Ideally, a society expects its government to be a democracy in which majority rules. It is hoped that democracy will promote equality and freedom. However, democracy is a complicated school of thought. There is a dual meaning linked with democracy that lies in two different theories: participatory democracy and representative democracy. Although participatory democracy is the most efficient and democratic older theory, representative democracy is the theory prevalent in today's society. Due to representative democracy's reign, true and pure democracy has become merely ideology. In order to understand the gradual loss of true democracy, we must understand the two theories.
Participatory democracy is the older theory that dates back in time before the Constitution. According to Carol Pateman, one must assume in participatory democracy that individuals and their institutions cannot be isolated from one another. People are in direct contact and control of political action. Participatory democracy is considered the most ideal form of democracy because it concentrates on the whole rather than the individual. The focus is on the greater good for the whole. The citizens are collaborators and, essentially, the decision-makers. Dr. Charles Davis states that "the notion of collaboration is the essence of participation." The citizens are active participants in all aspects of government under this theory. Each individual has equal say regarding political action and public policy.
While participatory democracy may the oldest theory, it is also relatively unknown in today's society. Representative democracy has been dominant since the Philadelphia Constitutional meeting in 1867. This form of democracy is characterized by formal institutions. In representative democracy, citizens do not make decisions on policies. Instead, they elect representatives to make these decisions on their behalf.