Power, legitimacy and the interpretation of democratic ideas

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.

Abstract only
A comparative study of the theory and practice of government by the people

Drawing on the insights of political theory as well as empirical and comparative government, the book provides an up-to-date overview of the theories and practice of referendums and initiatives around the world. The book discusses if we ought to hold more referendums, and how the processes of direct democracy have been used – and occasionally abused -around the world.

Abstract only
Violence, alterity, community
Editor: Stella Gaon

This book explores the political implications of violence and alterity (radical difference) for the practice of democracy, and reformulates the possibility of community that democracy is said to entail. Most significantly, contributors intervene in traditional democratic theory by contesting the widely held assumption that increased inclusion, tolerance and cultural recognition are democracy's sufficient conditions. Rather than simply inquiring how best to expand the ‘demos’, they investigate how claims to self-determination, identity and sovereignty are a problem for democracy, and how, paradoxically, alterity may be its greatest strength. Contributions include an appeal to the tension between fear and love in the face of anti-Semitism in Poland, injunctions to rethink the identity-difference binary and the ideal of ‘mutual recognition’ that dominate liberal-democratic thought, critiques of the canonical ‘we’ which constitutes the democratic community, and a call for an ethics and a politics of ‘dissensus’ in democratic struggles against racist and sexist oppression. The contributors mobilise some of the most powerful critical insights emerging across the social sciences and humanities—from anthropology, sociology, critical legal studies, Marxism, psychoanalysis, critical race theory and post-colonial studies—to reconsider the meaning and the possibility of ‘democracy’ in the face of its contemporary crisis.

Between promise and practice

Whether called pressure groups, NGOs, social movement organisations or organised civil society, the value of ‘groups’ to the policy process, to economic growth, to governance, to political representation and to democracy has always been contested. However, there seems to be a contemporary resurgence in this debate, largely centred on their democratising potential: can groups effectively link citizens to political institutions and policy processes? Are groups an antidote to emerging democratic deficits? Or do they themselves face challenges in demonstrating their legitimacy and representativeness? This book debates the democratic potential and practice of groups, focusing on the vibrancy of internal democracies, and modes of accountability with those who join such groups and to the constituencies they advocate for. It draws on literatures covering national, European and global levels, and presents empirical material from the UK and Australia.

Community–university research partnerships in global perspectives

This book is based on a three-year international comparative study on poverty reduction and sustainability strategies . It provides evidence from twenty case studies around the world on the power and potential of community and higher education based scholars and activists working together in the co-creation of transformative knowledge. Opening with a theoretical overview of knowledge, democracy and action, the book is followed by analytical chapters providing lessons learned and capacity building, and on the theory and practice of community university research partnerships. It also includes lessons on models of evaluation, approaches to measuring the impact and an agenda for future research and policy recommendations. The book overviews the concept of engaged scholarship and then moves to focus on community-university research partnerships. It is based on a global empirical study of the role of community-university research partnerships within the context of poverty alleviation, the creation of sustainable societies and, broadly speaking, the Millennium Development Goals. The book frames the contribution of community-university research partnerships within a larger knowledge democracy framework, linking this practice to other spaces of knowledge democracy. These include the open access movement, new acceptance of the methods of community-based and participatory research and the call for cognitive justice or the need for epistemologies of the Global South. It takes a particular look at the variety of structures that have been created in the various universities and civil society research organizations to facilitate and enhance research partnerships.

A conceptual history

This book provides a critical, conceptual-historical analysis of democracy at the United Nations, detailed in four ‘visions’ of democracy: civilization, elections, governance and developmental democracy. ‘I know it when I see it’ were the famous words of US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart on defining obscenity. It is with the same conviction and (un)certainty that liberal peacebuilders and democracy promoters have used democracy to achieve both the immediate goals of peacekeeping and the broader, global mission of the UN. Today, democracy may have gained an international dimension, yet its success as an organizational practice depends on how it has been defined. Drawing on political theory and democratization scholarship, the book questions the meaning of this well-‘known’ idea. It analyses the way in which the UN, through its Secretary-General, relevant agencies and organizational practices, have thought about, conceptualized and used democracy. The book shows that while the idea of democracy's ‘civilizing’ nature has played a prominent part in its use by the UN, an early focus on sovereignty and self-determination delayed the emergence of the democracy agenda until the 1990s. Today, a comprehensive democracy agenda incorporates not only elections but a broad range of liberal-democratic institutions. Despite this, the agenda is at an impasse, both practically and philosophically. The book questions whether an extension of the UN democracy agenda to include ‘developmental democracy’ is feasible.

) The romanticization of democracy It is possible that the reason democracy is so resonant today is because it speaks to our desire for justice. This idea of ‘justice’ is, of course, unapologetically contemporary, and has its origins in early modern accounts which grounded political legitimacy upon consent. Why, for us, is a political regime ‘just’? Not because it conforms to

in Globalizing democracy
Abstract only

meaningfulness Proponents of ‘globalization’ have observed, no doubt with some satisfaction, that there is an increasing consensus across (and within) states that ‘democracy’ is the correct standard upon which to judge the political legitimacy of states. But this contentment must, upon reflection, be considerably lessened by the realization that the consensus on what, precisely, is

in Globalizing democracy
Social welfare for the twenty-first century

Social democracy has made a political comeback in recent years, especially under the influence of the ‘Third Way’. Not everyone is convinced, however, that ‘Third Way’ social democracy is the best means of reviving the Left's project. This book considers this dissent and offers an alternative approach. Bringing together a range of social and political theories, it engages with some contemporary debates regarding the present direction and future of the Left. Drawing upon egalitarian, feminist and environmental ideas, the book proposes that the social democratic tradition can be renewed but only if the dominance of conservative ideas is challenged more effectively. It explores a number of issues with this aim in mind, including justice, the state, democracy, new technologies, future generations and the advances in genetics.

Responses to crisis and modernisation

This book considers the underlying causes of the end of social democracy's golden age. It argues that the cross-national trend in social democratic parties since the 1970s has been towards an accommodation with neo-liberalism and a corresponding dilution of traditional social democratic commitments. The book looks at the impact of the change in economic conditions on social democracy in general, before examining the specific cases of Germany, Sweden and Australia. It examines the ideological crisis that engulfed social democracy. The book also looks at the post-1970 development of social policy, its fiscal implications and economic consequences in three European countries. It considers the evolution of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) from its re-emergence as a significant political force during the 1970s until the present day under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The book also examines the evolution of the Swedish model in conjunction with social democratic reformism and the party's relations to the union movement. It explores the latest debate about what the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) stands for. The SPD became the role model for programmatic modernisation for the European centre-left. The book considers how British socialist and social democratic thought from the late nineteenth century to the present has treated the objective of helping people to fulfil their potential, talents and ambitions. It aims to contribute to a broader conversation about the future of social democracy by considering ways in which the political thought of 'third way' social democracy might be radicalised for the twenty-first century.