs internally and in a self-contained way.

The new institutions of global governance, such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation, perform regulatory functions but are not themselves organized in ways that are democratic or accountable. On the contrary, they reflect and reinforce the asymmetries of global power relations.

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