Democratic Paths and Trends: Volume 18


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Having lived for many years in communist Poland, principles of democracy, human rights, and the opportunity for economic development were among my main concerns in life. My introduction to democracy as a political system and to democratic processes, however, was initiated by activism in the Pro-Democracy Solidarity Movement in 1980–1981. I was a student at that time and a member of the student segment of the Solidarity Movement. Participation in occupational strikes at A. Mickiewicz University in Poznan, my alma mater, was the best and the most important lesson for me on the nature and processes of democratization. This activism prompted eagerness to record the history unfolding before my very eyes. I collected copies of circulating documents, students’ poetry, songs as well as recorded interviews with striking students. I watched hours of video recordings of the student negotiations with Polish government members (a phenomenon equivalent to workers negotiations). I also visited other campuses on strike across Poland. The documentation I collected and recorded was presented as a doctoral dissertation and constituted a significant part of two books.

Studies on trajectory and trends of democratic growth frequently dominate scholarly debates. These studies are led by two distinct points of view. On the one hand, scholars believe that the prevalence of democracy is inevitable and thus marks an era of prosperity and of human rights. Such an era is dominated by the cultural values of independence, individuality, and freedom (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005) and leads to the end of the world's history and the end of the last man (Fukuyama, 1992; Mandelbaum, 2008). A contrasting point of view, on the other hand, is expressed by scholars who studied the crises of modern liberal democracies believing that democracies are failing and hence, the time of worldwide democratization is coming to an end (Mouffle, d’Angerville, 1994, The private life of Louise XIV. Cited in Thomas, Vagueness in law and language the concept of despotism. Oxford: Oxford University Press). This study adds to the ongoing debate by determining which of the trends prevails worldwide across the past two centuries and especially in the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, it sheds light on existing knowledge about democratic paths and trends by suggesting that a comprehensive investigation of democratization processes requires both regional and worldwide analyses, and investigations of historical events and regional characteristic effects are more beneficial for long-term longitudinal studies.

Membership in political parties is declining in The Netherlands, as it is in the rest of Europe. Between 1978 and 2010 membership dropped by a third, from about 450,000 to about 300,000, or 2.5% of the electorate; in 2007 alone, 29,000 people left their party, whereas only 21,000 joined. This is having the effect of weakening civil society, as is manifest in declining turnouts in elections, a growing distrust of government and political leaders, and a general sense among citizens of alienation from the political process. To understand the phenomenon of declining party membership, we fielded a web survey among ex-members, members, potential members, and non-members/voters of eight Dutch political parties. This allows us to compare the motives for joining or leaving various parties among people with different distances to these parties. The presentation of our findings are primarily organized around a set of recommendations by the Dutch Council for Public Policy for how to revive political parties, but in the discussion we draw as well on two more comprehensive models that also give rise to recommendations: the general incentives model for political participation (Seyd & Whiteley, 2002) and the civic voluntarism model (Verba, Schlozman, & Brady, 1995).

There are a number of broad trends across rich democracies that show a growing disconnects between citizens and their respective governments. Similar trends are apparent in democracies in poorer nations as well. Given these similarities, it is plausible that trans-national forces are at work. The chapter develops a theoretical argument to account for these trends.

The focus of the argument is on the rapid increase in societal mobilization and loss of elite control that has accompanied globalization and the rapid worldwide expansion of science and higher education. The argument develops the point that these forces have led to a weakening of support for political institutions as they are currently constituted across democratic societies.

In this chapter, the revocation of citizenship laws in three democratic countries – Canada, Israel, and the United States – are compared. At first glance, it appears that in each of the countries, there is one common factor that provides the pretext for expatriation – the particular conception of citizenship and nationhood (usually highlighted and constructed during military conflicts). This explanation accords with the existing literature on citizenship. This chapter shows that there is another principle that all countries share that plays a role in the perception of citizenship and its revocation. Forced expatriation as a policy became more widespread with the institutionalization of the national world order which does not tolerate multiple national allegiances.

This chapter examines the role of actors operating within the context of participatory democratic institutions. The literature on radical democracy suggests that reforming democratic institutions to promote secondary associations, participation, and deliberative decision-making can radically transform states. Through an analysis of alternative local government (ALG) practices in Saquisilí, Ecuador, the chapter demonstrates that a variety of actors, with diverse motivations, constitute and operate within participatory institutions. Despite the radical discursive structure of the institutions, however, actors are able to creatively use those institutional spaces for other goals. The implication for radical democratic theory is that not all outcomes that have been read as unintended consequences are unintended.

This chapter aims to provide insight into conceptualizing and understanding the experience of civic engagement through voluntary service for high school students in the United States today. Unlike prior studies of youth civic life that are predominately quantitative and rely on correlates of youth civic engagement, this qualitative research explores the meanings and rationale youth attribute to being members of their communities. Youth service work emerges in two general forms. Some young people have an altruistic orientation: they are dedicated to help the less fortunate in their communities, but at the same time, they lack strong ideological investment. Other students have an activist orientation: they are committed to activist politics, but cannot connect their political concerns to school-based service. These two orientations to service develop in the context of school programs that encourage – or require – episodic single acts of volunteerism as a form of civic education. Diffuse associational forms and loose, individually based networks thus shape the context and content of youth volunteerism. These associational forms imply the practice of “networked democracy” by young Americans. Although networked associational ties offer young people weaker forms of collective organization, they also allow students to connect to and experiment with many different ideas, issues, and forms of expression.

This study systematically addresses an important yet neglected question pertaining to the potentially time-varying effects of economic development on political democracy. Building on Huntington's insightful observations of alternating “waves” and “reverse waves” of democracy in world history, we deduce research hypotheses subject to empirical falsification and find, through a systematic analysis of the experiences of 87 countries from the 1960s to 1990s, that the impact of economic development on democracy shifted from the well-known U-shaped relationship to an inverted U-curve. These shifts occurred around 1980, a time point that corresponds to Diamond's classification of the end of the “second reverse wave” and beginning of the “third wave” of democratization. The finding thus demonstrates that the “wavy” progression of democracy in the world reflects historically changing dynamics of economic development and their impacts on political democracy over time.

This chapter seeks to reconcile divergent views about how globalization affects democratic governance at the national level. Despite numerous studies on this subject, the resulting literature has not reached an overarching consensus. Some scholars conclude that globalization usually promotes democracy by fragmenting the political power of entrenched elites, by creating powerful demands for the rule of law, and by making democracy the global norm for governance. Other scholars, however, draw very different conclusions. They argue that globalization generally weakens democracy by reducing the autonomy of national governments, by generating “democratic deficits” between international policy makers and ordinary citizens, and by significantly enhancing the class power of transnational capital. To bridge these two literatures, the present chapter highlights that democracy has at least two normative charges: (1) it should promote civil and political liberties (its liberal dimension) and (2) it should promote social and economic equality (its social democratic dimension). When viewed from this perspective, it appears that globalization does indeed promote democracy, albeit a particular form of democracy in which the maintenance of civil and political liberties takes precedence over the realization of socioeconomic equalities. Furthermore, this perspective suggests that globalization can simultaneously promote democracy in some parts of the world (i.e., by encouraging authoritarian countries to adopt civil and political liberties), while undermining it elsewhere (i.e., by impeding political actors seeking to promote socioeconomic equality).

Depending on the circumstances, modern capitalism wraps itself in totalitarian, authoritarian, and democratic dresses. But it is widely believed that (representative) democracy is the only political form that allows the majority of the country's citizens to exercise their freedom of choice in selecting their representatives. By dealing exclusively with the questions of democracy in choosing U.S. presidents, this chapter makes an attempt to analyze the soundness of this assertion.

Events are in the saddle and tend to ride mankind.Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mandi Bane is a Ph.D. candidate, in the Department of Sociology, University of Michigan. Her areas of academic interest are social change, globalization, race and ethnicity, comparative-historical and ethnographic methods, social movements, and Latin America. Her dissertation is a multiscalar, historically grounded study of indigenous social movement organizations in Ecuador that contributes to the literature on multiculturalism, development, cultural citizenship, radical democracy, and neoliberalism.

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Research in Political Sociology
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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