Balancing power in democracy: a philosophical analysis of popular sovereignty
This thesis analyses the concept of popular sovereignty as a core principle of democracy. For centuries, democracy has been hailed as the best form of government on the assumption that since the society is structured by the people for the sake of the people’s well-being, it is only reasonable that the people themselves be in charge of all the processes and activities which affect their lives. This thesis is a contribution to the larger democratic debate about power relations between citizens and their representatives in the light of modern day representative democratic politics. The ideal is that the people are sovereign in democracy, which is to say that the ultimate power rests with them. In practice, however, the people do not exercise real power over their affairs, as their representatives constantly usurp the power from them. This creates conflicts between the people and the representatives, causing a serious problem for the realization of the aims of democracy as a form of government. How to balance the extent to which citizens still remain in charge of their affairs, as they continue to entrust delegates with the execution of their decisions without risking the loss of their sovereignty, has been the main concern of this thesis. In our opinion, the solution to the problem of the conflict between citizens and their representatives, for a more orderly and peaceful society, depends on how the concept of popular sovereignty is understood. In our attempt to gain an understanding of popular sovereignty, we have employed the phenomenological and critical methods, based on pure library research. We have found in the process, primarily, that popular sovereignty rests on some fundamental principles, and is actualized by deliberation, publicly conducted in an environment where members regard themselves as free and equal. What this means, ultimately, is that for popular sovereignty to be achieved, there must be genuine efforts to instill in the citizens the principles on which it depends, and to institutionalize deliberation as a core element in every collective decision making at all levels of the society. Equally, there is need to impart legal knowledge to citizens, adapted progressively according to the comprehension capacity of the learners, starting from elementary levels of learning, until university or other tertiary levels of learning.