Polyarchy: A Quick Definition

William Robinson, Editor: “Critical Globalization Studies” on Polyarchy:

The definition of polyarchy in the social sciences is a system where participation of masses of people is limited to voting among one or another representative of the elite social class in periodic elections.

In between elections, the masses are expected to keep quite, to go back to life as usual as the elite (state) run the world. The masses can choose between another set of elites another 4 years later.

Essentially, Polyarchy is a system of elite rule, which is a little softer than elite rule that we would see under a military dictatorship.

What we see is that under a Polyarchy, the basic social economic system does not change, it does not become democratized. Wealth is not redistributed downward. There isn’t a reputable redistribution of wealth and resources downward. So, Polyarchy is social-economic dictatorship and free elections. That’s the prescription for Polyarchy.

Participatory democracy, would see not only more participation of the people in the running of their daily affairs, but would see a democratization of the economy and social relations.

Look around. Does it look like democracy or does it look more like polyarchy?

Thanks for reading,



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