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Day 40 – Q 4.Discuss the contribution of various philosophers in the evolution of democratic principles.

4. Discuss the contribution of various philosophers in the evolution of democratic principles. 

लोकतांत्रिक सिद्धांतों के विकास में विभिन्न दार्शनिकों के योगदान पर चर्चा करें।


The term “democracy” first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought. The original Greek word “Demokratia” means the common people (demos) rule (Kratos).


Throughout history, democracy has been an evolution. The democratic principle continues to evolve, and with democracy, there are multiple ideas in action. Various philosophers contributed to the evolution of democratic principles, some are discussed below:

Freedom by Aristotle (384BC – 322 BC) for Aristotle the underlying principle of democracy is freedom, since only in a democracy can the citizens have a share in freedom. In essence, he argues that this is what every democracy should make its aim. 

Equality by John Locke (1632-1704) John Locke made important contributions to the theory of liberal democracy. In his “The two treatises of the government” Locke argued that a government’s right to rule must be based on the consent of its people. Locke emphasised the idea of a ‘social contract’ – power sanctioned by the people. Locke also emphasised that all men were equal – at a time when societies were very hierarchical.

Separation of power by Baron de Montesquieu (1689 – 1755) Montesquieu advocated for ‘separation of powers’ and other democratic principles. In his The Spirit of the Laws (1748), he distinguished democracy from other types of government.

Representative Democracy by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778) Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher who wrote The Social Contract – an influential political tract which argued for the government through representation – ideally through direct democracy. Rousseau’s democratic ideals were influential in the French Revolution.

Republican government by Thomas Paine (1737- 1809) Thomas Paine powerfully argued for the democratic-republican government. Paine’s writings were influential in inspiring the American Revolution. Paine wanted to see an end to executive tyranny and felt the extension of political power to all was the best way to achieve this.

Republicanism by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Thomas Jefferson believed in the principle of republicanism. The idea that all citizens should partake in the democratic activity and help prevent abuses of power. Jefferson drafted the US Declaration of Independence, which stated: “All men are created equal”

Universal suffrage and liberty by J.S. Mill (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a leading liberal philosopher of the Nineteenth Century. He argued for universal suffrage (extending the vote to women and all classes of people) Mill also expounded the principle of liberty – which is an important principle of liberal democracy. 

Accountability by Karl Popper (1902- 1994) He defined democracy in contrast to dictatorship or tyranny, thus focusing on opportunities for the people to control their leaders and to oust them without the need for a revolution.


In recent centuries, democracy has included principles such as liberty, equality and individual freedom. Given the rise in population size, direct democracy is rarely practised; instead, democracy tends to involve elected representatives. Arguably, there are no ‘perfect democracies’ – But, some societies are more democratic than others.

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