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Political sociology: Democracy

Political sociology: Democracy

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Political sociology: Democracy

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  1. Political sociology:Democracy Dr Alice Mah Lecture 6

  2. Outline • Introduction • Democracy: different perspectives • Analytical examples • Seminar questions for discussion

  3. Democracy as an Ideal ‘Democracy thrives when there are major opportunities for the mass of ordinary people to participate, through discussion and autonomous organizations, in shaping the agenda of public life, and when they are actively using these opportunities… It is an ideal model, which can almost never be fully achieved, but like all impossible ideals, it sets a marker… It is essential to take this approach to democracy rather than the more common one, which is to scale down definitions of the ideal so that they conform to what we easily achieve.’ (Crouch 2004: 2-3)

  4. Formal vs. Substantive Democracy • Formal democracy: concerned with procedures by which governments are made accountable and legitimate (e.g. Schumpeter 1950) • Substantive democracy: involves judgments about the quality and the extent of popular participation in democratic decision-making; ‘rule by the people’ should ensure the equality of all voices in society; all should be properly represented, and all should be heard (harder to pin down; contested) (Nash 2010: 195)

  5. Lipset’s ‘Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited’ (1993) • Link between capitalism and parliamentary democracy, but capitalism is a ‘necessary, but not sufficient condition’ for democracy • Correlation between economic prosperity and democracy • Favours a weak state and a strong market • Emphasizes ‘cultural’ origins of democracy in Northwest Europe, as well as having once been a British colony • Protestantism and democracy are the most positively linked (due to ‘individualism’) while other religions typically have negative relationships with democracy (due to their close relationships with the ‘state) • New democracies must be institutionalized to become legitimate, particularly through executive and electoral systems (ideally parliamentary or presidential systems), civil society, and political parties (ideally a two-party system) • Criticism: basically a very western-centric concept of democracy, ideologically rooted in a belief in liberalism, capitalism, and British and American electoral systems. Legacy of the Cold War in the discussion of post-Soviet states

  6. Capitalism and Democracy • For Lipset and many other social scientists, capitalism and democracy go hand in hand; capitalism is a necessary condition for democracy. • For other social scientists, contemporary capitalism and concerns for democracy are diametrically opposed, for example: • Marshall’s idea of capitalism and citizenship • Crouch’s critical analysis of post-democracy as controlled by business interests • Nash’s idea of democracy in relation to globalization

  7. Democracy in Crisis • Paradoxical trends over the past 30 years : • increasing number of relatively free multi-party elections in countries around the globe, yet • in Western liberal democracies (particularly): • declining confidence and trust in political leaders and parties • declining numbers of voters who participate in national elections (where voting is not obligatory) • decline of class politics and drift to ‘centre’ • political parties target voters as citizen-consumers rather than through political ideologies • focus on the style, appearance and presentation of politicians (personality politics; ‘digging the dirty’) • power is controlled by a small, corporate elite

  8. Post-democracy (Crouch 2004) • Assumptions about democracy: democracy must be liberal and capitalist, a form of democracy that avoids interfering with a capitalist economy and has little interest in widespread citizen involvement (e.g. Lipset) • Two issues: crisis of egalitarian politics and the trivialization of democracy (Crouch 2004)

  9. Impact of globalization on democracy 1/2 • democratic deficits: the lack of democratic control over existing intergovernmental and supranational governance structures such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the European Union (EU); • democratic disjunctures: the disparities in scope between global political problems (e.g. climate change, economic development, and international terrorism) and instantiations of democratic authority in existing, state-level political institutions • democratic asymmetries: the widening inequalities among states whereby the wealthiest and most powerful dominate international interactions. Goodhart, M (2008) ‘Human Rights and Global Democracy’, Ethics & International Affairs

  10. Impact of globalization on democracy 2/2 • State transformation: democracy was formed and fought for in nation-states, but if processes previously managed by the state are beyond its control, what are the implications for state-centred democracy? • The ‘all-affected’ principle of democracy (all people affected by an issue both within and beyond the territorial borders of a state). Globalization raised the question, ‘who is the people?’, which is not limited to ‘the nation’. But global democratic participation is difficult to put into practice…

  11. Global Democracy • Global democracy: defined in a broad (bottom-up, ‘real’, participatory) sense as including concerns for social justice and human rights • Reflect political and social values: fluid definitions risk appropriation (and abuse) within hegemonic projects (e.g. bringing ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ to Iraq, Iran…) • Linked to citizenship and social movements, particularly ‘global’ scale • Concerned with normative questions of ‘ideals’ and the ‘common good’; connections between theory and practice

  12. Global Democracy • Role of the development of human rights: a way of extending citizenship rights beyond states (question of enforceability, and encroachment upon authority of state sovereignty), e.g. International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 • Democratization of global governance: David Held’s idea of cosmopolitan democracy, operating at an appropriate scale for ‘all affected’ by a particular issue, rather than the nation state (critics emphasise the continuing importance of the nation-state) • Democracy between states: inequalities between states in Inter-Governmental Organizations, ‘democratic deficit’

  13. Global Civil Society • Global civil society: ‘a dynamic non-governmental system of interconnected social-economic institutions that straddle the whole earth, and that have complex effects that are felt in its four corners’ (Keane 2003: 8): a (contested) concept for describing individuals, groups, and NGOs networked into social movements; attempt to democratize ‘from below’ • Critics of global civil society argue that NGOs are undemocratic, unelected, lay claim to moral authority rather than democratic legitimacy, and are a form for Western imperialism through securing trust of citizens (hegemonic in a Gramscian sense)

  14. Democracy and Human Rights • Many sociologists and political theorists see human rights as a kind of democratic bridge between national and international levels (Nash 2010: 204) • Critiques of liberal-individualistic interpretation of ‘rights’ (Marx’s critique of the ‘rights of man’ to property and bourgeois freedoms) rather than broader, collective and civil and political rights (close to Marshall’s citizenship rights) • Deep tension between, on the one hand, the human rights tradition which dissociates rights from membership in a bounded community by making rights universal and, on the other hand, the modern tradition of citizenship that links rights and political participation to a nation-state • General perception of human rights as relating only extreme violations of human rights; recent calls (within sociology and other disciplines) to expand concepts of human rights to include cultural rights of recognition, social and economic rights

  15. Democratization: Global Social Justice Movements • ‘Another World Is Possible’: global social justice movement, alternative globalization, a strategy for resisting capitalist globalization; another form of democratization ‘from below’ but insufficient (arguably) on its own to tackle all of the challenges of democracy • Global social justice movements and the Internet: increasing role of the Internet in activism, attention to styles and tactics • ‘Searching the Net: website styles in the Global Justice Movement’ (Della Porta and Mosca 2005) • interesting survey analysis of 261 global justice movement websites in 6 European countries--these are just a fraction of the number of global justice movement websites (and organizations)– and analysed in particular the limits and opportunities of the Internet for mobilizing and strategizing

  16. Analytical examples

  17. US Presidential Election: 2008 & 2012 • Was the election of Barack Obama in 2008 an exception to the decline of political parties?(Nash 2010) • consistent with post-democracy in terms of role of Obama’s personality and charisma, as well as ‘beyond Left and Right’ emphasis, but • exceptional: grassroots support (through Internet mobilizing and small donations) and symbolism as first African-American president, representative of the American dream… • If the World Could Vote: http://www.iftheworldcouldvote.com/ - global implications of the American presidency • Hope and symbolism in 2008; gaps between political ideals and politics in practice of 2012…

  18. The NSA Scandal • How democratic is the US (or the UK) in the context of Edward Snowdon’s revelations about mass surveillance of ordinary citizens? • Read: http://www.opendemocracy.net/alfred-w-mccoy/surveillance-blowback-%E2%80%A8-making-of-us-surveillance-state-1898-2020

  19. Conclusion Key tensions in concepts and practices of democracy: • Ideological/ hegemonic • Liberal / radical • Individual / collective • Universalist / relativist • Capitalist / anti-capitalist • Universal / bounded to nation-states • Normative / social constructivist • Global / national/ transnational / local • Top-down / bottom-up • ‘Western’ / ‘non-Western’

  20. Seminar Questions • Discuss Lipset’s classic article on the ‘social requisites of democracy’ in relation to modernization theory, based on the idea that ‘the more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy’. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Lipset’s argument? To what extent does it reflect a bias towards capitalist liberal democracy as the only form of legitimate democracy? • Critically discuss Crouch’s idea of ‘post-democracy’ and its relevance for sociological analysis. • How do concepts of global democracy, social justice, and human rights relate (similarities, overlaps, differences)? How do they relate to globalisation? Social movements? Citizenship? Marxist critiques of capitalism and the state? • Could these (and related) concepts be related to Western imperialism, and if so, how? • How could these concepts be appropriated or abused by political authorities (state and non-state)? • Discuss the ‘gap’ between ideal and practice within these concepts.