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World and Comparative Politics Unit 2: Political Thought 3 &
Date Submitted: June 19, 2018
Dr. Jeffrey S. Ray; Professor, SMC University
Unit 2- Political Thought 3: How a country can go towards a democratically elected or authoritarian regime
This essay discusses how a country can move towards a democratically elected or an authoritarian regime. A regime is a pattern or way of doing things. Examples of authoritarian regimes include China, Venezuela and Russia. Established democracies are countries like the USA and Western countries. Young democratic countries are usually located in Africa. Historically, “during the 1980s and 1990s authoritarian regimes collapsed in numerous developing and former communist countries, to be followed in many cases by democratically elected governments. However, such political changes did not often occur solely as the result of spontaneous, fragmented efforts by individual civil societies and opposition political parties. In many cases they were also the result of the interaction of domestic and external factors” (Haynes, 2003, p. 1039).
I submit that a country can slide along the scale from authoritarian to democracy and vice versa, that the positions are not static. Previously it has also been demonstrated that the transition to democracy from authoritarian regimes can sometimes bring political instability to a country. The following sections discuss the facets of the two regimes.
A country is considered to be moving toward democracy and legitimacy if it adheres to these four factors:
“1) It maintains transparent processes and allows access for some form of participation by citizens, 2) in so doing, it reflects broadly the “popular will” with regard to substantive issues of collective interest, 3) it provides opportunities for citizens to learn to trust one another’s motives even if they do not fully agree with their positions, and 4) it generally makes possible the non-violent transition of authority through institutions of power-sharing such as elections.
(Rajan, 2006, p. 6)
The hallmark of democracy is the presence of rule-based institutions, active public participation. It has been reasoned that “democracy is not simply a vehicle for the representation of interests, but is also a way of creating a public arena in which controversial issues – in principle – can be resolved, or at least handled, through dialogue rather than through pre-established forms of power” (Giddens, 1994, p. 16). In a democracy individuals that form the political community are ideally meant to have equal rights and voice. However this is in reality difficult to operationalize.
Authoritarian regimes tend to be characterized by violence by the state, and repression, the conquest here is over the spheres of authority, political power, and even at times the mind. Some like Rajan (2006) see the authoritarian regime as the modern version of the monarchy (p. 6). Modern authoritarian leaders have sought strategies that maintain and protect their regimes of power and prevent the slippage into democracy. The methods they employ to protect their regimes include manipulating media to have their own ‘friendly’ narratives circulated, repressing independent civil society; they have also used the market to modernize authoritarian instruments of repression. Modern authoritarian regimes now actively work toward institutionalizing authoritarian norms and to delegitimize political competition through elections.
In conclusion, there is a tendency to compare the two regimes as good and bad, however, I submit that in countries with no strong national identity or strong majority then democracy can beget conflict and political instability. Furthermore:
“All States—rule their population and decide whether or not to make war. And all States, whether formally a democracy or dictatorship or some other brand of rule, are run by a ruling elite. Whether or not these elites, in any particular case, will make war upon another State is a function of a complex interweaving web of causes, including temperament of the rulers, the strength of their enemies, the inducements for war, public opinion”.
(Rothbard, 1978, p. 297)
Therefore, the difference between the two regimes is who is perceived to hold the power. There is a constant trade off between consent gained and consent lost as the two regimes work toward legitimizing their power.
Unit 2- Global Governance: The prospect of global governance
This essay discusses the possibility of global governance. Global governance is a multi-layered phenomenon with actors that have varied interests and different levels of resources. Assessing the prospect of global governance is challenging in that the mode and importance of individual states is evolving and the role of proxies above and below the state is increasing.
Approaches to global governance
In the realist view “states are considered by far the most important actors in world affairs. To the extent that other actors have an impact on global political and economic conditions, this happens within a framework constituted and governed by states” (Koenig-Archibugi, 2011, p. 394). The institutional approach place emphasis on the role that international institutions can have in how states behave toward each other. There is also a major role of non-state actors in global governance in areas such as public health. Regarding global governance:
“World government remains a fanciful idea, there does exist an evolving global governance complex – embracing states, international institutions, transnational networks and agencies – which functions, with variable effect, to promote, regulate or intervene in the common affairs of humanity”.
Therefore, it should be noted that if the aim is to achieve collectively desired ends, there must first be agreement on what those ends are. Existing conventions and institutions hold promise for the prospects of global governance:
“Global issues such as ozone depletion, the spread of financial crises, and the prohibition of certain kinds of weapons are managed by governance structures that do not conform to the hierarchical model of rule setting and enforcement that is typical of states. The combination of these structures can be said to form a system of global governance”.
(Koenig-Archibugi, 2011, p. 393)
The aforementioned then begs the question- how is global activity currently regulated? What are its challenges? The consideration here will be to query what the modern political significance of global governance is, especially at a time when it would seem that globalization is catalysing the opportunities for countries to simply a satisfy their national interests in the guise of a common good.
One of the challenges is when states have diverse interests, therefore there is no shared vision for global governance, and in the absence of this common vision working toward a shared global goal becomes fractured and not sincere. The other challenge arises in terms of what can actually be enforced seeing as at the global level we have governance but not a global government:
“Governance – understood as the establishment and operation of rule systems facilitating the coordination and cooperation of social actors – is conceptually distinct from government – understood as an organisation in charge of administering and enforcing those rules”.
The prospects for global governance are better equipped as humankind now exists in an era of great technological transformation, increased information and transparency as well as economic progress. With more information available, the prospect of global governance is possible. However it should be noted: “Economy, lawmaking and defense may be increasingly embedded in international frameworks, and the borders of territory may be less important, but identity and democratic institutions remain primarily national” (Cooper, 2000, p. 23).
In conclusion, most national governments are ill equipped to manage an increasingly complicated portfolio of global problems. The prospects to global governance can be gauged by looking at the success of key issue areas such as humanitarian disaster needs and how global finance is playing out- we often find that there although there is increased humanitarian interventions across the globe, there are still restrictions to the types of interventions that are taking place, with regard to global finance the recent financial crisis of 2008 has shown the inadequacies that exist in the regulation in this sector. The trend is undeniable- there has been a “shift from national government to multi-layered global governance” (McGrew, 2002) in the world today. I would argue one, that global governance thus far has been a privilege of a few countries from the global North and two, that perfecting regional integration first would seem a more realistic and practical step toward any form of global governance.
Cooper, R. (2000). The post-modern state and the world order . Demos.
Giddens, A. (1994). Beyond Left and Right. . Cambridge: Polity.
Haynes, J. (2003). Tracing connections between comparative politics and
globalisation . Third World Quarterly , 24 (6), 1029-1047.
Koenig-Archibugi, M. (2011). Global governance. In J. (. Michie, The Handbook of
Globalisation (pp. 393-406). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.
McGrew, A. a. (2002). Governing globalization: power, authority and global
governance. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Rajan, S. C. (2006). Global Politics and Institutions. Boston, USA: Tellus Institute.
Rothbard, M. N. (1978). For a New Liberty. The Libertarian Manifesto. Revised
Edition. Collier Books.
Young, O. (1999). Governance in World Affairs. Cornell University Press.