Difference Between Aristocracy and Democracy

Aristocracy vs Democracy
 

Identifying the difference between the terms Aristocracy and Democracy is not a complex task. Indeed, it is one of the few sets of terms that can be easily distinguished by simply understanding their meaning. They both represent two forms of government that may prevail in a country. Perhaps the confusion lies in the fact that both forms of government are spearheaded by people or a group of people as opposed to one single person. Let’s take a closer look.

What is Aristocracy?

As mentioned before, Aristocracy refers to a form of government of a nation. The term Aristocracy derives from the Greek word ‘Aristokratia,’ which is translated to mean ‘rule of the best’. Many of us are familiar with the term ‘aristocrat.’ An aristocrat typically refers to an elite person or group of people, most often the upper social class in certain countries. They are known for their social and economic prominence and influence as well as their ownership of land. Aristocrats also include those holding special titles such as Baron, Baroness, duke or duchess. Thus, think of an Aristocracy then as a form of government in which the supreme power lies with this group of elite people. Traditionally, an Aristocracy is defined as a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in a group of people who are most distinguished by birth, fortune, rank and/or privilege. In an Aristocracy, characteristics such as general elections, voting by citizens, equality, and fairness are not present. The people in an Aristocratic government are not elected but instead are automatically appointed owing to their rank, status or hereditary nobility. Keep in mind that an Aristocracy represents a government ruled by a minority in society.

In early Greece, an Aristocracy was primarily referred to as the rule by a well-qualified group of citizens, hence the Greek term ‘Aristokratia’. These well-qualified citizens were considered both morally and intellectually supreme. Later on, however, this changed to a government ruled by a privileged group of people such as the elite social class in the nation.

Difference Between Aristocracy and Democracy

Elite people have the ruling power in an aristocracy

What is Democracy?

A Democracy, on the other hand, is quite common and familiar to many of us. It is derived from the Greek word ‘Demokratia,’ which is translated to mean ‘rule of the people’. Traditionally, it is defined as the form of government in which the supreme or sovereign power is vested in the people of the nation collectively. Unlike an Aristocracy, which is limited to an elite few, a Democracy technically provides equal power to every citizen in the country. This supreme power is typically exercised by the people either directly or through a representative system. Direct Democracy refers to a system where the people vote directly on policy issues and other public decisions. A Representative Democracy, which is the more popular form among nations, is a system where the people exercise their voting power to elect representatives to the government in order to exercise this supreme power on their behalf. There is no question of rank, privilege, or status. Every representative has equal rights together with the people of the nation. In a Democracy, the ultimate goal is the interests of the citizens. This form of government has certain characteristics such as the separation of powers between the main organs of the state, a number of political parties, human rights, and civil liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and assembly, trade unions, and democratic governance.

 Aristocracy vs Democracy

In a democracy, people choose their leaders through voting

What is the difference between Aristocracy and Democracy?

• An Aristocracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in a group of people who are distinguished by birth, fortune, or hereditary nobility.

• A Democracy, in contrast, refers to a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people of the nation.

• In a Democracy, every citizen is on an equal footing or rank and enjoys the same privileges. This is in contrast to an Aristocracy where the minority, an elite, privileged group of people, make decisions and rule the country.

 

Images Courtesy:

  1. Portrait of the Villers Family via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Voting by Rama (CC BY-SA 2.0 fr