The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXV, No. 2 (July 1964). N O T I...
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXV, No. 2 (July 1964).
N O T I O N S A B O U T D E M O C R A C Y
A N E X P L O R A T O R Y S T U D Y *
A concept of democracy is still vague in. this country. A hazy understanding
has produced a parody of democracy. Therefore the question as to how people
perceive democracy has not been studied properly and vigorously. This - study
proposes to determine the meaning of the term democracy and to know the
areas where there is unanimity.
Mr. Ahluwalia is a
Research Scholar in the Faculty of Education,
University of Jabalpur.
Variety in contemporary views about any speaking strange tongues. Some consider it
concept or ideal is inevitable. Likewise the only a beautiful dream which can never
term "democracy" was used to mean different achieve substantial realization while others
things in different periods of history. proclaim that it is a "bourgeois fraud".
Furthermore, it was variously defined by
T h e question of how people, in general,
varied individuals in the same period of perceive democracy has not as yet been
time.1 As a consequence, in its long evolu-
subjected to rigorous study. A recent publica-
tionary course, it has enormously grown in tion2 reveals that out of 83 theses and 2,858
meaning, scope and details. It has modified dissertations, approved by the Indian
itself many times in the past to suit the tone Universities for the doctorate and masters'
and temper of the changed times. That's degree in education during the period 1939-
why democracy of the, nineteenth century 1961 only one doctoral thesis and two
was not the democracy of the eighteenth. masters' dissertations have a direct bearing
But, however, the use of the same term on democracy.
suggests t h a t there is a core of meaning
—The recent Chinese aggression
which remains identical inspite of variations stirred us all but ideological war cannot be
in the concomitant elements. This makes the fought with sentimental attachment to a
studies of the meaning of democracy interest-
vague concept. Needed, then, is a constant
ing and meaningful.
renewal of informed a n d devoted loyalty to
T h e Indian Constitution (1950) declares the fundamental principles of democracy. A
the country to be a Sovereign Democratic citizenry thoroughly aware of the meaning
Republic. We are pledged to be a full-
and implications of democracy alone would
fledged democracy in the future. T h e entire dare face courageously any attack, ideational
nation is passing through training in or physical. Hence, need for such an investi-
democracy deliberately in certain spheres gation is self-evident. A nation pledged to the
and unconsciously in others. As a hazy pursuit of democracy needs assessing what
understanding would produce, at best, a the citizens mean by such an important con-
parody of democracy, the development of cept which has become almost a cliche of
democratic ideals has become one of the most approbation.
p a r a m o u n t concerns of our country men.
—The purpose of this study
But, what is democracy? On this question, is two-fold: (1) to determine what educated
we, like the builders at Babel, find ourselves people understand by the term democracy,
*This paper is a summary of the dissertation submitted as a requirement of the
Advanced Course in Research Methodology of the National Institute of Education, Delhi,
and (2) to know the areas where there is T h e median age of the group was 24 years.
considerable unanimity or otherwise. It O n e hundred three were under 20 years,
purports not to prove anything but intends 50 between 20-29 years, 53 between 30-39
to illustrate a method which may provide years, 24 between 40-49, and 21 over 50
clues a n d lead to further investigative action. years. O n e hundred forty six were unmarried,
102 married, 2 widowed and 1 was separated.
—As the population under One hundred ninety four were Hindus, 12
study was scattered, and the time and funds Muslims, 15 Sikhs, 14 Christians and 16
available were limited, the questionnaire were of other religious groups. One hundred
method alone seemed a best feasible fifty respondents were non-earners. The
approach. T h e study was conducted through median monthly income of the earning
a systematic procedure involving these steps: members of the groups was Rupees 618.7.
(a) Compiling stimulus statements from Three had monthly income below Rupees
different sources about democracy;
300, 26 between Rupees 301-500, 33 between
Rupees 501-700, 22 between Rupees 701-900,
(b) editing these statements;
15 over Rupees 1,000 and 2 did not report
(c) organising them into questionnaire their monthly income. Sixty-six were
congress-minded, 3 P. S. P.-minded, 13
(d) submitting the questionnaire to the Janasangh-minded, 9 communist-minded,
sampled population of educated 132 non-party or independent a n d 28 were
people for recording their responses; interested in other political parties.
—The design of the instrument
(e) analyzing the collected data to was derived from the questionnaires
discover the manifold notions about developed by Dr. John R. Berry.3 The
democracy and major areas of revised questionnaire contained finally
unanimity or otherwise.
chosen 80 stimulus statements which were
—Instead of covering a large related to the eight discernible facts of
random sample of educated adults in general, democracy viz. popular sovereignty; frater-
484 respondents of eight selected groups of nity; liberty; equality; faith in people; duties
educated people, fairly well-defined by and obligations; unique nature of individual;
occupation or organizational membership and miscellaneous. T h e questionnaire began
were contacted in group situation, indivi-
with an "Orientation" and was organized in
dually or by mail. A total of 383 (79.5%) three distinct parts :
completed questionnaires were returned; out
of which 251 (65.5%) were considered for
(1) T h e first section of 40 factual
tabulation and analysis. T h e eight groups
statements—the respondents were
represented in the study were: College
asked to indicate whether they
freshmen (first-year students); College
considered these statements essential,
sophomores' (second-year students) ; future-
desirable, undesirable or not-related
teachers (B.Ed students); teacher-educators
to the concept of democracy as they
(lecturers of a teachers' training institute);
university teachers; secondary school (2) The second section of 40 opinion
principals, medical practitioners; and
statements—the respondents were
journalists. One hundred fifty eight (62.9%)
asked to indicate whether they
respondents were males 93 (37.1%) females.
strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or
N O T I O N S A B O U T DEMOCRACY
strongly disagreed with the ideas or
was only one statement on which
ideals contained in these statements.
acceptance was 9 6 % .
(3) T h e section entitled "Sampling D a t a "
(d) There were 12 statements on which
h a d eight items, personal in nature,
rejection was significant i.e. acceptance
chiefly designed to obtain information
was 2 5 % or less. T h e r e were 4 state-
by which the main groups of
ments which were rejected forthright
respondents could be distinguished.
i.e. accepted by less t h a n 1 3 % of the
T h e questionnaire was evolved through a
(e) There were 30 statements which
systematic procedure. To eliminate the
revealed lack of unanimity among the
biasing influence of the handwriting and to
respondents. T h o u g h these were
keep the recording clear and legible, the
agreed upon by a good majority (one-
respondents were asked to p u t a check mark
fourth to three-fourths of the total
or enclose within a square any one of the
respondents) yet a considerable
fixed responses. Stimulus statements were
proportion (atleast one-fourth) of the
compiled from widely scattered sources and
respondents expressed disagreement
covered most facets. This contributed to the
validity of t h e questionnaire.
(f) Fourteen statements were such t h a t
It did not seem practicable to compute
atleast a significant proportion ( 7 5 %
the reliability of the questionnaire by means
or more) of t h e total respondents
of test-retest method. As an alternative, 28
accepted these but atleast one group
pairs of non-identical statements (14 in each
of respondents expressed diversity on
section) were included for checking the
internal consistency. T h e results of these
—The study reveals that there
checks indicate that the questionnaire can was considerable unanimity among the
be treated as fairly reliable.
respondents on certain facets of democracy,
viz. popular sovereignty, equality, liberty and
T H E F I N D I N G S :
faith in people. Nevertheless, there still were
(a) There was no stimulus statement of differences of opinion in the matter of
which there was 100% acceptance or practical application of these general
principles of democracy. There was sharp
diversity on the concept of social equality
(b) There were 35 statements on which and freedom of action. One should, of
there was considerable unanimity i.e. course, be ready to admit that there
7 5 % better acceptance or rejection.
is a high degree of uncertainty as to the
(c) There were 23 statements on which extensions of any wide generalizations from
acceptance was 7 5 % or more. There these results.
1. Humayun Kabir, Science, Democracy and Islam.
London: George Allen and
Unwin Ltd., 1955.
2. Publications Unit, Educational Investigations in Indian Universities.
N.C.E.R. & T., 1963.
3. John R. Berry, Current Conceptions of Democracy.
New York: Bureau of Publications,
Teachers College, Columbia University, 1943.