Democracy is both one of the easiest and one of the most difficult of concepts to understand. It is easy because democracies are abundant and familiar, and most of the readers of this book will probably live in one, while others will live in countries that aspire to become democracies. Democracy is also one of the most closely studied of all political concepts, the ease of that study made stronger by the openness of democracies and the availability of information regarding how they work. But our understanding of democracy is made more diffi cult by the extent to which the concept is misunderstood and misused, by the numerous and highly nuanced interpretations of what democracy means in practice, and by the many claims that are made for democracy that do not stand up to closer examination.
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