As the globalization of democracy becomes increasingly palpable, the political obstacles to its achievement become overshadowed by more vexing questions concerning the very nature of democracy itself. This book examines some of the philosophical and theoretical debates underlying the 'democratic project' which increasingly dominates the field of comparative development. The first concern presented is normative and epistemological: as democracy becomes widely accepted as the political currency of legitimacy, the more broadly it is defined. The second issue examined refers to the claims being made regarding how best to secure a democratic system in developing states. The book shows how 'democracy' has quickly become, both academically and politically, all things to all people: it represents a philosophical ideal, a political strategy, and an instrument of economic well-being. It looks at some of the philosophical debates underlying democracy in order to explain why it has evolved into such an ambiguous concept. The book surveys the arguments supporting the expansion of 'democracy' from its individualistic orientations to an account more able to accommodate the concerns and aspirations of groups. Critical assessments of these new trends in democratic theory are presented. The book examines the political contexts within which debates about democratization are centred. A discussion on the claim that a robust democracy depends upon our ability to 'strengthen civil society', follows. The book situates the debate over democracy and development more closely by examining the political context surrounding the inflation of democratic meaning. It examines the consequences of the globalization of democratic norms.
Democracy', as a description of the institutions and processes required for an appropriate degree of accountability to be maintained over time, has been successful largely. The success is because of its ability to accommodate a wide range of interests within a relatively stable political environment. Identity politics can be viewed both as an outgrowth of liberal thought and as a critical response to it. This chapter discusses current controversies within the field of democratic theory. An ambiguity of democracy concerns the extent to which the undesirable outcomes ought to be addressed and mitigated or tolerated and accepted. The function of democracy is to ensure the diffusion of power by stipulating that each citizen has the ability to influence the outcome of political decision-making. As Richard Tuck has shown, the modern account of 'human rights' is firmly grounded in a narrower base of property rights.
Democracy is seen to exert a globalizing force upon the international community; yet its most enthusiastic proponents argue that it must be a localized, grassroots phenomenon to be of any value. Modern democracy appeared originally within the context of a sovereign state system and required state autonomy in order to preserve democratic institutions. The increasing unwillingness to challenge normative claims made in the political arena, especially within disparate cultural contexts, was a disservice perpetuated by the discipline. The long-standing debate in international relations theory between 'realists' and 'idealists' filtered into the democratic transformation debate. The complexity of the debate was compounded insofar, as the objective commonly accepted by most participants in the debate was itself a manifestly normative construct. The current fascination of international relations theorists in the spread of democratic regimes seems to be more intensely fixed upon the relationship between democracy and peace than upon democracy and wealth.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book addresses the recent explosion of theories of democratization within a globalized world. It looks at some of the philosophical debates underlying democracy in order to explain why it has evolved into such an ambiguous concept. The book surveys the arguments supporting the expansion of 'democracy' from its individualistic orientations to an account that is more able to accommodate the concerns and aspirations of groups. It examines the claim that a robust democracy depends upon our ability to 'strengthen civil society'. The book situates the debate over democracy and development more closely by examining the political context surrounding the inflation of democratic meaning. It presents a basic conception of 'democratic neutrality' which preserves the ability of democracy to prevent the concentration of power based upon political or economic influence.
Contemporary attempts to bring 'meaningfulness' to democracy through the use of mechanisms such as 'cultural rights' often distort the original intent of democracy. In John Locke's case, the cultural attempts was primarily to limit the concentration of political power. Modern romanticism is a response to the more contemporary manifestation of epistemological relativism. But the German Romantics, tellingly, were not democrats, and did not have to worry about how to fit their ideas within a democratic framework. The current romanticization of democracy is closely tied to the development of the concept of autonomy. The best form of democracy for a globalized world is thus one in which clear and impartial institutions permit individuals enough room to sort out subjective issues like 'meaningfulness' in their own way. A more familiar justification for sovereignty rests solely upon domestic political relations, specifically the consent of the governed.
This chapter looks at the 'liberal' nature of democracy. It begins with a brief overview of the historical development of liberalism and liberal democracy, and their contemporary manifestations. 'Identity politics' are the greatest challenge to traditional liberal democratic principles within the contemporary political sphere. Marxism and liberalism have commonly been linked by the critics in the dependence of the two schools upon the assumptions of rationality, neutrality, and inexorable scientific progress. Like feminism, postcolonialism views the assumptions of neutrality within liberalism as inherently biased. The goal of postcolonialism, writes Gyan Prakesh, is 'to force a radical re-thinking and re-formulation of forms of knowledge and social identities authored and authorized by colonialism and western domination'. The chapter examines current philosophical challenges to liberal democracy. It also examines the epistemological debate, and argues that any account of democracy must ultimately rest upon some account of impartiality.
A nonliberal democracy differs from a liberal democracy in the assertion that the claims of neutrality, objectivity, and equality valued so deeply by liberal democrats are in practice means of marginalizing and devaluing nondominant cultures. Many group-rights theorists argue for group rights on the basis of liberal acceptance of self-determination. The reason that neutrality is seen as a manifestly 'liberal' value is, according to Brian Barry, because the critics of liberalism tend to conflate 'second-order' and 'first-order' conceptions of appropriate behaviour. This chapter argues that 'culture' and 'identity' are the concepts which prevent exponents of democracy from seeing the relevant similarities between the discredited communist version of democracy and the contemporary identity-based account of democracy. Political systems based upon cultural identity are structured very clearly upon the vital importance of the distinction between 'us' and 'them'.
This chapter looks at many of the issues involved in theorizing civil society. A focus on 'civil society' has permitted institutions such as the World Bank to emphasize the principles as the accountability of the state to its citizens, and the desirability of due process and transparency in all government activity. Civil society was indistinguishable from political society because social life was by its very nature political. The chapter discusses a number of conceptual objections to the term. The current enthusiasm for 'civil society' both as an analytical device to understand why things happen and, more commonly, as an ideal model of political life, leaves much unsaid. The problem with 'civil society' as an analytical concept, or as even as a political ideal, is not that it is undertheorized, but that it is overtheorized.
A market system is conducive to democratic politics for two predominant reasons: a well-functioning market requires a certain scope for the free activity of individuals within a framework of stable and predictable laws. The causal link between the market and democratic government is relatively forceful to the extent that 'democracy' is understood as the establishment and protection of private property rights. The assertion that a strong market prevents the concentration of political power is hardly a novel observation; it was the theme throughout most of Friedrich Hayek's works. The perception of a close relationship between democracy and state autonomy is becoming increasingly common: intriguingly, Jean-Marie Guéhenno's French publication The End of Democracy was translated into English as The End of the Nation State. A domestic marketplace independent of state control is conducive to the establishment of democracy, because it diffuses power away from the state.
This chapter discusses why, politically, the currency of democracy has become inflated. The objective of democracy in a contemporary world is an attempt to find a way for individuals and cultures with different sets of values to function in a world of increasing globalization. The inflationary expansion of democracy can perhaps be addressed by examining four particular characteristics of the 'new world order'. They are theoretical modeling, state actors and the preservation of sovereignty, new role of Bretton Woods institutions, and new role of non-governmental organizations. The two most powerful threats to democracy as a means of diffusing power are claims to private property and cultural legitimacy. Like many superb pharmaceuticals, what is therapeutic in measured doses is toxic in much larger ones. Critics of the postmodern position generally view the arguments regarding the conflicting interpretations of reality as ephemeral and generally inconsequential.