Democracy and Citizenship. Today in our lesson we have talked about democracy and citizenship. We have begun by defining the concept of citizen as a person who is a member of a sociopolitical community in which he has some rights, whose respect he demands of the others, and obligations, which the others demand of him. The condition of membership of this community is known as citizenship.
Subsequently we have gone on to comment two of the aspects which are present in this idea of citizenship.
- Political citizenship: Citizen is that person who is a full member of a State (political society, legally organized and self-governing), that is, who has the nationality of this country and due to this condition the citizens demand of the state to guarantee his civil and political rights.
- Social citizenship: according to this concept, citizens are these people who, apart from the previously mentioned rights, enjoy the so called social rights: right to education, right to health care, right to work, right to decent housing… This has been called Welfare State or more adequately Justice State, since the State by fulfilling these rights is guaranteeing the basic living conditions for all the citizens. Spain guarantees these social rights, therefore apart from democratic, it is social.
Subsequently we have defined the concept of democracy and we have seen how this word comes from two Greek terms: demos, people and cratos, power, and consequently, this term is used to designate those political systems in which the power is in the hands of the people, the citizens.
On the other hand, we have seen that when the power is not in the hands of the people, but held by a tyrant or a party, we call it an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship.
As we have seen, democracy was born in Greece, in the city of Athens, in the fifth century B.C. and this kind of government lasted a century approximately. We have also commented that this was a direct democracy, that is, all the free citizens (their concept of citizen was highly restricted), gathered in assembly, took part directly in the political debates and in the election of those who held public office. This kind of government, would not happen again in the West until the 18th century (England and Holland) and till late 19th century in Europe and the USA.
We have checked that democracy is the only government system which is compatible to the values proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, since only democratic systems fulfill the 21st article of this Declaration:
We have seen that democratic systems are characterized by:
- Popular sovereignty: the people decide and legitimize who will rule them.
- Political equality and political parties: All the citizens have the right to choose and be chosen to hold public office, but due to the complexity of modern society, current democracies are representative and indirect, since the citizens delegate the solution of public issues to politicians.
- Legal equality: All the citizens are equal in the eyes of the law and in order to guarantee this separation of powers is required: Legislative (the parliament issues the laws), Executive (the government imposes the laws, rules the administration and defends the state) and Judicial (courts safeguard the enforcement of legality).
- Majorities and minorities: the rule of majority is the basic mechanism through which the system works, but always respecting the minorities.
The activity today proposed is to carry out a research which reflects the process of the establishment of democracy in Spain, for which you will have to focus on the following questions: What year was democracy recovered in Spain? , when and how was it lost? , which regime was there and what characteristics it had? , has Spanish monarchy always been democratic? , why?