Democracy: The Best Introductory Resources

This page features a collection of the best resources on democracy. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on democracy. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.

To get started, simply choose one of the links below:

If you want a comprehensive overview of the idea of democracy:

“We can evaluate democracy along at least two different dimensions: consequentially, by reference to the outcomes of using it compared with other methods of political decision making; or intrinsically, by reference to qualities that are inherent in the method, for example, whether there is something inherently fair about making democratic decisions on matters on which people disagree.

Two kinds of in instrumental benefits are commonly attributed to democracy: relatively good laws and policies and improvements in the characters of the participants. John Stuart Mill argued that a democratic method of making legislation is better than non-democratic methods in three ways: strategically, epistemically and via the improvement of the characters of democratic citizens (Mill, 1861, Chapter 3). Strategically, democracy has an advantage because it forces decision-makers to take into account the interests, rights and opinions of most people in society. Since democracy gives some political power to each, more people are taken into account than under aristocracy or monarchy. The most forceful contemporary statement of this instrumental argument is provided by Amartya Sen, who argues, for example, that “no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press” (Sen 1999, 152). The basis of this argument is that politicians in a multiparty democracy with free elections and a free press have incentives to respond to the expressions of needs of the poor. . . .”

If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and more engaging introduction:

If you’d prefer a video introduction:

If you prefer audio and podcasts:

If you’d like to read a short passage from a classic work of philosophy:

Unfortunately, there’s only so much you can learn by using free online resources. If you want to learn more, check out this list of the Best Books on Democracy

For more introductory philosophy resources and reading lists check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.