This text sums up the democratic experience in modern Western civilisation. It defines the term and notes the confusions in it, and its changing meanings over the past two centuries or so. It records criticisms, and is especially concerned with the conditions that are neccessary for it to exist. This encompasses a comprehensive literature which the author seeks to summarise and present to the reader in accessible form. It is appropriate material for course reading in Westen civilisation, intellectual history, political thought, and philosophy.