"The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups."
-Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission
"Crisis of democracy" is the label given by the ruling classes of the United States, Western Europe and Japan to what most rational individuals would term "meaningful democracy".
The crisis of democracy was first publicly outlined in a book-length report entitled (conveniently) The Crisis of Democracy written by Michel Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanuki in 1975. The title of the original, commisioned report was Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission. The "problem" thus illuminated is how an "excess of democracy" can negatively impact the rightful government of industrialized societies by and for the wealthy.
According to the report, a crisis of democracy can occur when the populace becomes too well-informed about the true goals and motivations of its rulers and begins to demand that those in power shift their focus from self-aggrandizement to providing for the people's common needs.
At the time of writing it was standard belief that the "liberal media" had contributed greatly to the recent loss of the United States' war of aggression against South Vietnam, thus the author's fears of a media too willing to report the truth. (The reality of the situation being, of course, that the major media entirely fulfilled their roles as the state propaganda machine during the war and they have continued to do so.) Another condition creating excess democracy can arise when "previously passive or unorganized groups in the population," like "blacks, Indians, Chicanos, white ethnic groups, students and women" become "organized and mobilized in new ways to achieve what they considered to be their appropriate share of the action and of the rewards." A third feared source of excess democracy was the intellectuals whose questioning of official power tended to cause "a breakdown of traditional means of social control" by undermining "those institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young."
If the people are raising their collective voice to ask those in power for the basic necessities of life, or, (horrors!) suggesting that maybe the country's affairs aren't being run in a particulary equitable or just way, well, that puts a crimp in government's proper duties of amassing and protecting profits for the rich! The authors of the report looked back fondly on the days when "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers". Their fear that this era had ended was, of course, grossly premature.
The recommended course of action to stave off potential "crises of democracy" (which, we can see, can be read as "meaningful democracy") was firstly to threaten media which didn't maintain a "standard of professionalism" with state regulation, secondly to shift the focus of higher education toward the elite's economic and political goals, thirdly to institute "a program...to lower the job expectations of those who receive a college education" and fourthly to address just enough of the demands of organized labor to keep them quiet.
Since 1975 it has been the overt, written policy of the governments of the major capitalist countries to prevent a crisis of democracy by encouraging and enabling citizen apathy. After all, "order depends on somehow compelling newly mobilized strata to return to a measure of passivity and defeatism... At least temporarily the maintenance of order requires a lowering of newly acquired aspirations and levels of political activity." Ladies and gentlemen, your governments at work.
Sources: http://www.trilateral.org, http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2001/439/439p26.htm, http://monkeyfist.com/ChomskyArchive/essays/crisis_html