Citizens’ Role Within the Rule of Law

Introduction: Rule of Law and Democracy

Frequently, the law is regarded merely as a means and instrument. However, as a measure and a norm of individual freedom, it has a significant value. Lawlessness, the absolute absence of norms, and social chaos represent severe alternatives to the law. Therefore, the principle of the rule of law lays the foundation for the modern world order and constitutional systems of various states.

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The rule of law per se is an essential part of any democratic society, and the very meaning of the term refers to the equal treatment of every person by authorities, respect for individual dignity, provision of opportunities to appeal against any political decision, and impartiality of courts of justice (Fitschen 6). Thus, the rule of law is oriented towards the enforcement of power and the establishment of relationships between individuals and the government.

Overall, any rule of law political system is based on democratic values, and the effective functioning of such a system largely depends on the degree to which national interests are aligned with individuals’ interests, rights, and freedoms. In this regard, law within a democratic state is not merely imposed on people. The rule of law political system does not imply a downward oriented distribution of power but refers to the broad participation of citizens in the process of law-making. Considering this, we will review the roles of individuals within the rule of law systems and evaluate their significance in the following paragraphs.

Public Participation

Individual participation is a fundamental element of democracy (“Democracy Education for Iraq” par. 7). The given principle can be executed in multiple forms. First of all, a citizen within a law of rule political system is well-informed about public and political issues and aware of the conduct of his or her leaders. Participation implies that citizens express their voices through voting, debating, voluntary organizations’ activities, protesting, etc. It is possible to say that the rule of law can be enforced only in case both the government representatives and the public equally contribute to its maintenance and make all necessary efforts.

However, history knows many examples when state leaders failed to develop the rule of law. For instance, after the revolution of 1905-1907 in Russia, the government intended to shift towards a constitutional order which, to some extent, meant the application of the rule of law principles (Bowring 39). However, when the Soviet state was formed in 1917, the idea of the rule of law was discarded. Throughout over 60 years, the rule of power prevailed within the country, and the rule of law as it is was wiped out. It is possible to say that initially, the socialist revolutionists had good intentions: promotion of social equality and achievement of common welfare. Nevertheless, in the attempt to realize these positive intentions, the Russian leadership primarily implemented the destructive methods, such as suppression of freedom of speech and self-expression, and influenced citizens by instilling fear. The civil society did not exist in Soviet Russia as such, and many basic individual rights were violated. The government was not accountable to people and put the national interests above them. Since the background for the public participation in the political processes was not provided, individuals were deprived of any opportunity to express their voices, mainly because of the fear of punishment.

Nowadays, Russia is regarded as “a sovereign democratic rule of law state on the power of people’s power, separation of powers and federalism” (Bowring 97). At the same time, it is possible to say that the echoes of the past impede the substantial transformation of the state into democracy because the awareness of individuals’ roles in the rule of law among a few generations is limited. Thus, the elimination of legal nihilism and the development of legal culture in the country through education of new generations may be considered the basis for the development of civil society and efficient enforcement of the rule of law in contemporary Russia.

Citizens as Rulers of Democracy

The view on citizens as the rulers and those who are ruled, the beginning and the end of the rule of law is core to democratic political systems and the United States in particular. From the egalitarian perspective, government policies are always citizen-oriented, they are not abstract but have a very practical and even personal meaning (Beuchi par. 2). In the given framework, government representatives and people share power, and both sides are considered to be law-makers. It is important to understand that the pluralism of voices and opinions implies the possibility of disagreements. In the context of egalitarian democracy, politicians will expect people to dissent and will try to find solutions through communication and other accountability practices.

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However, the recent decisions and actions undertaken by the US government may indicate that it implements the representative model of democracy which implies a high degree of power monopolization and a state-centered approach. In the given framework, politicians are regarded as representatives of people and act on behalf of them (Beuchi par. 2). Within the representative democracy, politicians are expected to protect interests of people, yet public participation is somewhat limited because the government officials do not always act together with citizens but are considered to know best what is good for them. The given type of democracy is associated with the hierarchical, top-down distribution of power. Therefore, it does not perfectly embraces the true democratic values. The egalitarian framework is meant to serve the interests of all citizens and is characterized by a higher level of accountability, and it thus is preferable.

Conclusion

Based on the findings from the literature review, it is possible to conclude that rule of law and democracy are mutually reinforcing. The law of rule political system may thrive in case a proper informational, cultural, and legal basis is provided to the citizens. However, it is important to remember that individuals play a significant role in the formation of democracy. It means that a person should not wait for someone else to protect his or her interests and needs, but should actively and constructively seek the solution to the topical individual and social issues through interaction with authorities.

In the parable “Before the Law,” Franz Kafka describes the relationships between a citizen and the Law, the hindrances taking forms of powerful law-keepers who prevent the individual’s access to the Law and make him regard it as something unreachable and abstract. Only after waiting the whole life for entering the door of the Law, the citizen finds out that there were no other people to gain admittance through this door and it was intended only for him (Kafka 2). Although the story is fictitious, it perfectly mirrors the real-life situation. It makes us understand that efforts and persistence are needed to bring changes to life. There are many positive examples of people who were courageous enough to stand for their rights and the rights of other people despite challenges and severe resistance. Therefore, every citizen should participate in the establishment of democracy and, consistently with the rule of law, is obliged to exercise this right peacefully and respectfully.

Works Cited

Bowring, Bill. Law, Rights and Ideology in Russia: Landmarks in the Destiny of a Great Power. Routledge, 2013.

Beuchi, Rolf. “Two Views on Democracy.” Activating Democracy, Web.

“Democracy Education for Iraq.” Stanford University, Web.

Fitschen, Thomas. “Taking the Rule of Law Seriously: More Legal Certainty for UN Police in Peacekeeping Missions.” Geneva Papers, no. 9, 2012, pp. 4-30, Web.

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Kafka, Franz. “Before the Law.” Kafka-Online, Web.

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