Guided democracy

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Guided democracy, also called managed democracy,[1] is a formally democratic government that functions as a de facto autocracy. Governments are legitimated by elections that are free and fair but emptied of substantive meaning in their ability to change the state's policies, motives, and goals.[2]

In other words, the government has learned to control elections so that the people can exercise all their rights without truly changing public policy. While they follow basic democratic principles, there can be major deviations towards authoritarianism. Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state's continuous use of propaganda techniques.[3]

The concept of a "guided democracy" was developed in the 20th century by Walter Lippmann in his seminal work Public Opinion (1922) and by Edward Bernays in his work Crystallizing Public Opinion.

After the Second World War, the term was used in Indonesia for the approach to government under the Sukarno administration from 1957 to 1966. It is today widely employed in Russia, where it was introduced into common practice by Kremlin theorists, in particular Gleb Pavlovsky.[4] Princeton University professor Sheldon Wolin describes this process as inverted totalitarianism.The United States can also be said to fit this description because of the enormous influence of corporate money on the US political system. A recent study from Princeton University stated "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."[5] The same Princeton study also described the United States as a de facto oligarchy.

An important distinction, however, is the one between governments that have elections which are judged not free or fair by observers and governments which have elections considered both free and fair. The Russian Federation under Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev has also been described as an illiberal democracy. Elections take place regularly, but many foreign observers (e.g. from the OSCE) do not consider them free or fair. The disturbing rate at which journalists have been murdered in Russia shows the limits of freedom of speech. Thirteen Russian journalists died between 2000 and 2003. Also, most major television networks and newspapers are owned or controlled by the government and openly support it or parties that support the government during elections.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rohmann, C (2000) A World of Ideas : The Dictionary of Important Ideas and Thinkers, Ballantine Books ISBN 978-0-345-43706-8
  2. ^ Wolin, Sheldon S. (2008). Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-13566-5.  p. 47
  3. ^ Wolin, Sheldon S. (2008). Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-13566-5.  p. 60
  4. ^ Weir, Fred (October 1, 2003). "Kremlin lobs another shot at marketplace of ideas". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Illiberal Democracy and Vladimir Putin's Russia. "Collegeboard". July 2004
  7. ^ Sultan or democrat? The many faces of Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, CBC, 5 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.

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