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Postdemocracy and the End of History

Popularity 1Viewed 4052 times 2013-3-6 16:46 |System category:News

                                                             PAUL-ERIK KORVELA *

“The democracy of capitalist society is on the way out, is, in fact, just about gone, and will not come back.”

—James Burnham (The Managerial Revolution, 1941)

Abstract: The article asserts that certain trends and developments are possibly threatening democracy in established democracies. Even though democracy might not face any external challengers, as an ideology it nevertheless faces threats endemic to itself. There are clearly detectable trends that possibly transform or have already transformed established democracies into postdemocracies, managed democracies or controlled democracies. Thus, democracy might be in fact superseded rather than deepened and perfected. The article scrutinizes the phenomenon of postdemocratization from three perspectives. First, it connects the phenonomenon with globalization and the associated contraction of the state which produces a possible legitimacy crisis of democracies. Secondly, the article discusses how the rise of governance networks and new ways of participation create a democratic deficit despite their opposite intention. Thirdly, the role of private corporations and their

influence on the political system is discussed. The article concludes that as more and more political power is escaping from the political system, democracy transforms into postdemocracy.

Keywords: postdemocracy, democracy, globalization, governance, postdemocratization

IN HIS FA MOUS BOOK THE End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama (1992) argued that liberal democracy has conquered all its opponents from fascism to communism and stands at the endpoint of history. The book was published immediately after the end of the Cold War, when the collapses of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union created an atmosphere of optimism in the West. Yet, two decades afterwards, we can say that the book was too optimistic in many respects. In this article, my point is that even though liberal democracy will not face any notable external challengers, it nevertheless faces threats endemic to itself. Liberal democracy is not the endpoint of history, as it is being superseded in established democracies. Certain developments and trends are transforming or have already transformed the established democracies of the West into postdemocracies (Crouch, 2009), managed democracies (Wolin, 2008) or controlled democracies (Burnham, 1941). While it is often argued that the task of old, established democracies is to perfect and deepen their democracy (Dahl, 2000, 2), they might actually be going to the opposite direction for a number of reasons. I will scrutinize the issue by looking at threats to democracy posed by globalization, the rise of governance networks and the political role of private corporations. Fukuyama may very well be right in his assertion that liberal democracy, based on the sovereignty of the people, will not be challenged as a universal idea. Nevertheless, it does develop, through its internal dynamics, into something else, something that can be best described as postdemocracy. Fukuyama’s original opinion is formulated most interestingly. He says that the victory has not been gained by liberal democracy but by the idea of liberal state and that the legitimacy of power based on the sovereignty of the people will not be challenged by a more attractive ideology (Fukuyama, 1992). But when the established democracies of the West are transforming into postdemocracies, this does not mean that the idea of a liberal democratic state will be challenged in theory. Postdemocratic states will retain the outlook of a democracy while in practice they have transformed into a sort of managed democracy. The legitimacy of rule is theoretically based on the sovereignty of the people expressed in free elections, but in practice both the democratic input and output of the political system can be merely nominal. Democracy has become something like a norm in international system because even those states that are not democratic feel the need to disguise themselves as democracies and go through the trouble of arranging fraudulent elections in order to seem democratic. But they are not challenging the idea of democracy. Quite on the contrary, their behavior is only strengthening democracy as a norm, deviations of which need to be somehow justified or concealed. Democracy has been established as a norm and from the end of history perspective, “non-democracies came to be seen as unfortunate and ill-fated departures from what was universally acknowledged to be the best political system” (Mandelbaum, 2007, xi). Non-democratic states are expected to make a transition to democracy, newly democratized countries are expected to consolidate their democratic institutions, and old democracies are expected to deepen their democracy (Dahl, 2000, 2). While there is a lot of scholarly attention being paid to democratic transition, semi-democracies and dictatorship masquerading as democracy, there is considerably less research on established democracies sliding away from democracy or superseding it. As such, my argument has precedents. For instance, Hudson (1995) voices similar concerns, focusing especially on American democracy. The “end of history” enthusiasm has diverted the attention to the people of autocratic states demanding democracy, and as a result the progress towards democratic ideals in Western countries has been strangely forgotten as it seems “ready” when compared to those countries still allegedly striving for democracy. Despite the occasionally resolute steps towards democratic ideals, many established democracies, the US included, fall far short of attaining them (Hudson, 1995, x). Failing to attain the democratic ideals is, however, slightly different from what I try to establish. It could be that even the desirability of those ideals has come to be questioned in practice, although perhaps not so much in theory. As a result, democracy has been hollowed out and only its crust remains. Recent developments, the Eurozone crisis in particular, have provided ample evidence of democracy’s transformation into postdemocracy.

 

I. Postdemocracy

Postdemocracy is a term that has been used since the turn of the millennium. The most famous and prolific scholar on this topic is the British sociologist Colin Crouch, whose writings on the theme are groundbreaking (Crouch, 2004; 2009). In addition to Crouch, scholars like Werner (2001), Todd (2008) and Wolin (2008) have studied similar developments. Crouch, who has coined the term postdemocracy, emphasizes that a new kind of political class has been born. With globalization, a class of consultants working in the grey area between politics and business has practically taken over political parties from their elected leaders. This new class rules through networking with elites from other countries, and their influence is also the reason why policies seldom change even though different parties in multiparty-systems circulate in office. The agendas of political parties have converged in certain matters precisely because of this class of consultants and as a result we do not see any drastic changes even though the opposition gains power.

In stressing the elite character of democracy, postdemocracy can be seen as a further addition to the so-called elite theories, developed more than a century ago by scholars such as Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca and Robert Michels. Their argument is, in nuce, that elitism is an ever-recurring feature of politics and democracy is thus a mere illusion. Also in a democracy, elites have an interest in preserving the system that has made them elites and for this purpose they converge, cooperate and compromise. In the sympathetic pluralist view, elites serve in bringing the variety of societal views to harmony and thus furthering societal cohesion; but in a more critical view, elites manage political system in order to preserve the political order and thus also their privileged positions (Heinz et al., 1993, 262). The cooperation of elites and their influence on national policy making processes inevitably hollows out democracy, unless we subscribe to the pluralist view of democracy. One of the most interesting predecessors for this kind of approach is undoubtedly

James Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution, a book published as early as 1941. Burnham believed that capitalism is bound to give birth to a class of managers who do not have any connection to “the people” but feel more solidarity towards their ilk living internationally and manage the political system to their advantage. Crouch connects the birth of this new elite in postdemocracy with the decline in the political participation of the working class. There is no longer any counter-narrative from the political left to battle the right’s triumph in economic matters and increasingly we witness privatization and austerity in almost all established democracies which are more and more interested in contracting private companies than securing public services and employment with tax money. According to some critics, Crouch’s observations present problems only for social democracy, not for democracy in general or liberal democracy in particular. And herein lies a notable problem. It all comes down to the question what we mean by democracy, what model of democracy we are talking about. Crouch has defended his argument by claiming that the rise of political apathy of the masses connected to the rise of new business elite poses problems for any meaningful understanding of democracy and should worry also the liberalists because this new class of consultants distorts the working of the free market economy that the liberals so dearly love (Crouch, 2009, x-xi). Yet one could argue that this development of an expert elite is embedded in the standard definitions of democracy, especially the rather minimalist varieties which have been accepted as a kind of international norm of democracy. Precisely these minimalist liberal versions of democracy have been offered as the yardstick and the international norm, and the degree of democracy in other countries is measured against these models of democracy by organizations like Freedom House or Polity IV. The problem is that this is an ideological choice: although these democracy ratings are presented as a value-free, scientific-like study, they are supporting only one possible model of democracy, the Anglo-American model that stresses free market economy and individual rights (Piironen, 2005, 190). They stress the autonomy of the people and rights of the individual but do not pay attention to external boundaries of that autonomy (Piironen, 2005, 203). Crouch argues that a negative view of citizenship is gaining more emphasis as the rights of citizens protected against others and the state, but positive rights like participation, the right to receive accurate information, etc., are emphasized considerably less (Crouch, 2009, 13). Needless to mention, other ways to understand democracy are also available (agonistic democracy, deliberative democracy, inclusive democracy, etc.). It is partly this conception of minimum democracy, partly derivative of Schumpeter’s views (1942), that has paved the way for postdemocracybecause in it, democracy is reduced to a mere method through which the people can choose the elite ruling over them. The people are recognized as the supreme source of sovereignty but their participation in the actual policy-making process is not encouraged, saving the support expressed and legitimacy produced in elections. The actual policy-making capability rests instead with the experts who through responsible leadership are thought to maximize the welfare of the citizens, although neither liberalism nor democracy are logically dependent on the notion of welfare (Palumbo 2010, 320). Theory of this competitive leadership model of democracy is supplied by Weber and Schumpeter, and it has been the most dominant form of democracy since the Second World War, especially in the Western welfare states which are based on a consensus between two opposing views of democracy (Palumbo, 2010, 321). It is a compromise between those (usually right-wing) who stress individual liberty and pre-political rights in the face of tyrannical tendencies of the majority, and those (usually left-wing) who stress equality and see democracy as a tool of emancipation, breaking down class structures and expanding social rights. The modern Western welfare state is largely a compromise between these views, as the people are duly recognized as the only source of legitimate power and composed of equal citizens with universal suffrage, but the real power has been transferred to polyarchies who are then given the task of defining both the needs and interests of the people, as well as the means for maximizing it (Palumbo, 2010). Thus the “individual needs and interests were translated into monetary terms and satisfied by macroeconomic policies whose complexity was far beyond the comprehension of professional legislators (let alone common people) and therefore the domain of welfare technocrats” (Palumbo, 2010). This compromise was, of course, criticized by the ranks of political left and right alike. The right side highlighted the possible perverse consequences of majority rule and tried to tackle it with counter-majoritarian constraints, while the left flank called for a thicker concept of politics and democracy (Palumbo, 2010, 321-323). This compromise meant, among other things, the adoption of Keynesian economics for stabilization purposes. By the end of the 1960s this Keynesian consensus was torn apart by a legitimacy crisis, partly because of the “evident contradiction between the ideals of individual and social autonomy it preached, and the elitist practices it actually endorsed” (Palumbo, 2010, 323). But what followed was an even more elitist version of democracy, spurred by the neoliberal reforms of the welfare states which are still going on today. Keynesian macroeconomics has been replaced by policy tools derived from neoclassical economics, and the idea of democratic government is increasingly transforming into governance. From the formula “government of the people, government by the people, government for the people,” there has been a shift to undermining the whole idea of government and transforming it to governance. Many tendencies have given impetus to this development, especially globalization and the associated retreat of the state.

 

II. Globalization and the Retreat of the State

We can scrutinize the birth of postdemocracy by connecting it to the phenomenon known as globalization. In the recent years, there has been a clearly detectable general trend that citizens’ trust in democratic government has declined. Citizens have started to perceive their elected representatives to be both ineffective and unresponsive, which has led to calls for more direct democracy as a means to circumvent the entrenched career politicians and corrupt public officials (Lindaman, 2011). But the ineffectiveness of the politicians causing this disillusionment can be partly attributed to globalization, as the politicians’ control over outcomes is no longer what it used to be. Many commentators tend to regard globalization as something coming from outside the system of states and potentially challenging or threatening that system. This is not an accurate description because globalization is to a large extent a development that the states themselves have wanted and facilitated. Globalization is not necessarily threatening or weakening the state, since even in globalization the state remains the key actor (Holsti, 2004). Arguments proclaiming the erosion of state sovereignty in globalization are often missing the point because sovereignty can denote different things (Krasner, 1999). Many argue that states can no longer control the flow of capital, people or things very effectively and therefore conclude that state sovereignty is in decline. Yet this is only one aspect of sovereignty and it is not at all clear that sovereignty is declining if we understand it as legitimate authority instead of an ability to control things. Nobody questions the legitimacy of Norway, for example, to make treaties with other states or to send a team to the Olympic games, etc. That aspect of sovereignty, however, might also be increasingly eroded because political power is in a way escaping the constraints of the democratic political system. Strange (1996, 3, 196-197) has argued that the legitimacy crisis in Western democracies comes about because politicians continue to speak as if they had solutions to social and economic problems, but the people no longer believe them (Strange, 1996, 3). It was the people’s disillusionment with leaders that toppled down the Soviet Union and many other regimes in history, but this might also happen in Western democracies in the future, particularly because political power is sliding away from democratically elected politicians to nondemocratic actors. According to Strange, power has shifted from the state especially to the markets. The state is retreating and letting others to take care of its former duties. With globalization, more and more non-governmental actors emerge in the international sphere and states lose their capacities to an extent. The tighter interconnectedness of the political and economic systems also means that politicians have less choice than they used to. The retreat of the state can lead to a crisis of legitimacy because when the people realize that the leaders they have elected have no control over events, that the economic cycles cannot be stabilized with Keynesian countermeasures to save jobs, or that the fate of their state is decided increasingly in Washington, Berlin, Brussels, or Beijing, the only right conclusion is that voting in national elections is merely a symbolic gesture without any real effect (Strange, 1996, 197). This observation is likely to lead to political apathy, boredom and frustration, and also to a legitimacy crisis of the democratic system. Thus the people might actually possess a much better judgment of the situation and the politicians might be the last ones to understand that they do not actually have the power to do much even though they wanted to change things. Throughout the recent economic crisis, “citizens have expected their governments to provide some level of stability in the face of economic uncertainty. This is a lesson that politicians in developing-country democracies are not likely to forget; the consolidation and legitimacy of their fragile democratic systems will depend on their ability to deliver a greater measure of social protection” (Birdsall and Fukuyama, 2012, 52). Thus the answer to legitimacy crisis cannot be a more minimalist state and unregulated, free markets (Fukuyama, 2012). Something else needs to be devised in the situation, where more and more power from the state is slipping to non-state actors and to lower (regional) and higher (international) level actors. The apparent impotence of national governments in Western democracies to affect outcomes is partly due to the post-war liberal democratic strategy to build Western solidarity through economic openness and joint political governance (Ikenberry, 2012, 43-45). One element of the post-war strategy to battle economic depression and causes of war among Western countries was a kind of constitutionalism, meaning that “the Western nations would make systematic efforts to anchor their joint commitments in principled and binding institutional mechanisms. . . . They built long-term economic, political, and security commitments that were difficult to retract, and locked in the relationships, to the extent that sovereign states can” (Ikenberry, 2012, 44-45). In addition to this, globalization, forces of business and financial integration are shrinking the globe inexorably and producing “a more tightly interconnected system that ignores regional as well as national boundaries” (Ikenberry, 2012, 45). The liberal democratic strategy has gained further impetus from ideas like “good governance,” a concept that arose as international agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank started to add political conditions to their lending criteria for developing countries (Bevir, 2010, 96-104). Good governance arose out of the liberal faith in representative democracy and free markets and was explicitly tied to neoliberal ideas like NPM (New Public Management). However, it could be claimed that the primary concern was not so much about democracy but over eradicating corruption and other barriers to free markets. Thus good governance carries an overwhelming commitment to free markets and hence a kind of bias to a certain model of economic theory which could also be challenged by, for instance, Keynesianism (Bevir, 2010). The most conspicuous example of the post-war liberal democratic strategy within the Western countries has been, of course, the European Union (EU).

The EU is also the clearest example of postdemocratic governance. The real power in the EU decision making lies with the European Commission and big member states. During the recent Eurozone crisis, actors like the European Central Bank and IMF also have more say over matters normally falling within the scope of national sovereignty. In a very fundamental sense, politics in the EU is not like that in any other political community because it is not seen as a result of common endeavor of the citizens, but instead is left to an undefined group of experts. The citizens of the EU do not form a collective subject, “the people of the EU,” and politics as such is handled by the network of experts and institutions with dubious democratic legitimacy (Somek, 2008). The democratic element in the EU lies with the European parliament, but its role in the functioning of the EU is rather marginal. The aim of the whole project is veiled from the citizens and nobody knows how deep the integration will be and how far the geographical enlargement will proceed. In a very blatant sense, the EU is a democracy without its subject, the demos (Kraus, 2008), or even a democracy without democracy (Bellamy, 2010). As more and more power is stripped from national governments and  foreign policy of the EU harmonized, it starts to resemble a federal state, the United States of Europe. No matter what one thinks about this development, its democratic legitimacy is nevertheless dubious. It has been common to accuse the EU of democratic deficit. In the EU, “such nominally democratic structures as popular elections and a parliament are formally in place. Yet virtually all observers agree that a gigantic ‘democratic deficit’ remains. Crucial decisions mainly come about through bargaining among political and bureaucratic elites. Limits are set not by democratic processes but mainly by what negotiators can get others to agree to and by considering the likely consequences for national and international markets. Bargaining, hierarchy, and markets determine the outcomes. Except to ratify the results, democratic processes hardly play a role” (Dahl, 2000, 115). Basically the EU derives its legitimacy from the member states, but the real issue from the viewpoint of postdemocracy is that even the member states transferring that legitimacy and sovereignty to the EU are increasingly losing their legitimacy. They cannot authorize and legitimize the actions of the EU if they themselves are growing increasingly illegitimate. The real question thus is not whether the EU should try to transform into a more democratic community and whether it will succeed in doing this, but whether or not its member states will be able to remain democratic (Palumbo, 2010, 332-333). The whole existence of the EU is based on the rather Schumpeterian idea of experts maximizing the interests and meeting the needs of the people, without actually asking the people what they want. Yet the democratic output of the EU does not turn it into a democracy because the input would also have to be democratic (Bellamy, 2010). In order to achieve popular control equaling that of national governments, political leaders in international organizations like the EU should create ways for the people to participate, influence and control the policies, and that might not be very easily arranged (Dahl, 2000, 115-116). The EU’s legitimacy is based on the legitimacy of the member states, but that legitimacy too could be eroded. Although the state remains the key actor and center of power in both international and domestic politics, it seems to be hollowed out. What are left are the vestiges of democracy. The neoliberal reforms, with the penchant for privatization and governance networks, have left liberal democratic states seemingly intact but have nevertheless ousted all meaningful content from them. Policy-making power belonging to democratically elected politicians is nowadays forwarded at an increasing pace to private corporations, third sector partners and officials that are not politically accountable in any meaningful way. At the same time states and their leaders, especially the United States and the EU, may be assuming far greater power than their electorate can give them. In the United States, the

Constitution has been normally viewed as limiting state power, but during the Bush presidency it was all of a sudden seen as a source and legitimatization of the “greatest power in the world” without territorial restrictions (Wolin, 2008, 43). The subject of democracy, the people, did not possess that kind of power to begin with, so how can they delegate it democratically to their leaders? Democracy is no more compatible with world domination than is the “political,” which is primarily a way to preserve commonality while legitimating and reconciling differences (Wolin, 2008, 61). In the EU, even the whole subject of democracy, “the people,” is in a sense missing,

so how can it legitimate the actions of its leaders? How can the leaders be democratically accountable? The real paradox of modern democracy (and one path towards postdemocracy) is that while “in the abstract the demos has the authority of electing, it lacks effective power to control or set the terms of actual elections, including the regulation of campaign finance, television ads and debate

formats. Instead we have the phenomenon of highly managed elections controlled by those who use the resources and know-how of economic organizations to manipulate the capture of authority” (Wolin, 2008, 149). Of course, one of the oldest arguments against the majority rule is the observation that the opinion of the majority can be easily manipulated. The anti-majoritarian rules and procedures are normally considered a healthy check against the irrationality of the masses in order to prevent “threats” like socialism, but nevertheless “the most serious incursions into the political and civil liberties, for example, have come not from tyrannical majorities representative of the poor, the needy, or the struggling middle classes but from the representatives of the elites” (Wolin, 2008, 158). The retreat of the state and the emergence and growing role of non-state actors in international politics is not necessarily a bad thing for democracy as NGOs can influence the processes of norm building and thus construct a kind of stakeholder community and public power beyond the state (Macdonald, 2008). Yet the problem in these developments is connected to the questions of accountability, legitimacy, and representation, and the attempts to democratize the non-governmental organizations would require non-electoral mechanisms for legitimating their authority as representative agencies of stakeholder constituencies (Macdonald, 2008, 192). This may not be very easily achieved. The decreasing legitimacy of the political system has anyway prompted attempts to increase citizens’ participation. The problem is that in these projects democracy becomes a top-down policy and people participate because their leaders want them to do so.

 

III. Governance Networks

While the declining voter turnouts and political participation in general can be seen as a development towards postdemocracy, states have nevertheless become worried about the lowering rate of participation. The rationale is that lowering turnouts also lower the legitimacy of the state and its leaders. There is a widespread acknowledgement on the part of the state too that the traditional political system might not be enough to secure higher turnouts. Therefore, all sorts of governance networks are devised to activate citizens. Yet, a cynic might point out that the need for these is precisely a point blank affirmation that the traditional ways of participation have grown

obsolete. More importantly, although admittedly many of these projects are benevolent and their aim is to genuinely increase democratic participation, their approach insidiously or unwittingly transforms democracy into a top-down policy. Democracy thus appears as a policy produced by the government as a part of administrative process. In Finland, for example, a special unit called “Democracy Policy” has been created under the Ministry of Justice to enhance the direct participation of citizens in addition to the representative democracy. They have published a report titled “The Outlines of Democracy Policy” in which they try to figure out the threats against and opportunities of democracy in the near future Quite interestingly, they recognize a change in the style of participation; because today’s youth tend to participate politically through consumer boycotts, writing blogs, etc., rather than through party membership. They also recognize that the channels of participation are not very good and it may lead to political passivity. They attribute this lack of participation to the external factors like globalization, immigration and the EU that allegedly poses challenges to nation-states. A cynic might point out that the real aim of these concerns is not so much to further the possibilities of citizens’ participation but rather to produce legitimacy for the government. They try to enhance the democratic input of the political system, but the people may be wiser in judging that the input does no longer have a clear causal relation with the output. The declining rate of participation and voter turnout may be a very rational reaction on the part of the people because the meaning and effect of participation is no longer what it used to be and elected politicians no longer possess as much power to affect outcomes as they previously did. In regard to these projects aimed at activating the people, a few points are noteworthy. Firstly, passivity is a right in democracy and it can also be interpreted as a sign of mistrust towards the rulers and the political system. Therefore, it should not be artificially increased to produce more legitimacy. Secondly, the role of the people in these projects is that of a consultant, who only speaks when he is asked. Through various governance networks the state picks up certain focus groups from the people and consults them in policy-making. These hearings are detrimental to democracy because who gets to join is decided from above. The state is under a naïve impression that including civil society organizations, grass-root political movements and third sector actors in policy-making processes would make those processes democratic or legitimate because “stakeholders” are involved. This is not the case, because these voluntary organizations have no obligation to be democratic in their own functioning in any way nor do they represent all stakeholders. The state can decide who is involved and who is not and use a selection bias to ensure the results it wants. Paradoxically, these governance networks carry the seed of destruction of democracy despite their opposite intention. When more and more government tasks are given to third sector actors in the name of democracy, this produces a democratic deficit and a lack of accountability. The third sector actors, grass-root movements and private corporations have no obligation to be democratic in their practice, nor are they politically accountable to their voters like politicians. They are not legally responsible like state officials, nor politically accountable like politicians. Therefore, governance networks produce another grey area of democracy and create a class of semi-politicians with some power but no responsibility. Some

scholars, such as Keane (2009), see networked democracy also as a possibility to reinvigorate democracy through increased ability to monitor leaders and policies, but others see governance networks more as a threat to democracy than its savior because the services previously provided by the state have been transferred to networks of quasi-governmental and private organizations that have committed to market-oriented techniques. As Bevir (2010, 96) has noted, representative democracy has hitherto been associated with a model in which elected officials make policies which public officials then implement, and in which the officials are accountable to politicians and the politicians to the voters. In contrast to this, in new models of governance these lines of accountability are severely disrupted because “in new governance, policies are being implemented and even created by private sector and voluntary sector actors. There are often few lines of accountability tying these actors back to elected officials, and those few are too long to be effective. In addition, the complex webs of actors involved can make it almost impossible for the principle to hold any one agent responsible for a particular policy” (Bevir, 2010, 96). Networks of governance also produce a democratic deficit in the international sphere because states have created regulatory institutions that oversee domestic policies, and the officials of these institutions set more and more international institutionalized norms, agreements and policies governing domains such as economy and environment (Bevir, 2010, 96). One and an arguable one of the most influential networks is the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which influences not only the national policies of the member states but also affects by way of benchmarking and normative power the policies of many non-member states. The OECD offers mostly recommendations which are not binding, but these recommendations can often be rhetorically handy in domestic politics for those who wish to abide by them. The OECD has sometimes been seen as a secretive body concocting ultra-liberal policies on behalf of trans-national capital in isolation from public interest, but there are also mechanisms of accountability in the organization, although the accountability tends to vary according to policy areas (Ougaard, 2011). However, the inclusion of NGOs, for instance, is not enough to make the policy-making process democratic as NGOs in general have no obligation to be democratic or representative of the whole citizenry. The question of democratic accountability of increasingly global governance is pending and has not yet been solved as the reality remains opaque. Most regulatory processes, like the G8 and the Asia-Europe Meeting, are mostly informal and in today’s global governance it is simply not clear who is responsible for what and to what extent. For example, who or which agencies should be called to account for regulatory failure in the recurrent crises of global finance (Scholte, 2011, 308)? The international organizations are not likely to meet the crucial requirements of being democratic in the future either. Decision are made by bargaining among elites and even though democratic processes may from time to time intervene and set the limits, “to call the political practices of international system ‘democratic’ would be to rob the term of all meaning” (Dahl, 2000, 117). Thus internationalization usually is detrimental to democracy because there are no effective solutions as to how to legitimate decisions democratically, how to represent all citizens equally, or how to hold decision makers accountable.

Although states feel the need to increase citizen participation, Wolin (2008, 44) thinks that there is a clear transformation from a mass movementbased democracy to “inverted totalitarianism” that “succeeds by encouraging political disengagement rather than mass mobilization.” Whereas the totalitarian regimes have been and still are interested in constructing a mass opinion—a huge majority to back up their legitimacy and plans— the postdemocratic pollsters proceed by splintering the citizenry into distinct categories and thus dividing the electorate into subcategories that candidates can target with tailored messages, the effect of which is “to accentuate what separates citizens, to plant suspicion and thereby further Postdemocracy and the End of History 149

promote demobilization by making it more difficult to form coherent majorities around common beliefs” (Wolin, 2008, 59-60). Regional, gender or educational differences within the electorate are highlighted and thus a suspicion is incited about the possibility of majority and common good reached by electoral means. A noteworthy point is that in this light, “negative, foolish campaigns that disgust voters and discourage them from voting become a conscious tactic to facilitate selling the candidate. Because less educated and less affluent voters are less likely to participate to begin with and are more easily discouraged, these techniques increase the bias of appeals to the more affluent” (Hudson, 1995, 134). Democracy is transforming into managed democracy, in which governments are legitimated by elections they are able to control to a large extent and democratic myths prevail while democratic practices have lost substance (Wolin, 2008, 47, 52). Rather than revolting against an existing system or challenging it, postdemocracy or managed democracy claims to be defending it and thus its “genius lies in wielding total power without appearing to” (Wolin, 2008, 56-57).

 

IV. Corporations and Managers

Into the aforementioned transformations we can also add the growing influence of all sorts of consultants from the private sector advising political parties and the government as a whole. In general, the increasing political role of global corporations tends to pose a challenge to democracy. The role of corporations in postdemocracy is well analyzed by Crouch (2009,31-52). Volpi (2009), Culpepper (2010) and Crouch (2011) also voice similar concerns. It is, indeed, the political role played by corporations and managers that has partly facilitated the birth of postdemocracy. And here we may return to James Burnham’s idea of the managerial revolution. Burnham’s book, published as early as 1941, argues that capitalism has ceased to be and many countries in the West have already transformed into managerial societies. He denies that capitalism is going to be a permanent system, but he also denies that it is going to be replaced by communism. Instead, it will be replaced by managerialism, with a distinctive social class (the managers)struggling for power in society. Whereas in capitalism the owners were the ruling class, the managers have liberated themselves from the owner’s interests and are able to manipulate and effectively control corporations owned by others, be it private or state-owned. They will “exercise their control over the instruments of production, not directly, through property rights vested in them as individuals, but indirectly, through their control of the state which in turn will own and control the instruments of production” (Burnham 1941, 72). Burnham (1941) argues that capitalism cannot solve problems like mass unemployment or continuing economic depression, but managerial society can. He is referring mainly to non-capitalist solutions in Germany, the Soviet Union and Italy in the 1930s, but what interests us here more than the economic side of managerialism, are its political implications. Managers, Burnham argues, shift the locus of sovereignty. Within capitalism, parliament has been the locus of sovereignty, and parliament suits well for ruling the limited state in capitalism. Yet, the state has transformed and its ruling is no longer done through parliament. Sovereignty has been slipping away from parliaments (Burnham, 1941, 143) and although it still may formally be the place of sovereignty, its claims to sovereignty are disputed as more and more laws are made through executive agencies in stead of parliaments or the Congress in the United States (Burnham, 1941, 147).The executive branch of government has been in constant expansion and many of these agencies are not only out of democratic control but basically also out of any control by the government. In the managerial society,” sovereignty is localized in administrative bureaus” who “proclaim the rules, make the laws, issue the decrees” (Burnham, 1941, 148). This development is not the result of power-hungry managers vying for control, but a result of the state’s transition: “Parliament was the sovereign body of the limited state of capitalism. The bureaus are the sovereign bodies of the unlimited state of managerial society. A state which is building roads and steel mills and houses and electric plants and shipyards, which is the biggest of all bankers and farmers and movies producers, which in the end is the corporate manager of all the major instruments of economic production, can hardly be run like the state which collected a few taxes, handled a leisure diplomacy, and prosecuted offenders against the law. Nor can the same kind of men run it. The new agencies and new kinds of agency are formed to handle the new activities and extensions of activity. As these activities overbalance the old, sovereignty swings, also, over to the new agencies” (Burnham,1941, 148-149). As democracy is a convenient way to let off steam from the unprivileged classes without endangering the foundations of the state, the managerial class will favor a sort of controlled democracy rather than risk social downfall in a revolution (Burnham, 1941, 167 -168). But the democracy of the capitalist society is on the way out or already gone (Burnham, 1941,171) and transforms into non-parliamentary, controlled democracy. Burnham’s analysis is another way of saying that democracy has retained its form and masquerade, but its contents have long gone. Because of globalization, the rise of governance networks and political influence of private corporations, democracy has been hollowed out. Some argue that the state is retreating and letting others take care of its former duties (Strange,1996; Bevir, 2010), some argue that the state is expanding beyond any measure and control (Burnham, 1941; Higgs, 1987; Bovard, 2005). Both observations are true in some sense, but in both cases democracy is the one that loses. In either case, the democratic accountability is diminished. Democracy remains, but transforms into controlled, managed democracy or postdemocracy. The role of the private corporations in postdemocracy has also been analyzed by Wolin (2008) who has labeled the present situation in the United States as “managed democracy.” The old virtues of democracy, like voluntary participation and membership in grass-root citizen movements, have all but vanished and the degree of democracy has diminished, as also Skocpol(2003) has argued. The already close ties of corporations and governments are tightening and policies are increasingly formulated in collaboration with corporations rather than public interest representatives. To an extent, the business model of doing politics also means that the secrecy of foreign politics is stretching also to domestic affairs. More and more important political issues, like for instance the deal made on the Finnish demands for collateral in Greek bailout issue in the current Euro zone crisis, are classified as business secrets. Therefore, the people have no way of knowing whether or not the demands for collateral were met.

V. Conclusion

It is curious that present normative alternatives to democracy are largely on-existing and all future visions seem to be reduced to a mere tinkering of democracy. Even those systems that are considered un-democratic bysome standards claim to be but another variant of democracy (Greven, 2009,83-84), and many attempts to theoretically develop something different are often just another democracy with a prefix. Democracy’s triumph has been so devastating that alternative scenarios are hard to consider other than as variants of democracy. Yet postdemocracy is not an alternative normative model to democracy. It represents a development endemic to democracy itself, one that will challenge democracy from within. Also Fukuyama (2012, 58-59) has pointed out that certain developments in the present world, certain economic and social trends, might threaten the stability of liberal democracies and possibly even “dethrone democratic ideology as it is now understood.” He thinks that the middle class will especially grow disillusioned by the recent developments as “globalized capitalism is eroding the middle-class social base on which liberal democracy rests” (Fukuyama, 2012, 53).

Yet the legitimacy crisis now peaking with financial crises might be traced back in history, to the aforementioned development of the postdemocratic tendencies within established democracies. We can attribute part of the blame to globalization, although we should not, of course, treat globalizations impersonal, faceless process coming from outside the states-system.Kupchan (2012, 63-64) thinks that the governments in the industrialized West have entered a period of pronounced ineffectiveness for three reasons. Firstly, globalization has made many policy tools ineffective and democracies have less control over outcomes than they used to. Secondly, the West is no longer in control of the international system the way it used to, because consensus among like-minded Western states is no longer enough. Thirdly, democracies seem responsive when electorates are content with rising expectations but work considerably worse when citizens are downcast and divided, because they are better at distributing benefits than apportioning sacrifice.

Rising inequality, stagnating wages, globalization, etc., are definitely diminishing the efficiency and thus also the legitimacy of the democratic governments of the West, but I think part of the blame lies in the definition of democracy itself. Kupchan (2012, 67) thinks that by pursuing progressive populist policies that “advantage mass publics rather than the party faithful or special interest, politicians can not only rebuild their popularity but also reinvigorate democratic institutions and the values of citizenship and sacrifice.” Fukuyama (2012, 61) asserts the need for a new narrative or ideology that “would be populist; the message would begin with a critique of the elites that allowed the benefit of the many to be sacrificed to that of the few.” It is rather strange that there are calls to transform democracy in such a way that it would serve the people’s interest, because one would suppose that this is what democracy means. But this is not what Western democracies have been in practice, because by stressing the minimalist conceptions of democracy that emphasize individual rights and free-market economy before citizen participation and leave the maximizing of welfare to an elite composed of technocrats, the democracies of the West have been sort of postdemocracies, managed democracies or controlled democracies for sometime. Even the benevolent attempts to increase citizen participation and the rise of governance networks create a threat to democracy rather than strengthen it, because in those models of governance the most vociferous and better resourced associations get their message through more easily and democratic equality is thus endangered. The large-scale removal of publicly funded tasks from the state to the private or third sector actors creates another threat to democracy rather than strengthens it because lines of accountability are severely disrupted and policies are increasingly formulated outside the political system. Mandelbaum (2007, 238-243) has outlined different scenarios that could trigger some sort of downfall of democracy in established democracies of the West. Firstly, as democracy has been more successful than any other form of government in providing prosperity for its citizens, the inability to produce prosperity might trigger its downfall. A global recession led to allsorts of undemocratic solutions in democratic countries in the 1930s and it might do that again, as better economic performance might be searched from non-democratic solutions. Secondly, the breakdown of order as a result of terrorism, environmental catastrophe, etc. could easily trigger a slide away from democracy if the networks of transportation, commerce and communication are destroyed. To restore power and security, people would be ready to embrace non-democratic solutions. According to Mandelbaum(2007, 242), it would nevertheless take a “massive discontinuity in their social and economic lives for the established democracies to abandon democracy.” I would not be as optimistic as Mandelbaum. It may be that democracy will not be successfully challenged as an idea like Fukuyama claimed, normight there be conditions were the established democracies would solemnly denounce democracy and change to something else, but in practice democracy has already been jettisoned in many established democracies. Like many other changes in the history of politics, it has not happened first in theory, but in practice. Although a recognizable and rhetorically supported theory of democracy is still there in the background, practice has outdistanced the theoretical framework. Established democracies might not be deepening their democracy, but sliding away from it or superseding it. To return to the opening motto, it truly seems that democracy is on the way out in established democracies. When eyes have been turned to nondemocratic countries struggling to democratize, the established democracies have been insidiously sliding away from democracy. In the contemporary situation, many democracies have already turned into postdemocracies, which means that they have retained the democratic theory and masquerade, but in practice they have taken steps away from it. In this sense Fukuyama’soriginal thesis on the end of history is both correct and false at the sametime. It is correct in the sense that democracy as an idea has not been (and might not be) successfully challenged in theory, but in practice democratic governments are increasingly abandoning democratic restraints. Although the political system may still be seemingly democratic, political power is increasingly ousted from the elected politicians as more and more policies are initiated, formulated and ratified outside the political system.

 

REFERENCES

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and Majority Rule?” Journal of European Public Policy, 17(1): 2-19.

Bevir, Mark. 2010. Democratic Governance. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Birdsall, Nancy and Francis Fukuyama. 2012. “The Post-Washington Consensus:

Development after the Crisis.” Foreign Affairs, 91(1): 51-52.

Bovard, James. 2005. Attention Deficit Democracy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Burnham, James. 1941. The Managerial Revolution. What Is Happening in the World. New

York: The John Day Company.

Crouch, Colin. 2004. Postdemocrazia. Rome-Bari: Laterza.

———. 2009. Post-Democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press.

———. 2011. The Strange Non-death of Neoliberalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Culpepper, Pepper D. 2010. Quiet Politics and Business Power. Corporate Control in Europe and

Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahl, Robert. 2000. On Democracy. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.

Fukuyama, Francis. 1992. The End of History and the Last Man. London: Hamish Hamilton.

———. 2012. “The Future of History: Can Liberal Democracy Survive the Decline of the

Middle Class?” Foreign Affairs, 91(1): 53-61.

Greven, Michael. 2009. “The Erosion of Democracy—The Beginning of The End?”

Redescriptions, 2011(13): 83-102.

Heinz, John P., Edward O. Laumann, Robert L. Nelson, and Robert H. Salisbury.

1993. The Hollow Core: Private Interest in National Policy Making. Cambridge: Harvard

University Press.

Higgs, Robert. 1987. Crisis and Leviathan. Critical Episodes in the Growth of American

Government. New York: Oxford University Press.

Holsti, Kalevi J. 2004. Taming the Sovereigns. Institutional Change in International Politics.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Postdemocracy and the End of History 155

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(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Comment Comment (1 comments)

Reply Report huaren2323 2013-3-9 05:13
THE VERY DEFINITION OF DEMOCRACY IS PREDICATED WITH THE PRESENCE OF MECHANISM TO REGULATE A NATION WITH POWER FLOWING FROM THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE..... <SEE DEFINITION BELOW>
government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents ...
WHILE I AGREE AUTHORS' CONCLUSION THAT THE USA BRAND OF DEMOCRACY BEATS FASCISM, COMMUNISM, I DO NOT SHARE THEIR CONCLUSION THAT IT IS ON ITS WAY TO OBSOLETE THEMSELVES. THE AUTHOR'S PREMISE WERE BASED ON THE USA MODEL WHO CREATED ITS BRAND OF DEMOCRACY AS IT ATTEMPTED TO REMOVE THE SHACKLE OF THE BRITISH MONARCHY FROM BEING MADE INTO A SERVILE STATE OF THIS MONARCHY. (THE ORIGINAL BRAND WAS CREATED BY NAPOLEAN BONAPARTE WHEN HE CHOPPED THE HEAD OFF KING LOUIS XVI..THUS GIVING WAY TO FIRST DEMOCRACY OF CIVILIZATION. NOTE THAT THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WAS A GIFT FROM FRANCE TO USA AND SO WAS THE STATE OF LOUISIANA TO SPITE ENGLAND AND UNITE USA AND CANADA AGAINST ENGLAND). THIS SAME DEMOCRACY IN USA FACES ITS MOST SERIOUS CHALLENGE IN THE DEPRESSION OF 1930s DUE TO EXCESSES OF ITS CAPITALISTS THEN AS IT HAD AGAIN ERUPTED IN 2009.

Were it not for its RESOURCES AND UNWILLING PARTICIPATION TO FACE OFF NAZI FASCIST AND THE COMMUNIST BEARS, USA WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN THE COMMANDING HEIGHTS THAT IT FINDS ITSELF EVEN UNTIL TODAY. CHINA BY DEFINITION IS A DEMOCRACY SO IS RUSSIA AND MANY OTHER NATIONS COMMONLY REGARDED AS TOTALITARIAN, SOCIALISTIC, AND UN-DEMOCRATIC AS ARE SINGAPORE, SOUTH KOREA, KAZAHKSTAN BECAUCE THE RULING BODIES WERE CONSTITUTED FROM THE SELECTION OF REPRESENTATIVES FROM THEIR DEMOGRAPHICS ALBEIT WITH A DOMINANT PARTY STRUCTURE. WELL IT WORKS IN UPLIFTING THEM FROM THE MISERY AND OPPRESSION OF POVERTY AND IGNORANCE.

THE ONLY TRUE DANGER TO THE WORLD ARE ROGUE NATIONS CONTROL BY ONE FAMILY OR ONE PERSON LIKE THE LATE SADAAM HUSSEIN, MOAMMAR GHADAFFI, AND THE CURRENT NORTH KOREAN LEADERSHIP. ITS DANGER LIES IN THE ULTIMATE DECISION RESTING ON A VERY SELECTED FEW AND BEING HUMAN AS THEY ARE, THEY DO MAKE MISTAKES, ERGO DANGEROUS ONES THAT MAY BE SUICIDAL AS SENATOR MENEDEZ DESCRIBED THE CURRENT NORTH KOREAN ATTITUDE.

IN SHORT, THE WORLD IS REALLY MADE UP OF DEMOCRATIC NATIONS IN FORM SHAPE AND MANNER THAT BEST WORKS FOR THEM. THE REAL CHALLENGE IS TO MAKE SURE THE DISTRIBUION OF WEALTH AND POWER IS BALANCED. THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF MANKIND, THERE IS ALWAYS A DYNAMIC BALANCE OF MAJOR COMBATANTS. THE KEY TO PEACE IS THE  UNDERSTANDING THAT USING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (wmd) IN ITSELF IS SELF-DEFEATING AS ITS OUTCOME IS MUTUAL DESTRUCTION.

BELOW IS MY UNDERSTANDING OF HIS OTHER PREDICTION : Fukuyama predicts that humanity's control of its own evolution will have a great and possibly terrible effect on the liberal democracy
I DO NOT SHARE THIS EITHER...IMPERIAL CHNA WAS AT ITS PINNACLE OF ITS CULTURE AND MATERIAL AFFLUENCE THAT EUROPEANS DIE TO FIND THE ROUTE TO ANCIENT CATHY,,OF COURSE AFTER DISCOVERING IT VIA THE OCEAN ROUTE WESTWARD THE EUROPEANS DECIDED TO CARVE AND CONSUME IT LIKE A PIECE OF CHICKEN/BEEF INSTEAD OF CONSUMING THE EGGS OR THE MILK. THESE EXTRACTIVE MONARCHY, WAS SELF-DESTRUCTIVE AND TRIGGERED A LEGACY OF WHOLESALE CONTINENTAL EUROPE RACE TO COLONIZE THE WORLD WITH JAPAN JOINING AS LATECOMER INTO THE FRAY. DEMOCRATIC EUROPE WITH AGENDA TO CREATE SLAVE NATIONS UNDER THEIR CONTROL. BEING EVIL THIS INEVITABLY LEAD OF COURSE TO 1ST AND THEN 2ND WORLD WARS AMONG THE EUROPEANS BECAUSE THERE IS NO LIMIT TO HUMAN GREED. I BELIEVE THE SURVIVAL OF THE HUMAN RACE AND THE CONITNUITY OF THE WORLD ORDER AS WE KNOW IT MUST TAKE ON ANOTHER TRANSFORMATION WITHIN THE MEANING OF DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION OF ALL AND MUTUAL BENEFITS OTHERWISE THE WORLD WILL HAVE TO ENDURE THE CONSTANT DRAMA OF A CYCLICAL WAR AND PEACE NO MATTER IT IS DEMOCRACY OR CRAZY DEMOGOUE . LEAVE TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE ALONE THEY ARE EXCELLENT FOR OUR LIFESTYLE AS WE KNOW IT TODAY. UNLESS YOU WISH TO BAIL WATER FROM YOUR WELL, GRIND YOUR OWN CORN, BAKE YOUR OWN BREAD, AND FARM FOR YOUR OWN CEREAL AND COLLECT MILK FROM YOUR OWN COW.

GOOD ARTICLE BUT VEIWPOINT FROM USA AND EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE THAT IS BECOMING STALE DAILY WITHIN THE REALITIES OF THE CONTEXT THAT WE ARE NOW A GLOBAL VILLAGE.

Fukuyama himself later conceded that his thesis was incomplete, but for a different reason: &quot;there can be no end of history without an end of modern natural science and technology&quot; (quoted from Our Posthuman Future). Fukuyama predicts that humanity's control of its own evolution will have a great and possibly terrible effect on the liberal democracy.

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