The Contest in Power, Democracy and Development


The question of democracy its implications and applicability has remained a hotly contested subject all over the world. Under contest are also issues on the effective execution of power in achieving equitable development. The contest on the manner and styles of ruling has preoccupied different societies since the beginning of the era of human civilization. This is because the people entrusted with the offices of public administration misinterpret the basic political agenda that drives the society’s rights and justice. The principle of ethics and moral justice should be the force that drives all our operations in public offices. However, these moral rights come with relevant obligations and responsibilities because rights naturally should be reciprocated. Therefore exercising justice to society requires strict guidance of the rule of law that protects and governs such rights (Korpi 56).

Some basic political theories attempt to set broad boundaries on the issues of administration of democracy, exercising of delegated power, and justice. According to the theory of communism true justice in a society is measured by the level at which elimination of private ownership has been successfully instituted. On the other hand the democracy theory treats ownership of private property as natural human right that must be respected and protected. The theory classifies ownership of property as a moral issue that those in power are never supposed to transgress. The contest of the exercise of power and democracy sparked a vicious “cold war” in the 20th century between the developed and the developing worlds. The world has however managed to end this contest to some degree as many withdrew from it. Consequently, the global community has seen growing interests and valuable efforts from leadership at national levels seeking to harmonize the democratization process particularly in the developing economies. It is therefore clear that the process of democracy, power, and development are integral components and are not easily separable (Connolly 24).

Many experts in North America and Canada however, suggest that democracy contributes significantly to hampering effective development. For instance, the American Economic Association (AEA) is on record saying that it was not clear from their long symposium in 1993, whether democracy enhances or hampers economic development (Bardhan 86)

These closing remarks elicited very mixed reactions and introduced a new order of contest on democracy, power, and development. For a long time the western countries are known to exemplify the execution of true democracy as the political model of choice for modern societies and therefore such an occurrence was unexpected. The modern situation of advanced knowledge implies that democracy model stands to offer the best chance to develop effective law and order nationally and internationally, which would initiate an excellent environment for economic development. The AEA conclusion remarks as well are obviously contradictory to the learning acquired from human history. The primary objective of the long struggles by man was in search of democracy and therefore with the experts separating the unique relationship developed between democracy and national development is a complete loss of direction from real life (Connolly 44).

This paper therefore examines democracy, power and development and establishes their relationship on basis of morality, ethics and political philosophies.

Democracy and Power

Democracy is a term originating from the Greek word “democratic” which essentially refers to peoples’ driven rule. The idea of democracy was initiated primarily to protect the freedom of the people. The idea of democracy demonstrates a concept of people with freedom of ruling in turn (Marx 15). The concept of democracy is based on equality that is measured by numbers and not by merit. Democracy therefore promotes the execution of what is right and when it prevails then the power and sovereignty of the people are exercised. Whatever is decided by the majority under democracy is usually final a fact that sets equality among the people by giving them the controlling influence (power).

Power can be seen as the measure of the people’s ability to influence current environment in their effort to establish an enjoyable and fulfilling future. The exercise of power must be just and without excessive coercion in the environment of democracy. Power can therefore be seen both as a means to constrain people’s action and also as a means to initiate the action from the people. Because of this, the question of balance of power takes eminence wherever the concept is implied in a democratic society. In rational choice theory people are seen as action initiators who can freely choose appropriate actions that he/she can take to accomplish the desired goals. Power should however not be equated to influence for power is relative and its execution primarily depends on the understanding between the parties in the relationship. Legitimate power is the most applicable power dispensation in a democracy. This kind of power is bestowed to a person relative to the position given and the responsibilities he/she holds in society. On the other hand referent power which is also common in a democratic society is seen as the ability that a person acquires to attract other people and establish a sustainable loyalty with them. This kind of power depends on the individual’s interpersonal skills and traits that make the person admirable (Connolly 27). The people are committed to identifying with the unique traits of the leader making it a very effective form of power (Russell 37).


Development has always been defined as the process where an economy’s per capita income progressively grows for duration of time. However many experts have come to differentiate between growth and development terming the former definition as best to growth of the economy. Economic growth is seen as having a macroeconomic orientation. Economic development is on the other hand seen to have a microeconomic nature that derives its basic principles on handling the national challenges, especially poverty, from political science and sociology (Bardhan 64). A state naturally resonates between the political and economic states. In essence therefore economic growth refers to actual output per person in the economy whereas economic development refers to more output that is diverse in nature. Economic development is therefore a combination of principles of economic growth and improved attributes of social variables. Economic development is seen in the light of particular changes that can be realized in the required supplies and demands for a nation’s economy (Connolly 51). The variations in the demand are however seen as the effects of development rather than being an initiating factor. The expansion in the numbers of a nation’s population is natural and is controlled by the norms of the society but all other supply factors are explicitly controlled by the people. The effort deployed by the people to implement the factors of supply is dependent on the benefits that these people expect from their efforts. Economic development can therefore be linked to the policies that the state puts in place to protect the right to own property. This principle is best exercised in a democratic environment (Korpi 46).

The political and economic systems can be seen as the basis of sovereignty in any society. This means that the two systems must always be in harmony with each other for society to achieve its goals. This harmonious coexistence between the two systems is brought about when the principles of democracy are taken as the pivotal driving force to economic development.

The linkages among Power, Democracy and Development

For the social systems for any nation to function effectively the attributes established by nature must work in perfect harmony with the people’s morality and ethics. Selfishness though seen by some as a vice is one of the primary attributes that motivates human beings to develop a culture of creativity. The effort by citizens to work towards self-development can therefore be seen to be induced by the levels of freedom that they enjoy. Freedom is therefore the most significant pillar for any society, and any society that promotes freedom ends up being conducive and desirable for habitation and development (Bardhan 53).

Democracy is the political structure of political governance that promotes freedom as the most important social attribute. For this reason democracy as a style of governance is in full harmony with the development agenda of society. The long period in which democracy has been exercised in the western countries is proof of the effect that power exercised in a democratic environment can have on the development agenda of society. This discovery, therefore, removes the persistent doubt of the existence of a stable relationship between development and democracy. Democracy is a result of government elected through the voice of the majority. The leadership elected in a democracy is given the power to protect the property of the citizens and execute policies that would motivate the people to freely engage in the development agenda.


To deny people their freedom is to denounce one the right to humanity, for it is the very reason that a man leaves to promote (Bardhan 75). Democracy, power and development are the most fundamental elements on which a society is built. When people have the freedom they can delegate power to be governed to a group of people in turns. When the leadership is a choice of the majority then, there is the natural motivation for people to work hard and retain their freedom for they have confidence with the leadership in place to protect their rights and property. This hard work is a significant recipe for development in society. Development on the other hand comes with economic freedom that completes harmony in the peaceful coexistence of societies.

The continued contest of the meaning and relationship of power, democracy, and development is a concept that people need to build consensus on. However due to selfish interest developed by some systems of governance in search of political, social, and economic power the issue has remained contentious for a long time. True power is instituted by people and a leader can only enjoy his powers if it is initiated within the morals and ethics acceptable by the society and supported by the majority of the followers.

Works cited

Bardhan, Pranab. “Symposium on Democracy and Development”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 7(3): 45-99, (1993)

Connolly, William. “Introduction and “Essentially Contested Concepts in Politics,” in Terms of Political Discourse. (in kit)

Korpi, Walter. “The Power Resources Model,” in C. Pierson and F. Castles, The Welfare State Reader, (in kit)

Marx, Karl ‘Preface to A Critique of Political Economy’ in D. McLellan (ed.) Karl Mark: Selected Writings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (1977).

Russell, Bertrand. “The Forms of Power,” in Steven Lukes, ed., Power. New York: NYU Press, (1986).

Find out your order's cost