(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Classical Theory)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Classical Theory)

It is the most prominent theory of democracy.

1) It supports popular sovereignty ultimate power vested in a people. It also means rulers are responsible to the rule.
2) It is based on the existence of various political and civil right like-

  • Right to vote
  • Right to contenst elections
  • Right to form political groups
  • Freedom of speech and expression
  • Freedom of conscious

3) Classical Theory works on the principle of majority rule. It means whichever party holds majority has a right to rule.
4) It is based on constitutionalism and constitutionalism means limited government (or in other words instead of discretionary rule, rule on the basis of constitution).

(Limited state – No welfare function only regulatory function.
(Limited government – State may be welfare state but it should not be discretionary)

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4) It supports free, fair and independent judiciary instead of committed judiciary (In socialist state attaining one broader goal socialization of means of product hence, judiciary committed to favour of state, but liberal democracy like, India it is independent hence impartial to state & individual).

5) Classical liberal democracy is against the concentration of power in one person or institution. It supports separation of power which means executive, legislative and judiciary powers should be vested in different institutions and not one.

6) Philosophically, the idea of liberal democracy is based on dignity of individual. In practice, it is reflected in idea of one person – one vote. Therefore, it believes in the fundamental equality of individual and no individual can be treated as a means.

(Meritocracy – wisdom base – Aristotte individual existence considered more important)


1) According to many critics, democracy is the rule of incompetence. In democracy number is important, merit or quality is secondary. It is generally seen that, in a every society most of the persons are of average competence, very few are genius, since democracy is dominated by number, therefore democracy becomes rule of average people instead of most talented persons.

In the words of H.G. Wells

“Democracy is the rule by most ignorant and most intellectuals” In democracy, Head is counted but whether the head contains wisdom or not is not seen.

2) Democracy supports the debate, discussion persuasion as the method of decision making because the underlying idea of democracy is respect for views of all individuals but due to this there is a delay in decision making and it is expensive also.

James Bryce has compared – “democracy as committee, in which 7 persons perform same amount in 7 days (of work) which can be perform by one person in one day”.

3) As an idea, democracy is full of paradoxes like negating dignity of individual as your voice is meaningful only if you are part of majority otherwise not.

4) Democracy, philosophically believes in the rule by people but in practice it becomes majority rule therefore interest of minority may be compromised.

5) Most of the modern democracy has become a victim of vote-bank politics, since the idea of democracy believes in popular sovereignty which is implemented in the form of majority rule therefore national interest is compromised for vote bank politics.

6) Devid Held has ciritised contemporary liberal democracies, because they are based on dichotomy between formal rights and actual rights.

Formal rights are those rights which constitution gives to the citizen.

Actual rights are those which are actually exercised by citizens. According to Held, in contemporary liberal democracies, gap between formal and actual right is widening.


1) Democracy ensures responsibility : In democracy, rulers are responsible to the rule therefore rulers can not become dictators and democracy in this sense, offers safeguards against absolution.
2) Democracy ensures various rights to the citizens. In other forms of government, rights are at the mercy of ruler but, since democracy is based on the principle of constitutionalism therefore, people have maximum liberty in democracy.
3) Democracy has great educative value. In the words of Gettel, “Democracy is like a school which imparts the values of citizenship.

This clearly means democracy is based on active citizens instead of passive subjects.”

In democracy decisions are taken on the basis of debate, discussion, persuasion therefore people become aware of the policies of government without any specific efforts because through media, press – people come to know various aspects of policies.

4) Democracy is consider to be best system for plural society like most of the third world countries. In such society, parliament becomes a forum where, various sections of the society are represented, conflicting views of every / various sections are accommodated during the process of policy making. In this way, democracy is responsible for or catelyses process of national intergration (mental – not by force) psychological.

5) According to Mill, democracy increases patriotism. Mill believes that in democracy citizens have a sense of belongingness with the government. In other words, ruled have sense of belongingness of rulers.

6) Democracy also offers safeguard against revolutions. In democracy, voice of people cannot be / are not neglected by ruler because people elect them therefore there is no need of revolution.

7) According to E. Burke, democracy promotes world peace, in democracy rulers are controlled by the rule therefore they can not go for unnecessary wars.


Democracy has a serious loopholes but still today it is most favoured system in the world. The great support for democracy rest on the fact that merits out weighs to the demerits.

According to Churchill, “Democracy is a bad forum of government but other are worse.”

The significant aspect of democracy is that many of its loopholes may be removed.

e.g. Through universal education, the element of quality or merit may be incorporated in democracy also. So comparatively better system (When not specified democracy, it means classical democracy).

Problems of Democracy

1) Poverty
2) Iliteracy
3) Economical disparity
4) Regionalism
5) Casteism
6) Communalism
7) Gender disparity / discrimination
8) Consumerism
9) Growing intolerance in the society
10) Widening gap between actual and formal rights.
11) Criminalisation of politics
12) Religious fundamentalism

Conditions for Successful working of democracy

1) Universal education
2) Faith of people in the principles of democracy
3) National and moral character of the people.
4) Vigilant public opinion which is reflected in the form of ‘Free Press’
5) Fair and independent judiciary
6) Economical equality.
7) Presence of civil and political liberty
8) In society, majority should be judicious and minority should be tolerant.
9) Dynamic leadership
10) Efficient Civil service (steel frame – Not Bamboo frame)
11) Rule of Law
12) Competitive party system
13) Gender equality

According to David Held

Success of democracy depends upon double democratization, which means –

Democratization, has 2 stages

i) At the level of the civil society.
ii) At the level of state

i) In a civil society, gender or racial inequality, concentration of national wealth in fewer hands etc. should be checked.
ii) At the level of state – Increasing power of bureaucratic must be curtail & administration should be responsible and responsive, gap between formal and actual rights should be minimized.

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