An Intervention on ‘Democracy’ as a Term in Empirical Political Analysis

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Two separate sets of data derived from recent scholarship on the subject are examined to show that the term 'democracy' is problematically used in certain empirical political analyses. The first data set concerns thirty articles published by the journal Political Analysis between the years 2005 and 2010. The second data set is a body of 30 prominent monographs and edited volumes dealing substantively with 'democracy' from the years 2006 to 2011. Twenty-five out of thirty articles in the first data set do not explicitly define what is meant by the use of 'democracy' to the reader. Twenty-nine out of thirty works in the second data set provide subjective conceptualisations of 'democracy' to the reader which is parochial rather than postfoundationally universal. This work proposes that the practice of using a 'disclaimer' is a positive step to solving this problem. When a concept cannot be delivered in a universal framework, it makes a difference to err on the side of caution and make clear to the reader the subjective quality of a term like 'democracy'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-92
Number of pages25
JournalPublic Administration and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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