Pinning Down Democracy: : A Q-Method Study of Lived Democracy

Rune Holmgaard Andersen, Jennie L. Schulze, and Külliki Seppel: “Pinning Down Democracy: A Q-Method Study of Lived Democracy,” Polity 50, no. 1 (January 2018): 4-42.

The social sciences disagree on how democracy should be defined and measured. This study approaches the conceptualization of democracy from the demos side. Using Q-methodology, we pin down the way ordinary Estonians live and understand democracy. The analysis reveals three distinct discourses: a libertarian democracy as freedom; a participatory democracy as empowerment; and a populist democracy as the utopia of good policies. It also points to strong consensus on what it means to live together in society. The study has both general and specific value. It tests the correspondence between defined democracy and lived democracy; it demonstrates how Q-methodology can objectivize the subjective; and it provides new empirical knowledge about how ordinary people perceive democracy. Understanding how people conceive of democracy is essential for ensuring measurement validity when using either conventional quantitative or qualitative approaches.