Text 1. Democracy and Human Rights

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Text 1. Democracy and Human Rights

Read the text and say what categories democracies fall into.

Democracy may be a word familiar to most ,but it is a concept still misunderstood and misused in a time when totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships alike have attempted to claim popular support by pinning democratic labels upon themselves. Yet the power of the democratic idea has also evoked some of history’s most profound and moving expressions of human will and intellect: from Pericles in ancient Athens to Vaclav Havel in modern Czechoslovakia, From Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in1776 to Andrei Sakharov’s last speeches in 1989.

In the dictionary definition, democracy “is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electorial system.” In the phrase of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles abut freedom, but also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long, often tortuous history. In short , democracy is the insitutionalization of freedom. For this reason, it is possible to identify the time-tested fundamentals of constitutional government, human rights and equality before the law any society must possess to be properly called democratic.

Democracies fall into two basic categories, direct and representative. In a direct democracy, all citizens, without the intermediary of elected or appointed officials, can participate in making public decisions. Such system is clearly only a practical with relatively small numbers of people – in a community organization or tribal council, for example, or the local unit of a labour union, where members can meet in a single room to discuss issues and arrive at decisions by consensus or majority vote. Ancient Athens, the world’s first democracy, managed to practice direct democracy with an assembly that may have numbered as many as 5000 to 6000 persons – perhaps the maximum number that can physically gather in one place and practice direct democracy. Modern society, with its size and complexity, offers few opportunities for direct democracy. Even in the northern United States, where the New England town meeting is a hallowed tradition, most communities have grown too large for all the residents to gather in a single location and vote directly on issues that affect their lives.

Today, the most common form of democracy, whether for a town of 50,000 or nations of 50 million, is representative democracy, in which citizens elect officials to make political decisions, formulate laws and administer programs for the public good. In the name of the people, such officials can deliberate on complex public issues in a thoughtful and systematic manner that requires an investment of time and energy which is often impractical for the vast majority of private citizens.

How such officials are elected can vary enormously. On the national level; for example, legislators can be chosen from districts that each elect a single representative. Alternatively, under a system of proportional representation, each political party is represented in the legislature according to its percentage of the total nationwide. Provincial and local elections can mirror these national models, or choose their representative more informally through group consensus instead of elections. Whatever the method used, public officials in a representative democracy hold office in the name of the people and remain accountable to the people for their actions.

Democracy is more than a set of constitutional rules and procedures that determine how a government functions. In a democracy, government is only one element coexisting in a social fabric of many and varied institutions, political parties, organizations and associations. This diversity is called pluralism, and it assumes that the many organized groups and institutions in a democratic society do not depend upon government for their existence, legitimacy or authority.

Thousand of private organization can operate in a democratic society, some local, some national. Many of them serve a meditating role between individuals and the complex social and governmental institutions of which they are a part, filling roles not given to the government and offering individuals opportunities to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.

These groups represent the interest of their members in a variety of ways – by supporting candidates for public office, debating issues and trying to influence policy decisions. Through such groups, individuals have an avenue for meaningful participation both in government and in their own communities. The examples are many and varied: charitable organizations and churches, environmental and neighborhood groups, business associations and labor unions.

In an authoritorian society, virtually all such organizations would be controlled, licensed, watched or otherwise accountable to the government. In a democracy, the powers of the government are, by law, clearly defined and sharply limited. As a result, private organizations are free of government control; on the contrary, many of them lobby the government and seek to hold it accountable for its actions. Other groups, concerned with the arts, the practice of religious faith, scholarly research or other interests, may choose to have little or no contact with the government at all.

In this busy private realm of democratic society, citizens can explore the possibilities of freedom and the responsibilities of self-government – unpressured by the potentially heavy hand of the state.


Word Check


Ex. 1.Look through the words and say them in English:

Пробуждать; наделять; переходить; взаимозаменяемые

Формировать; неискренний, уклончивый; посредник

фактически; поистине.


Ex. 2. Match the words in the right column with the definitions in the left one and use them in the sentences of your own.

1) political system in which the supreme power belongs to people; a) minority;
2) guaranteeing of citizens’ rights and freedoms in all aspects of public and private life; b) autocracy;
3) government by a ruler who has unlimited power; c) democracy;
4) supporting or requiring obedience to authority, esp. that of state; d) majority;
5) government by a dictator; e) human rights;
6) ruler who has absolute authority, especially one who has obtained such power by force; f) authoritorian;
7) number by which votes for one side are more than those for the other side; g) dictatorship;
8) freedom of thought and expression, personal liberty, means to live, etc. justly claimed by all human beings. h) dictator.



Ex. 1.Split the text into the parts and think of appropriate title for each one.


Ex. 2. Complete the sentences as they are given in the text:

1. The power of the democratic idea evoked …

2. … the supreme power is vested …

3. … two basic categories …

4. Direct democracy is clearly only practical …

5. … are often used interchangeably …

6. The most common form of democracy today …

7. In a democracy, government …

8. … organizations operate …

9. … serve a mediating role …

10. … virtually all such organizations …

11. … groups concerned with the …


Ex. 3.Express the same idea in your own words and give some more information :

1. The concept of democracy is misunderstood and misused because of the several reasons.

2. Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably.

3. Democracies fall into two basic categories.

4. How the officials are elected can vary enormously.

5. The rule of majority is not necessarily democratic.

6. Government is only one element coexisting in a social fabric of many and varied institutions.

7. Thousands of private organizations operate in a democratic society.


Ex. 4. Are the following statements true or false? Correct the false ones.

1. Freedom and democracy often have the same meaning.

2. Democracies can be divided into three and more basic groups.

3. In a modern society a direct democracy is more preferable than a representative one.

4. There are various ways of how the officials are elected in a representative democracy.

5. The rule of majority is not necessarily democratic.

6. Only few private organizations operate in democratic society.

7. In an authoritarian society, all the organizations are under control of the government as well as in a democratic society.


Ex. 5.Answer the following questions:

1. What are the definitions of the word “democracy”?

2. What does a democracy consist of?

3. Democracies fall into four basic categories, don’t they?

4. How does the direct democracy work? Is it suitable for modern society?

5. How does the representative democracy work?

6. What is proportional representation?

7. What elements define the fundamentals of all modern democracies?

8. Is the rule of majority always democratic? Why?

9. What is a government in a democracy?

10. What does it assume?

11. Is the role of private organizations important in a democracy?

12. How do private organizations work in an authoritarian society?



Ex. 1. Work in groups and study the list of the pillars of democracy:

· sovereignity of the people

· government based upon consent of the governed

· majority rule

· minority rights

· guarantee of basic human rights

· free and fair elections

· equality before the law

· due process of law

· constitutional limits on government

· social, economic and political pluralism

· values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise.

Ex. 2. Discuss which of them one can find in

a) democratic society

b)authoritarian society.

Ex. 3. Write a report about the two types of democracies and how they work.


Text 2. The European Union

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