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Manufacturing “Democracy”

By Farooque Chowdhury

30 January, 2011

Democracy remains unfulfilled aspiration of people living in most of the peripheral societies as the ruling classes/segments, accomplices/compradors of the dominating capital, are historically incapable of delivering the political form. The ruling classes’/segments’ incapability generates contradictions, between people’s aspiration and rulers’ interests, the rulers fail to resolve. The failure is also historical. But the reaction that comes up threatens ruling system, and turns dangerous to strategic needs of the world masters. So, they step in with their design for “democracy”.

So, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA), and others “play an instrumental role” (annual report, 2008). Fundamentally the same views the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the wing of the USAID, owns. So, partners are organized.

But does democracy thus instrumented work? Andrew J Enterline and J Michael Greig of the University of North Texas provide a partial answer in their paper “Historical Trends in Imposed Democracy & the Future of Iraq & Afghanistan” (Jan., 2007). They examined 40 “imposed democratic” regimes, from 1800 to 1994.

“[I]mposed democracy,” they said, “is a phenomenon occurring primarily during the twentieth century.” They identified three cases occurring in the nineteenth century (Yugoslavia in 1838, New Zealand in 1857, and Canada in 1867) and the remainder of the sample occurred in the twentieth century. “Lebanon and the Philippines, that are ultimately failures” persist for long durations (50 and 38 years, respectively). These are exceptional cases. Several cases of imposed democratic regimes failed rapidly (Yugoslavia, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Nigeria). These bear similar characteristics to the contemporary cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only do nearly 60 percent of the 40 imposed democratic regimes fail during their period of observation, but the mean durability of this group of imposed democratic regimes is approximately 16 years. The principal conclusions they draw are: (1) Half of the imposed democracies fail by their 30th year of persistence. (2) Half of the institutionally weak imposed democracies fail by their 15th year, and 70% of these regimes fail by their 33rd year. Conversely, 37% of the institutionally strong imposed democracies fail by their 15th year, with no failures thereafter. (3) Weak imposed democracies rarely become more democratic, and 53% of the 40 imposed democracies experience a weakening in democratic institutions.(4) The failure of imposed democracies reduces the likelihood that a host state will experience democracy subsequently, as well as reducing the durability of democracy if it does return.

Dr. Robert Geyer and Dr. Samir Rihani in their paper “Complexity Theory and the Fundamental Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century” (presented at the 2000 PSA Conference at the London School of Economics, April 10-13, 2000) said: “As the 20th century came to an end, Western style liberal democracy and free market economics appeared to be completely triumphant. Developing countries, possibly in response to pressure from the IMF/World Bank, international opinion, and international forces, were becoming increasingly … free market oriented. The academic zenith of this position can be found in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and The Last Man.” They argue that the claims of triumph “are actually troubling indicators of increasingly stultifying rigidities in the democratic and economic processes of advanced industrial countries” and these models when imposed upon the weak and impoverished countries of the Third World, yield highly uncertain results at best and growing economic impoverishment and social and political disintegration at worst.” They continue: “linear systems … thrive on … distinct hierarchical structures” and the systems cannot handle the “problems, solutions, opportunities, and challenges in the social science arena, and hence in democracy … a concept … neither simple nor clear. It is made even more obscure because it has been adopted … as a marketing slogan…” To them a Newtonian foundation is there in the core structure of Western liberal democracy.

Thus, they questioned the Western democratic system, a section of which is trying to impose its democratic design on other countries, especially in the periphery. To Geyer and Rihani the “more serious threats to democracy … include: (1) the continuing belief in and pursuit of an ‘end’ state for democracy based on Western experience, (2) economic globalization and associated inequalities, and (3) the internationalisation and imposition of preconceived models of democracy. Reduction of choices and variety are the biggest dangers in view of the dynamic nature of the process involved in the emergence and development of democracy.” As example they cited the “Third Way, advocated by Bill Clinton and Blair and articulated by Anthony Giddens…” (The Third Way, 1998 and Beyond Left and Right, 1994.) According to them the “Third Way” is “patently attractive and deceptively innocent” that uses “a fundamentally linear logic.” Their next argument is: “The growth of market based economic forces” is a “major challenge” to democracy. They said: “At both the national and global levels, economic developments based on superiority of market forces and free trade across boundaries are themselves powerful challenges to democracy…. [T]heorists of democracy cannot ignore the economic context within which democracy is nestled … It is still unclear … whether the cherished right to criticize a prime minister or a president … without fear of persecution by the state is more or less valuable than other rights relating to jobs, food, health, education, old age, and incomes…. [I]f the political parties offer almost identical policies, elections become irrelevant in practice. They would simply result in rotation between a group of people intent on retaining the status quo…. The unwillingness, and in fact inability, of governments to ‘intervene’ in business and the virtual impossibility of having an effective global trade union movement leaves the field clear for the economy to triumph over all other considerations.”

They identified “the internationalization of linear models of democracy” as another major challenge to democracy. They said: “[T]he dominance of certain leading economic and political powers and their wish to impose precise models of democracy … on other nations is equally alarming. There are suggestions that the leading powers are simply promoting their particular interests.” As examples they cited Nigeria, Algeria, Chile, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are other countries also.

They concluded: “policies and actions grounded into a top-down command-and-control style of management … are seen as potent threats to democracy….[D]evelopment of lasting democratic beliefs and practices is a complex process that requires time as well as helpful global and local conditions. External influences are immaterial at best and harmful at worst. Such efforts have not succeeded in the past and could not succeed in future because they ignore, intentionally or otherwise, the true nature of the processes involved.” Collier also argued that monopolizing rewards by a small group of persons bring damaging conflicts (The Political Economy of Ethnicity, 1998). He also argued that democracy and personal incomes are important factors in determining the possibility of conflict.

The ruling regimes or regimes installed by world capital cannot take away seeds of conflict and deliver functionally responsive, transparent, accountable, and non-repressive political system. They have been/will be installed to make appeasement, sell out people’s interests and cheap labor, and facilitate loot of natural resources. They have to repress people as people stand for common interests.

[This is a modified version of a part of a chapter from The Age of Crisis, 2009]


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