Topic 2: Democratic states—challenges and responses

The 20th century witnessed the establishment, survival, destruction and re-emergence of democratic states. Democratic systems faced threats to their existence from internal and external sources. In some cases the system coped successfully, in other cases the pressures proved difficult to withstand. The performance of democratic states in relation to such pressures—economic, political and social—form the basis for this topic.

Major themes

Nature and structure of democratic (multiparty) states
  • Constitutions (written & unwritten)
  • Electoral systems, proportional representation, coalition governments
  • Role of political parties; role of an opposition
  • Role of pressure/interest/lobby groups

Economic and social policies
  • Employment
  • Gender
  • Health, education
  • Social welfare

Political, social and economic challenges
  • Political extremism
  • Ethnicity, religion, gender
  • Movements for the attainment of civil rights
  • Inequitable distribution of wealth/resources

Introduction to 'democracy':

Includes links to USA & Weimar Germany constitutions, plus a comparison exercise

Coalition government in Australia

Coalition government has been used effectively in Australia with an on-going coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party (Country Party before 1982). This has been successful due to the congruence of their ideologies, but drawing voters from different and separate demographics. The Liberals mainly attract voters from the cities, often professionals or business owners. The National Party (as evidenced by its original name, the Country Party) attracts rural voters and provides a voice for farmers and those in rural and outback Australia. (The ALP, in comparison, is broadly supported by working class people.)

Liberal Party history - see especially the bottom of page where it outlines when the Libs have governed in coalition with Country/National Party.