29 April 2010

Trend: Public offices for sale in Indian villages

The "Times of India" reported on 28 April 2010 about a trend in Indian villages and small towns to get rid of democratic elections and sell their public offices to the highest bidder instead (article "Doing away with GP polls is undemocratic" by political correspondent Rishikesh Bahadur Desai).

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpt: "People of Nayi Tegur have not voted in a Gram Panchayat [local government] Election for 23 years now. Residents of a Mandya village elected a gram panchayat member who vowed to donate money to the temple of the village deity. Villagers of Gumageri, Bhagya Nagar and Huchaganur in Koppal have awarded GP seats to the highest bidders. Such incidents raise an important, yet uncomfortable question: Are elections evil? Worse still, is that the government seems to be supporting such ideas. In an interview with the 'Times of India' some time ago, RDPR [Rural Development and Panchayat Raj] minister Jagadish Shettar said the government was considering rewarding villages where people chose their representatives unanimously and avoided elections. Elections, he believes, cause a lot of discord in the villages and avoiding them is the way to harmony. An officer on special duty to a minister has announced panchayats forgoing polling will be rewarded Rs 1 lakh [100,000 rupees/approx. 2,250 US dollars] from the government."

28 April 2010

Article: Against the Myth of Democratic Rights and Liberties

"Communism", the "[c]entral review in English of the Internationalist Communist Group (ICG)", twice published an English translation of the same unsigned (quite likely collectively authored) article originally written in Spanish. While I don't know the date or title of the original article, the first translation was published in November 1983 in issue No. 1 of that review. An improved translation, titled "Against the Myth of Democratic Rights and Liberties", was published in issue No. 8 in July 1993.

The second version of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "In the same way as two opposite classes exist, there are two fundamental conceptions of workers' struggle. One is bourgeois, where one criticizes the lack of equality, of democracy, where one should fight for more rights and liberties. The other is proletarian, based on an understanding of the fact that the roots of all those liberties, rights and equalities are essentially of anti-worker type. This leads to the total practical destruction of the democratic State with its equality, rights and liberties. These two opposite conceptions show the contradiction between, on one hand, passive criticism – to improve, reform, and in this way, reiinforce [sic] the exploitation system – and, on the other hand, active criticismm [sic] , our criticism – the destruction of that exploitation system. [...]

"[T]he mass of human rights and liberties correspond exactly to the ideal form of the reproduction of capitalist oppression. Let's see what this ideal form of democracy is and where it comes from. [...] The party of order, the general party of Capital, or in other words, all the bourgeois parties, is totally unable to face the proletariat [...] as an autonomous force and there is nothing more efficient for the bourgeoisie than the mass of human rights and liberties to drown the working-class, to dissolve it in the false concept of the 'people'. When the proletariat stops existing as a class, when each worker is a good citizen, with his liberties, rights and duties, he accepts all the rules of the game that atomize him and drown him in the mass where his specific class interests disappear. As a good citizen, he does not exist as a class, this is the condition for democracy to work. [...]

"Some people will point out that nowhere such rights and liberties can be found, that everywhere there are prisoners, everywhere the right to strike is limited, that in this country the right of property is limited and that in that country only one party is allowed, etc. All this is obvious. Nevertheless, in all these countries, there is a faction of the bourgeoisie that will criticize the lack of democracy of different governments, and to do so, it must have a democratic ideal as reference. This is exactly what we want to explain and denounce. It is the only way to break with the bourgeois criticism of democracy and to recognize the enemy in all the defenders of a pure and perfect democracy. Indeed, as well as democracy being the product and the reflection of the mercantile basis of capitalist society, it is also the reference of all bourgeois criticisms which only aim at correcting the imperfections of democracy [...].

"The right of election means that every 4, 5, 6, 7, ... years, the worker can dress as a citizen to go and choose his oppressors freely. [...] The so-called rights and liberties even give the workers the 'privilege' to choose between the self-named 'worker parties': to choose the one that will be the most capable of directing the State of Capital and to organize the massacre of the proletarians who would tend to ignore the directives of the big 'worker' parties and who would refuse what the majority has decided. [...] The parties never hesitate in using white terror against the workers' class movement, and always in the name of democracy and liberty, of the right to work, of the respect of the trade-union's decisions ... Without any doubt, the same thing will happen every time the workers' association will become a school for communism, every time the question of socialism will stop being a question of words and a struggle will be carried on, not only for the increase in wages, but for the abolition of wage-labour. [...]

"Repression is democratic because it strikes when the workers leave their uniform of citizenship to act as a class, when they stop accepting being a well disciplined army for the valorization of Capital, for which the bourgeoisie had given them these rights and liberties. [...] Repression of all those who do not accept to behave as good citizens is the logical answer to the bourgeois desire for a democratic paradise. [...] As soon as the proletariat organises as a class, tries to attack the Capital dictatorship, democracy shows its terrorist face; as long as its dictatorship holds on firmly, democracy can show its liberal face to the stupid mass. [...] In the same way that, under capitalism, every worker is potentially unemployed, any worker who does not accept the rules of the citizenship game is, potentially, a prisoner. Repression, torture, murder are only applications of democracy. [...]

"For all these reasons, the communist position [...] is to assert without doubt that the organization of the proletariat is based on no right, no law, no liberty conceded by its enemy but on the contrary, is based on illegal action [....] That does not mean that we abandon a strike when it becomes legal, or that we do not publish and distribute revolutionary press when it can circulate legally or that we refuse to get out of prison when a judge sets us free. That would simply be reacting antithetically on the same legal field. [...] To fight on the illegal field means assuming all tasks independently of all democratic rights and liberties, which are only decisions of our enemy and therefore a strategy of the bourgeoisie to fight us." (all italics originally underline)

26 April 2010

Article: Capital and Democracy

In 2006, the Hungarian anarchist "Barricade Collective" wrote an introduction and commentary, titled "Capital and Democracy", to a 1969 text by French communist theorist Jacques Camatte ("La mystification démocratique").

Both an undated English translation of the original text by Camatte, "The Democratic Mystification", and the more recent introduction and commentary (which may or may not have been written in Hungarian initially) can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts from the introduction: "The dead labour's independence [as value] and its dominance over living productive activity – this necrophilia of capital – yields the present disgusting relationship between individuals and the loathsome ideology which adheres to it: the practice and the theory of bourgeois democracy. [...] Democracy assumes different forms according to the forms of productive labour and the extension of commodity production. Ancient democracy was an internal affair of the ruling class, because only free citizens were commodity owners (namely owners of the land, the slaves and their products). In modern bourgeois democracy everybody is a commodity owner, and the key commodity for the bourgeoisie – labour force – is put on the market by the working class. Hence, democracy is total now. [...] Political parties – i.e. the parties of the bourgeoisie, including the social democratic parties – have never represented more than the alternatives of the development of capital, in other words the interests of some ruling class groups. The democratic (parliamentary) principle was the guarantee that the political management would not separate from the interests of aggregate capital. [...]

"When capital comes to a profound crisis, it seems to break with the democratic principle. During the crisis, a huge mass of constant capital loses its value and is unable to function further as capital, to produce surplus value by absorbing variable capital. So the crisis of constant capital is also the crisis of variable capital, which manifests itself in the fall of (real) wages and massive unemployment. Capitalism is unable to handle such crises through the usual reconciliation of interests between capitals (parliamentarism) and the reconciliation of interests between capital and the working class (trade unionism). In such cases, the strongest representative of capital undertakes the task of capitalism's re-structuring, for capital's survival. The main elements of this are the destruction of those capitals which have lost their value and the destruction of the unnecessary labour force – open or hidden war. [...] Facing this phenomenon, leftists shout: 'Capitalism betrays democracy! Capital is capable of sacrificing democracy for its own interests!' Some go so far as to try to prove theoretically that capitalism can never be democratic.

"In contrast to this, it is extremely important to emphasize that the 'anti-democratism' of capital during crises is an absolutely democratic phenomenon. The case is exactly that it tries to maintain the commodity-owner individuals, private property. Capital is obliged to infringe the political rights proclaimed by capital itself (freedom of press, assembly and speech) if they hinder the process of capital's reproduction (production, circulation or both), and democracy between the people is the first precondition for this reproduction. A revolutionary situation is the peak of capitalism's crisis. [...] Revolutionaries who want to fight consistently against capitalism cannot make any compromise with democracy. Democracy is the form of existence of those who have been alienated from the human community, 'of those who have lost their original organic unity with the community'
(Camatte). Therefore the communist revolution which means the creation of human community cannot be victorious without the total destruction of this way of existence." (italics removed)

24 April 2010

Trend: Anti-democracy is gaining ground worldwide

The Vatican press agency "Agenzia Fides" released a short news item on 22 April 2010 titled "Violence and anti-democracy are gaining ground, Jesuit Superior General tells Mexico":


Excerpt: "Violence and anti-democracy are gaining ground worldwide, warned Jesuit Superior General, the Spaniard Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, in visiting Mexico. 'What is growing today is populism, not democracy. Information is manipulated and puts pressure on people so they cannot understand what is really happening with confusing information, including advertising campaigns. Public opinion is manipulated on the situations of a political choice or in order to sell a product or for some kind of promotional campaign.' [sic] [...] Education is 'the great challenge of humanity,' the priest said, and it must be 'open' to an increasingly complex world that requires more and more. He said that most of the 18,500 members of the religious order of the world live in countries of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, so 'we should look towards the future of society along those lines.'"

23 April 2010

Article: William Graham Sumner: Against Democracy, Plutocracy, and Imperialism

H.A. Scott Trask, "William Graham Sumner: Against Democracy, Plutocracy, and Imperialism" ("Journal of Libertarian Studies", 18 [4], fall 2004: pp. 1-27).

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Pioneering sociologist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) was a prolific and astute historian of the early American republic. His work is informed by both his classical liberalism and his understanding of economics. [...] Sumner's political insights can be found throughout his histories and biographies, but [...] [c]onsidering them together, it is possible to reconstruct Sumner's political thought. This reconstruction reveals that Sumner was a first-rate diagnostician of the vices and flaws endemic to modern democracy, and that he saw with remarkable prevision how it would develop into the twentieth century. [...] Democracy is more than a term for a certain type of government; it is [...] an ideology, a quasi-religious faith, a 'superstition,' and it is false. Its two foundational dogmas – human equality and social atomization – have no support in human nature or experience. [...]

"The advance of civilization has been marked at every stage by an increase in inequality, social differentiation, and complexity. The principle of one-man one-vote, by giving no political recognition to differences in intelligence and wealth among persons, to the natural divisions within society, or to the existence of classes, is unjust, and can only lead to laws that are unjust and unwise. He also questioned the democratic dogma that the same form of government was suitable for all kinds of different societies and collectivities, without regard to their level of education, industrial development, and internal diversity. [...] Because Sumner rejected the moralistic, equalitarian, and atomistic dogmas upon which democracy rested, he was not in favor of extending the suffrage to ex-slaves or to women. He denied that either group could claim a moral right to vote, as he denied that anyone had such a right. [...]

"There is no reason to believe that democracy would prove friendlier to liberty than would monarchy, aristocracy, or other forms of elitist rule. [...] If political power be vested in the masses, '[t]hey will commit abuse, if they can and dare, just as others have done.' Ruling elites have misused their power for selfish ends because it was in their nature to do so. The people share the same nature. Greed, selfishness, and other 'vices are confined to no nation, class, or age.' [...] The theory behind extending the suffrage to all adult males was that this would ensure that legislation was framed to benefit the interests of all, rather than of the few. Sumner demonstrated in his historical studies that it did not work out that way. [...] 'The fate of modern democracy is to fall into subjection to plutocracy.' The term plutocracy [...] meant a type of government in which effective control rested with men of wealth who sought to use political means to increase their wealth. Sumner believed that there is no form of government better suited to their control than democracy. [...] The plutocrats have [...] no qualms about flattering, lying to, or bribing the masses. [...]

"At election time, the voters are given a choice between two candidates who may stand for essentially the same thing, or nothing. [...] [G]iven that the nature of democracy is to throw off all limitations upon government power, elections become 'struggles for power – war between the two parties' for control of the state. [...] One election is hardly over before the intrigue and planning for the next one begins. [...] Party platforms are full of 'empty phrases and Janus-faced propositions,' and often 'two contradictory propositions are combined in the same sentence, or a non-proposition is so stated that each man may read there just what will suit his own notions.' [...] The object of political campaigning is not to educate the public at all, but to energize one's supporters and win over by means of deception the non-committed middle. [...] No idea more annoyed Sumner than the superstition that democratic elections are a magic elixir from which flow liberty, justice, and wise governance. [...]

"Sumner feared that American 'democracy' would grow even worse by becoming paternal while not ceasing to be plutocratic. Plutocracy would prove to be the parent of paternalism [...] such as limitations on the length of the working day, unemployment insurance, government health care, and other means of providing for economic and social 'security.' The plutocrats may conclude that extending such benefits is the price they must pay for retaining power and their own lucrative privileges, while the masses will regard paternalism as their right to a share in the spoils of the state. Sumner condemned the incipient welfare state as incompatible with freedom and inimical to liberty. Those citizens who favor it are hypocrites who clamor for security with the same insistence and sense of entitlement as they demand freedom and equality. [...] There was also a danger that 'democratic' government would enact moral reforms or try to alter the structure of society. [...] 'The taxing power is especially something after which the reformer's finger always itches,' as it offers endless potential for rewarding certain behaviors and punishing others. [...]

"The Bush doctrine – American world dominion is justified by her divine mission to spread freedom and democracy – is not new. The Spanish-American War and its imperial aftermath were justified on the same grounds. Sumner noted how a senator had claimed that the United States would occupy the Philippines only long enough to teach them self-government. [...] If America attempts 'to be schoolmistress to others, it will shrivel up into the same vanity and self-conceit,' and be the object of the same loathing and hatred as the other imperial powers. Moral imperialism is as 'false and wrong' as any other kind of imperialism, for it violates freedom and self-government. The nation that says, 'We know what is good for you better than you know yourself and we are going to make you do it' cares nothing for liberty or national self-determination, since liberty 'means leaving people to live out their own lives in their own way.' It is also a recipe for endless intervention and perpetual war, as the subsequent history of the United States demonstrated. [...]

"Sumner's final judgment on nineteenth-century American democracy was that it had failed to secure liberty or good government, and it would do worse in the next century. Who was to blame? He blamed the people. 'The root of all our troubles at present and in the future is in the fact that the people fails of what was assumed about it and attributed to it.' The people complain about the politicians, about the special interests, and about the power of corporations to corrupt the political process. But who elected the politicians? Who makes up the special interests? Who elected corruptible legislatures and presidents? 'He who rules is responsible, be it Tsar, Pope, Emperor, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, or Demos.' The 'people is altogether at fault. It has not done its first duty in the premises, and therefore the whole system has gone astray.' [...] What is [our] destiny? A paternalistic, plutocratic, imperial state, in which freedom and individuality will slowly suffocate and civilization coarsen and die. A century of war and collectivism has vindicated Sumner's pessimism, and it appears that the twentieth century has bequeathed even worse to the twenty-first."

H. Arthur Scott Trask, PhD, an independent historian, is an Adjunct Scholar at the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute.

21 April 2010

Book: The End of Democracy

Abid Ullah Jan, "The End of Democracy" (Pragmatic Publishing, 2003):


From the publisher's description: "Following the end of the Cold War in which liberal democracy triumphed over Communism, Francis Fukuyama claimed it was 'the end of history.' In this devastating critique of democracy, Abid Ullah Jan [...] claims that far from being the end of history, [...] it is in fact 'the end of democracy.' Democracy has failed and it has been used and abused, particularly following 9/11. Democracy has been undermined by a minority ruling elite to curtail civil liberties and mislead the public at home, whilst waging wars of domination abroad. The author argues that [...] it will be Islam that will ultimately challenge and triumph over liberal democracy as we know it. Abid Ullah Jan [...] has written many important works disclosing the forgery of the fake champions of democracy, human rights and justice, the invalidity of their claims and their dark alliances with the most repressive dictators in the world."

From the description on Amazon: "The problem is that many of us do not see any alternative to democracy and that lack of vision makes many stick to the search for the illusive true democracy. There is hardly anyone in the world who would argue that democracy is perfect. No sooner they find and understand the alternative, the perfect alternative, their association with the convoluted democracy we are subjected to by a few elite [sic] might become a stigma for them. The End of Democracy presents that alternative to the stagnation of democracy that is getting foul and turning into [an] unprecedented kind of tyranny with each passing day."

Reviews: "A thought-provoking work that points towards solution for the problems caused by the failure of secular democracy" (Ayub Azhar Hamid, National Director, Canadian Islamic Congress)

"[T]ruly points out that just like the corporate media the corporate democracy is bitterly suppressing the will of the people. [...] [W]e can see a revolution around the corner." ("Baluchistan Post")

Jan dedicated this book to those "who are suffering under one or another kind of twisted democracy".

Pakistani-born Abid Ullah Jan, a graduate of the University of London, is a journalist and book author and community development specialist living in Ottawa, Canada.

20 April 2010

Article: The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion

Thomas Carothers, "The Backlash Against Democracy Promotion" ("Foreign Policy", 85 [2], March/April 2006: pp. 55-68):


Excerpts: "After two decades of the steady expansion of democracy-building programs around the world, a growing number of governments are starting to crack down on such activities within their borders. [...] They have started expelling or harassing Western NGOs and prohibiting local groups from taking foreign funds – or have started punishing them for doing so. This growing backlash has yet to coalesce into a formal or organized movement. But its proponents are clearly learning from and feeding off of one another. [...] Politicians from China to Zimbabwe have publicly [...] condemned the United States' 'democratic offensive' in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere as self-serving, coercive, and immoral.

"The [...] Chinese Communist Party reportedly mapped out a strategy for resisting U.S. and European efforts to promote color revolutions in China and its neighborhood. [...] Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has driven out Western NGOs and forced the closure of many local groups that get external support, claiming that they are fronts through which Western 'colonial masters' subvert the government. [...] Further North, [...] Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stated on Ethiopian television that 'there is not going to be a [...] color revolution in Ethiopia after the election.' And in Eritrea, the government enacted a new law [...] forbidding local NGOs from engaging in any work other than relief activities and blocking them from receiving external support. [...] In South America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez regularly blasts U.S. democracy promotion as being part of a [...] campaign to oust him. [...]

"Would Washington countenance the presence, during elections, of foreign organizations – especially ones funded by a powerful, possibly hostile government – that underwrite and help carry out voter-education campaigns, the training of and provision of material aid to political parties, parallel vote counts, and citizen-mobilization efforts? [...] No matter how well democracy promoters make their case, [...] many people in countries on the receiving end of such efforts will not be persuaded of the legitimacy of their efforts. Democracy promoters may believe that poor democratic performance reduces a country's right to invoke its sovereignty to block external intervention. That idea may be gaining currency in established democracies. Yet it is unlikely to command wide support in the developing and post-communist worlds, where sovereignty is jealously guarded by governments of all political stripes."

Thomas Carothers is now Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC.

19 April 2010

Article: Democracy Is Dead

Commenting on the recent parliamentary elections in the country, Sri Lanka's "The Sunday Leader" newspaper on 11 April 2010 published an unsigned editorial titled "Democracy Is Dead".

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "It is time to go into mourning. An old and ailing relative – democracy [–], has died an inevitable death. Dead at barely 60 years old though the abuse it suffered during its short life span made it appear much older. Like the aunt who lingers on long after most of the family believe she is already dead, this week's death was a quiet one, it was long expected, some would say even overdue. There was no shock, no sudden loss. Democracy in this country wasn't overthrown by a dictator, nor shattered suddenly by the chaos of war and revolution. Instead it died a painful, slow death. Strangled by corruption, stifled by authoritarianism and finally snuffed out by the disinterest and apathy of the general public. And while it somehow lingered on despite being savaged by decades of war, riots, and attempted revolutions, this week we finally saw democracy die in the hearts and minds of voters.

"The turn out for the 2010 general election stands as the lowest in history [...]. While some will criticise the voters' apathy, in reality you can only marvel at the patience of a people who voted regularly for six decades. At the devotion of a population who after years of false promises and disappointment continued to vote until finally a lack of credible candidates, tangible issues and the impossibility of effecting real change finally destroyed their interest in democracy. Of course the truth is and always has been that regardless of the final results of this election, thugs, cronies and criminals will continue to rule this country. [...] Seeing the ugliness of the government, the impotence of the opposition and the hypocrisy of the institutions – police, courts, charged with safeguarding democracy [–] the people were inevitably disgusted. And at a crucial moment in the country's history they chose to hide their faces from this mockery of the democratic process. They looked away from the hideous posters, meaningless slogans and the futile opposition and refused to make the effort to vote.

"Figures indicate that the UPFA will receive nearly two-thirds of the votes cast. And with this majority comes nothing less than absolute power. The ability to amend the constitution, the very basis of the nation's law. The checks and balances that are the key to democracy have disappeared. [...] Democracy in Sri Lanka is beyond revival. And in its place we now have just one party or more accurately, one family. And the country's citizens have just one choice, either demonstrate their loyalty, obedience and gratitude to the ruling family or risk detention, death or worse the utter irrelevance of powerlessness. [...] This is no longer a criticism or a warning, it is simply reality. One chapter of the country's history is now closed – the flickering light of democracy has gone out. The ailing opposition [...] will never be able to restore the people's right to democracy. Instead if it is ever to return, democracy in this country will have to be reborn. Instead of being imposed by colonial masters it will have to take hold again in the hearts and minds of the people."

18 April 2010

CONF: Non-Democratic Regimes

Conference on "Non-Democratic Regimes" of the Georg Walter Leitner Program in International and Comparative Political Economy at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, 11-12 June 2010


Description: "This conference brings together researchers studying the politics of non-democratic regimes, including democratization, repression, growth, and civil and international conflict. More specifically, how do economic conditions affect popular support for a dictator and the transition to democracy? When do citizens protest against a dictatorship and when does a dictatorship respond with repression? When does a dictatorship allow for limited forms of political representation? What explains the post-tenure fate of dictators and how does it affect their propensity to democratize? Is the International Court of Justice a spoiler or promoter of democracy? What explains the variety of non-democratic institutions and how do such institutions affect economic growth? How does the targeting of groups or a populist rhetoric allow the leaders of weak democracies to avoid accountability? Which non-democratic institutions are more likely to generate international wars? Why do the leaders of non-democracies get involved in such long civil wars in the post-World War II period? Presenters use a variety of methodology to tackle such a wide array of questions, including formal and quantitative methods."

Presenters include Charles Boix (Princeton), Joseph Wright (Pennsylvania State University), Beatriz Magaloni (Stanford), Jason Brownlee (University of Texas at Austin), Peter Lorentzen (Berkeley), Alexandre Debs (Yale), Monika Nalepa (University of Notre Dame), Milan Svolik (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Philip Keefer (World Bank), Alastair Smith (New York University), Konstantin Sonin (New Economic School, Moscow), Jessica Weeks (Cornell), and Andrea Vindigni (Princeton).

No registration information is provided on the website. To see whether it is possible to participate, please contact the conference organizer, Alexandre Debs (Yale): alexandre.debs@yale.edu

17 April 2010

Public lecture: Failure of Democracy in Afghanistan

A session of the Eight Annual Central and Southwest Asia Conference at the University of Montana, University Center Theater, Missoula, USA, 23 April 2010, 1.00-3.00 pm

Public lecture by Farid Younos: "Failure of Democracy in Afghanistan"


Farid Younos is a Lecturer in the Human Development Department at California State University, East Bay, and a TV host and anchorman at California-based Noor TV Afghan Television.

The lecture is open to the public and free of charge.

Younos is also the author of a book titled "Democratic Imperialism: Democratization vs. Islamization" (AuthorHouse, 2008):


From the publisher's description: "This book poses and clearly answers a compelling question: Are Americans qualified to export or impose their brand of democracy in the Middle East? [...] Farid Younos, as a scholar of not only social sciences, but also the culture of the Middle East, namely Islam, argues that democracy in the land of Islam is not functional. The deeply rooted value system and way of life of Islam calls for a different system, especially when western democracy has its own problems and has failed to bring justice for all at home. Liberal democracy as a secular system negates the role of faith in the political system of the Middle East, and this negation is the main concern for many Muslims worldwide. The question arises as to why the United States of America tries to impose its brand of political system in the Middle East while knowing that it is not a workable idea. Democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq proved to be fatal. [...] This study provides an alternative approach for Muslim countries: an Islamic political system [...] could be an ideal system [...] if Muslims would make an effort to not only meet the needs of their people, but also meet the needs of the international community. The purpose, presumably, of all parties, is peace in the region, and that peace is not possible if Islamic economic, social and political ideas are ignored and replaced by a manifesto of globalization."

Public lecture: Asia's Anti-Democracy: North Korea

An event in the Business and Policy Speaker Series "Prospects for Democracy in China, Afghanistan and North Korea" of the Asia Society Texas Center, at the Houston Club, 811 Rusk Avenue, Houston, Texas, USA, 29 April 2010, 11.30 am-1.30 pm (Attention: the registration form gives the date as 12 May 2010)

Public lecture by John Delury (Associate Director of the Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations): "Asia's Anti-Democracy: North Korea"


Description: "One of the last surviving planned socialist economies, history's only communist dynasty, and an ideological hybrid of Confucianism, Christianity, Stalinism, and Maoism, North Korea is truly unique. To its south lies arguably the most democratic society in East Asia – South Korea. Across its northern border, China is being remade by relentless socio-economic dynamism. But North Korea's regime has proven itself remarkably resilient, and at least for now is East Asia's most undemocratic state. John Delury [...] explores what paths, if any, to democratic rule are imaginable for the North Korean people and what can be done to lay foundations for a more moderate and liberal regime."

Cost: $30 members, $40 non-members, $300 tables of 10.

16 April 2010

CFP: Deconstructing Democracy

Call for papers: Deconstructing Democracy

The November 2011 issue of the journal "Derrida Today" will be a special issue on "Deconstructing Democracy". Jacques Derrida's evocation of a "democracy-to-come" is most famously associated with global politics immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the announcement of a new world order. Over subsequent years, the term recurred in Derrida's discussions of religion, sovereignty, justice, human rights, and the war on terror. How adaptable was this deconstructive construction of democracy, and how well has it survived into the era after both established communism and evangelical neo-conservatism, the era of stalemate in Iraq and Afghanistan, of the global financial crisis and climate change?

Far from being a mere restatement or celebration of Derrida's own discussions of democracy, this issue will hope to encourage a critical re-appraisal of the relationship between deconstruction and the democratic: What are the horizons of the deconstruction of democracy with, beyond or against Derrida; with, beyond or against democracy? Does "democracy-to-come" have an enduring legacy? What does deconstruction have to offer democratic thinking now? Does deconstruction help us re-think the strengths and limitations of democracy both as it is currently practiced and as an idea? Whatever happened to the "New International"? Is deconstruction democratic?

Possible contributors should send a 250-word proposal to Nick Mansfield and Nicole Anderson (both Macquarie University): dteditors@gmail.com

Deadline: 30 June 2010

Complete papers will be due by 31 December 2010.

Additional information about the journal is to be found here:


15 April 2010

Article: European Democracy Promotion in Russia Before and After the "Colour" Revolutions

Sinikukka Saari, "European Democracy Promotion in Russia Before and After the 'Colour' Revolutions" ("Democratization", 16 [4], August 2009: pp. 732-55):


Abstract: "This article explores international democracy promotion and its impact on Russian policies before and after the colour revolutions in the former Soviet Union. In particular, the article analyses the democracy promotion efforts of major European intergovernmental organizations – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union – as well as NGOs working in Russia. The article demonstrates that European intergovernmental organizations gave political and economic considerations priority over more consistent and principled policy towards Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s. This instrumentalism partly explains Russia's current aggressive attitude towards international democracy promotion. Informed by the 'colour' revolutions in the former Soviet republics, this negative attitude has turned into a direct, openly articulated and internationally concerted action plan against democracy promotion. This article traces and analyses the shifting dynamics of the Russian challenge to Western democracy promotion. It cautions both against simplistic categorizations of 'democrats' and 'non-democratic forces' by democracy promoters and also against political favouritism linked to them. These categorizations rarely reflect complex reality and they are all too easily manipulated. Overall, the European intergovernmental organizations indirectly legitimized undemocratic practices in Russia in the name of promoting democracy and thus delegitimized their own democracy promotion efforts."

Excerpts: "Despite the typical anti-democracy promotion rhetoric that highlights non-interference and a strict interpretation of state sovereignty, [...] (semi-)authoritarian leaders actively give political and financial support to fellow (semi-)authoritarian states in their neighbourhood. Peter Burnell labelled this phenomenon active anti-assistance and counter-promotion. Its goal is to 'prevent, frustrate, oppose or hollow-out' democratic change. While the forms and methods of the semi-authoritarian challenge have already been studied comprehensively, there has been only little attention to exactly how and why the backlash occurred. [...] Manipulation of political processes means in the Russian context that officially the name of the game is democracy, but in fact the unwritten rules are inherently antidemocratic. The aim of the system is 'to manage, manipulate and contain democracy' with the help of the elite and the experts in political manipulation employed by them.

"Examples of this unhealthy political process are the creation of 'opposition' groups by the ruling elite, buying of parties and politicians, manipulation of the media, and paying for negative, false stories and publishing false opinion polls. [...] Western actors' policy indirectly suggested that shallow rhetoric and the form of institutions are more important to Western actors than how these institutions actually function. [...] [T]he basic features of the undemocratic system in today's Russia already began developing during the Yeltsin era, and since then these features have been institutionalized and streamlined into an effective political system. The crucial feature of this system is that power is legitimized through elections that are 'managed' beforehand in such a manner that true competition is effectively eliminated. This political management is also at the core of Russia's current challenge to international democracy promotion. [...]

"The international dimension of Russia's counter-democracy promotion strategy builds on both normative and institutional challenges. It simultaneously questions European democratic standards and norms as well as European institutions and procedures set up for protecting those standards and monitoring their practical implementation. [...] One of the cornerstones of the anti-democracy promotion campaign has been the accusation that international democracy promoters adhere to 'double standards', especially in the field of election monitoring. [...] Russia has [...] made concrete suggestions on how to reorganize the European election observation framework. The basic idea behind the proposals is that the European standards should reflect the average practices in European states rather than some lofty democratic ideals. [...] By these standards even the Belarusian and Kazakh elections can be claimed to be free and fair and democratic. It is unlikely that such reports would convince Western audiences. However, the target audience is the public in the [...] semi-authoritarian states [...].

"Thus, it seems that the battle over the 'hearts and minds' of citizens has started again in earnest. [...] While during the 1990s Russia hid its undemocratic practices behind democratic and pro-Western slogans, the alternative to Western democratic ideals is nowadays more explicitly articulated and given an ideological foundation. [...] The non-implementation and practical revision of democratic norms were naturally a serious challenge to international democratic norms, but since the official rhetoric remained consistently democratic, this challenge remained an indirect one. [...] [I]t seems that not only have pro-democracy movements learned from past revolutions, but that the anti-democracy side has also learned and has modified its tactics accordingly. The situation now looks gloomy: Russia's challenge has become a direct one, and democracy promotion is aggressively being rooted out."

Sinikukka Saari is a Researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

11 April 2010

Article: Democracy Delusion

Peter Hitchens' article "Democracy Delusion" appears in the May 2010 issue of the magazine "The American Conservative". The article's subtitle or lead reads: "The West's interests aren't always best served by one man, one vote".

Already the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "I have in the past few years visited several countries where democracy will, if unfettered, favor political Islam. The supposed Cedar Revolution in Lebanon received gushing praise from Western commentators. There was even talk of genuine elections in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood would be the most likely beneficiary of majority rule. As for the Palestinian entity, the angry irredentists of Hamas undoubtedly won the democratic contest, and their control of Gaza is a clear expression of the people's will. Did the United States really want a Shia Muslim state in Iraq? [...] Pakistan has been seething with Islamic revolt. [...] Kemal and Stalin are the only modern rulers who have subjugated militant political Islam, unveiled women, and controlled the mullahs. But their ferocity would be impossible now. If there is a middle way between such repression and the return of Turkey to its Muslim past, nobody has yet found it. If they do, it may be incompatible with the 21st-century belief in the goodness of democracy and the sanctity of human rights. [...]

"But the real issue goes far deeper and rebounds on the democratic West. If our desire to establish democracy as the test of goodness succeeds, it is bound in some cases to lead to the creation of states we like even less than we liked them when they were despotic. Is it possible that we have misunderstood our own societies and wrongly thought that the exercise of majority rule through democratic vote was the key to their success? Ever since I observed Russia's tragicomic transformation from corrupt Soviet state to corrupt gangster democracy, I have wondered if elections are really quite as liberating as we imagine. [...] Democracy has in fact done Western nations few favors in recent years. It has not kept them from embarking on foolish wars. It has not restrained them from suicidal economic blunders. It has done little to empower the people's desire for less mass immigration or more effective schools. It has above all been feeble when called upon to defend established liberties. In fact, it has often been the enemy of those liberties, as demagogues have sought to win mass support for the excesses of Guantanamo, the reintroduction of torture, and the extension of intrusive surveillance. [...]

"It is striking that the war on terror has spoken so strongly about democracy and had so little to say about liberty. This must partly be because the alleged war required a suspension, even abolition, of many of the rules of liberty and demanded a new relationship between the individual and the state [...]. Manipulated democracies, 'color' revolutions – in which mob rule is rechristened 'people power' because it does what we want it to – are a good way of interfering in sovereign nations without appearing to do so. The evisceration of our own liberties is easier if it is done under a democratic label and seems less significant if democracy is identified as the main safeguard of our rights. Do those who have supported these processes really understand what they are doing or are they just homeless utopians, disappointed in all their previous longings for a better world, seduced by yet another false hope, unintentionally aiding the very cause they claim to be most deeply against? If this is the triumph of democracy, they can keep it."

Peter Hitchens is a conservative British journalist and book author.

10 April 2010

Book: Democracy Denied, 1905-1915: Intellectuals and the Fate of Democracy

Charles Kurzman, "Democracy Denied, 1905-1915: Intellectuals and the Fate of Democracy" (Harvard University Press, December 2008):


Publisher's description: "In the decade before World War I, a wave of democratic revolutions swept the globe, consuming more than a quarter of the world's population. Revolution transformed Russia, Iran, the Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Mexico, and China. In each case, a
pro-democracy movement unseated a long-standing autocracy with startling speed. The nascent democratic regime held elections, convened parliament, and allowed freedom of the press and freedom of association. But the new governments failed in many instances to uphold the rights and freedoms that they proclaimed. Coups d'état soon undermined the democratic experiments. How do we account for these unexpected democracies, and for their rapid extinction?

"In Democracy Denied, Charles Kurzman proposes that the collective agent most directly responsible for democratization was the emerging class of modern intellectuals, a group that had gained a global identity and a near-messianic sense of mission following the Dreyfus Affair of 1898. Each chapter of Democracy Denied focuses on a single angle of this story, covering all six cases by examining newspaper accounts, memoirs, and government reports. This thoroughly interdisciplinary treatment of the early-twentieth-century upheavals promises to reshape debates about the social origins of democracy, the causes of democratic collapse, the political roles of intellectuals, and the international flow of ideas."

Reviews: "The intellectuals of 1905-1915 were, Kurzman amply shows, deluded about their peoples' readiness for democracy. They were ahead of their time, a misfortune not just their own, but their countries'." (Adam Kirsch, "City Journal")

"This book is a major contribution to the study of democracy in the modern world. While it deals with developments at the beginning of the twentieth century, it will be important for understanding democratization at the beginning of the twenty-first century as well." (John Voll, Georgetown University)

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Charles Kurzman is Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill.

09 April 2010

Article: Why Non-Democratic Leaders Have More Children

Dustin Beckett and Gregory D. Hess, "All in the Family: Why Non-Democratic Leaders Have More Children" ("Economics of Governance", 9 [1], January 2008: pp. 65-85):


Abstract: "Economists have come to learn that politics matters. But survival matters the most to those involved in politics. We provide a theory whereby non-benevolent, non-democratic leaders increase their expected family size to raise the likelihood that a child will be a match at continuing the regime's survival. As a consequence, having a larger family size raises the non-democratic leader's expected rents that they can exploit from the citizenry. In contrast, democratic leaders have a lower desire to appropriate rents from the citizenry, and therefore have a diminished desire to have additional children for these purposes. We construct a data set of the number of children of country leaders as of August 31, 2005. We find that in a sample of 221 country leaders, fully non-democratic leaders have approximately 1.5-2.5 more actual children as compared to if they are fully democratic. This empirical relationship is established controlling for a full array of country specific as well as individual specific variables. Our finding also continues to hold when using alternative measures of family size."

Excerpt: "While the question of 'who governs?' goes to the heart of the difference between democratic and non-democratic rule, 'who governs next?' is no less a distinguishing query. Often, transitions of power in mature democracies take place at regular intervals, where timing and tenure limits are determined in the law. For non-democratic countries, however, transitions are more problematic and irregular, as there are fewer formal mechanisms for a smooth succession of power."

Sounds intriguing, but the article seems deeply flawed. It is badly written and obviously not edited, i.e.: "For non-democratic leaders, [...] performance indicators are not the main criteria for determining the survival duration of non-democratic leaders."; "a new leader decides how much to seek rent from the citizenry".

Also, this is the first study I came across that is based on (two versions of) "Who's Who" and – get this – "[t]he final source for the data is the online encyclopedia [...] Wikipedia". Are they serious?

Finally, what about leaders, democratic or not, of countries that have, during the leader's lifetime, alternated between democracy and non-democracy or experienced increasing or decreasing levels of democracy? The children of a non-democratic leader may have been born when the country was still a democracy. And even non-democratic rule lasts on average only twenty-one years, it is claimed. But (less than) 21-year olds don't usually become heads of government. Even in non-democratic countries (with the possible exception of monarchies), sons or daughters that young are unlikely to succeed a parent. Most leaders will have started a family well before becoming leaders – and most likely before they ever knew that they were going to become leaders. (Only 15% of the leaders studied were "in line" to succeed to their position.) All this may suggest other reasons for family size than the merely economic ones proposed by the authors of this study.

Dustin H. Beckett is a doctoral candidate in Social Science at the California Institute of Technology.

Gregory D. Hess is James G. Boswell Professor of Economics at Claremont McKenna College.

Book: After democracy (in French)

Of possible interest to those able to read books in French: "Après la démocratie" (After democracy) by Emmanuel Todd (Gallimard, October 2008):


Review: "Emmanuel Todd, the French historian, made a name for himself by predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union. [...] In his latest book, [...] he conjures up the alarming possibility of a post-democratic Europe reverting to ethnic scapegoating and dictatorship. Mr Todd's thesis will strike many readers as nonsense. In particular, his conclusion that only overt protectionism can preserve Europe's social fabric has already been attacked for being dangerously counter-productive. After all, was it not the reversion to protectionism after the crash of 1929 that tipped the world into the Great Depression and fuelled the rise of Hitler? Yet some of Mr Todd's arguments are as insightful as they are polemical, and reflect the evolution of Europe's political debate. His warnings of a democratic meltdown in France, and perhaps more generally in the developed world, certainly deserve to be read, challenged and debated." (John Thornhill, "Financial Times")

From the publisher's description (my rough translation): "Beneath a variety of symptoms, we encounter a veritable crisis of democracy. In order to understand it, we must identify the contributing factors, both present and historical, including the emptiness of religion, educational stagnation, the new social stratification, the destructive impact of free trade, the impoverishment of the middle class, confusion of the elite. [...] We have to ask ourselves if politicians, unable to manipulate our 'opinion democracy' any longer, will not simply seek to curtail the universal franchise."

Emmanuel Todd is a Research Engineer at France's National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED). A political scientist by training, he holds a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge.

Book: The demos as tyrant and ignoramus (in German)

Of possible interest to those able to read books in German: "Der Demos als Tyrann und Banause: Aspekte antidemokratischer Polemik im Athen des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr." (The demos as tyrant and ignoramus: aspects of anti-democratic polemic in 5th and 4th century BC Athens; my rough translation) by Thomas Morawetz (Peter Lang, 2000):


Publisher's description (my translation): "It was surprisingly difficult for anti-democratic elites in Attica to effectively discredit the unloved demos as bearer of democracy. This book wants to outline a consistent transformation of anti-democratic polemic from the 5th through the 4th century BC. While in the 5th century the critics targeted the political style of the entire demos, in the 4th century they were preoccupied ever more deeply with the private life style of the individual citizens. This is demonstrated here, on the one hand, through the development of the concept of the ignoramus (Banause), on the other hand through the history of a linguistic formula still known today: The 'liberty to do as one pleases' was then, according to the available sources, discussed for the first time, with the initial aim to disqualify the demos as tyrant."

Thomas Morawetz is a German journalist. He holds a doctorate in History from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

08 April 2010

Article: Criminalising Remote Harm and the Case of Anti-Democratic Activity

Shlomit Wallerstein, "Criminalising Remote Harm and the Case of Anti-Democratic Activity" ("Cardozo Law Review", 28 [6], May 2007:
pp. 2697-738).

From the abstract: "The 'war on terror' declared by leaders of many western countries has been the basis for the introduction of new substantive, as well as procedural, criminal laws. The underlying assumption is that security is an overriding justification silencing all other concerns; [t]he state has a duty to protect its citizens and this duty grants the state permission to use whatever means it finds necessary to attain this protection. Concentrating on substantive criminal law, this paper explores the extent to which this assumption is based on, and consistent with, the general principles that govern state coercion. [...] The move towards remote harms also means that special attention has to be given to the motivation of the offenders. Distinct motivations may result in different types of threats. The anti-democratic ideology is among the most severe threats. Nevertheless, I argue that the principles discussed place strict limitations on the use of power by the state, and that not all measures that may be found necessary for a sufficient and comprehensive protection against anti-democratic threats can be justified by them."

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The common feature of these new offences is that they penalise acts that cause, at most, remote harm. [...] One of the main restrictions on a state's power is with regard to its permission to proscribe acts that cause only remote harm. Three principles ensure these limitations: the harm principle, the minimalist principle, and the principle of fair imputation [...] require that a special justification be given for any expansion of criminal law beyond the proscription of acts that cause direct harm, and even then strict limitations are imposed on the possibility to proscribe remote harm. [...] If any motivation justifies the criminalisation of remote harm in accordance with the general principles, anti-democratic ideology should be among those motivations that allow for the widest permission. [...]

"Although there is internal variation, anti-democratic ideologies can be commonly defined as undemocratic ideologies, that is, ideologies that oppose basic democratic principles and are characterised by a shared objective to alter the democratic order with an undemocratic one. [...] This [...] includes all types of activity that are aimed at effectively expressing the anti-democratic views such as assemblies, demonstrations and the writing of letters or books – because whatever else these activities are, their main aim is to spread the anti-democratic ideology. Under this heading one can find a whole range of expressions, from a simple explanation of an anti-democratic ideology as part of an educational course, or a declaration of one's own convictions, to incitements to perform specific unlawful acts. [...]

"Any attempt to assess the probability of an occurrence of harm is bound to be complicated. This is especially true with regard to climate-creating expressions and abstract expressions. [...] A climate develops through the accumulative influence of many acts and utterances. [...] [A]ccording to the wider interpretation of the minimalist principle, the criminalisation of some anti-democratic expressions might be possible (depending on the background conditions). My claim is that anti-democratic expressions are threatening because they create public support. But, if society does not intervene early on – if it waits until anti-democratic agents have committed harmful act [sic] – then it will be too late. The seeds of the ideology will already have been planted in society. The 'last effective point of intervention' is at the early stages of ideological development."

Israeli solicitor Shlomit Wallerstein is a CUF Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford.

07 April 2010

Book: Tocqueville on America after 1840

Aurelian Craiutu and Jeremy Jennings are the editors and translators of "Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings"
(Cambridge University Press, March 2009):


Publisher's description: "Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America has been recognized as an indispensable starting point for understanding American politics. From the publication of the second volume in 1840 until his death in 1859, Tocqueville continued to monitor political developments in America and committed many of his thoughts to paper in letters to his friends in America. He also made frequent references to America in many articles and speeches. Did Tocqueville change his views on America outlined in the two volumes of Democracy in America published in 1835 and 1840? If so, which of his views changed and why? The texts translated in Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings answer these questions and offer English-speaking readers the possibility of familiarizing themselves with this unduly neglected part of Tocqueville's work. The book points out a clear shift in emphasis especially after 1852 and documents Tocqueville's growing disenchantment with America, triggered by such issues as political corruption, slavery, expansionism, and the encroachment of the economic sphere upon the political."

Review: "It is a common experience among readers of Tocqueville's Democracy in America to notice that its two volumes are really two different books on the same subject. [...] [I]n certain strategic parts of the second volume one gets the impression that Tocqueville has grown more gloomy, more pessimistic, or, to put it more accurately, less enthusiastic with the democratic experiment in general, or at least more willing to openly disclose its shortcomings. [...] Aurelian Craiutu's and Jeremy Jennings's [...] main claim is that with time Tocqueville changed his views on some general questions which are particularly crucial to his theory of democracy. But somewhat surprisingly they argue that this change of outlook in a more negative direction came only after the publication of Volume Two of Democracy in America. [...] In short, they suggest that a hypothetical Volume Three would continue and reinforce what for many readers are Volume Two's hesitations as to the essential goodness and stability of the democratic adventure. [...]

"Craiutu and Jennings make the general claim that '[i]n 1852, Tocqueville realized much better than he had in 1835 or 1840 that it was in the very nature of democracy (...) to transgress its limits and to subvert its own foundations' [...], 'the hypothetical "Volume Three" [...] would have probably mirrored his disenchantment and skepticism and would have called in to question some of the most significant ideas of his widely acclaimed book' [...]. They assert that by reading this collection of letters, papers and speeches, we gain new insights into Tocqueville's misgivings. Even when they acknowledge that Volume Two already suggested some of the anxieties of the post-1840 years, they immediately add that we have to look into his correspondence in order to get many more details. [...] In this context, the authors quote Benedict Songy's judicious remark: 'For Tocqueville, Democracy was on trial'". (Miguel Morgado, "Society")

Aurelian Craiutu is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at Queen Mary, University of London.

Article: Plato's Criticisms of Democracy in the Republic

Gerasimos Santas, "Plato's Criticisms of Democracy in the Republic" ("Social Philosophy and Policy", 24 [2], July 2007: pp. 70-89):


Abstract: "Plato's antidemocratic theory of social justice is instructive once we distinguish between the abstract parts of his theory and the empirical or other assumptions he uses in applying that theory. His application may have contained empirical mistakes, and it may have been burdened too much with a prolific metaphysics and a demanding epistemology. An attempt is made to look at his theory of social justice in imaginary isolation from empirical mistakes and from his metaphysics and epistemology. It is then argued that some of Plato's proposals and criticisms of democracy are well worth our attention, especially in the case of governing. His attempt to separate ruling and wealth and to establish economic floors and ceilings for his ideal city seems especially instructive in view of problems in these areas that modern democracies have experienced. Isolating his theory of social justice from his epistemology and metaphysics may be more problematic. Still, Plato's insistence that superior wisdom is the central virtue of rulers is instructive, and in this respect some modern defenders of democratic justice, such as J.S. Mill and John Rawls, have leaned some in Plato's direction. Finally, Plato's criticism of democratic free choice of occupation is less persuasive."

Once again, I had no access to the full text of this article.

Gerasimos X. Santas is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of California, Irvine.

06 April 2010

Article: Democratic Polities and Anti-democratic Politics

David Plotke's article "Democratic Polities and Anti-democratic Politics" was published in "Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory", based in South Africa (53 [111], December 2006: pp. 6-44).

Abstract: "What if anything should democratic polities do with respect to political forces and citizens who oppose democratic practices? One strategy is toleration, understood as non-interference. A second approach is repression, aimed at marginalizing or breaking up non-democratic political forces. I argue for a third approach: democratic states and citizens should respond to non-democratic political forces and ideas mainly through efforts at political incorporation. This strategy can protect democratic practices while respecting citizens' rights; its prospects are enhanced by the diverse political composition of most contemporary anti-democratic projects and the integrative effects of democratic procedures."

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "What if one imagines a polity with a large population of sincere and committed anti-democrats? [...] A democratic state is part of a constitutional arrangement that expresses a choice among citizens about how they want to govern themselves. What is the standing, in this context, of citizens who want a different kind of state, and aim to make the requisite changes? [...] The authors of the bombings in Oklahoma City and the al-Qaeda attacks deserve a large place in any account of the dangers of anti-democratic politics. Yet it is misleading to take such forces to exemplify anti-democratic politics in the contemporary world. [...] Opposition to democracy can be more or less coherent and committed. [...] Anti-democratic declarations are often complicated, and those who make them have more to say than proposing to wreck democracy. [...] Yet it would be wrong to abandon the category of anti-democratic ideas and projects on grounds of complexity. [...]

"Where democracies have achieved a significant degree of stability, anti-democratic forces do not normally threaten the general existence of a democratic state. [...] The contrast between incorporation and repression should be clear, although in practice a strategy of incorporation might include the repression of elements of anti-democratic political forces that radicalize and escalate their opposition to democratic practices. [...] No unconditional assent to the virtues of democracy is required. [...] It is reasonable to expect anti-democratic forces to start with a double strategy of participating in and opposing democratic procedures. Yet democrats can respond by naming this strategy and confronting it [...]. A strategy of incorporation, which aims to bring anti-democrats into normal politics while isolating a core of intransigent opponents of democracy, may reduce the frequency and scale of anti-democratic efforts."

In this overly wordy, highly speculative article, Plotke claims that most democratic societies keep "strict neutrality as between democratic and anti-democratic political forces". Examples of such countries would have been very welcome. I can't think of any. It also remains unclear why groups that are truly anti-democratic (rather than non- or not-yet-democratic) should wish or agree to be incorporated by democracy. His largely unsubstantiated "cases", among them the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale in Italy, the Catholic Church in the United States, and Islamists in Turkey contesting and winning elections, are not anti-democratic by any meaningful definition. They all belong at most to his category of "political hybrids".

David Plotke is Professor of Political Science at the New School for Social Research.

05 April 2010

Article: Nietzsche's Anti-democratic Liberalism

Béla Egyed's article "Nietzsche's Anti-democratic Liberalism" was published in Slovakia's "Kritika & Kontext: Journal of Critical Thinking" (35, 2007 [2]: pp. 100-13).

The full text of the article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The title of this paper reflects my view that, 'liberalism' and 'democracy' denote related but separable concepts. [...] Nietzsche was a sworn enemy of populism and egalitarianism, [...] a liberal but not a democrat. [...] In what sense is his liberalism 'anti-democratic'? My short answer to this question is that Nietzsche was, indeed, an 'aristocratic radical' [...], and his general criticism of 'the democratic idea' was motivated mostly by his mistrust of the 'new idols', political imposters seeking to take the place left vacant by the death of God. [...] What he is opposed to is the democratic ideology which he attacks relentlessly for its promoting mediocrity and the basest of human instincts. [...]

"It is a mistake to construe Nietzsche's elitism of the spirit as an advocacy of a rigid political hierarchy. His 'higher type' does not denote a political category: it refers to those who possess the aristocratic instincts as a countervailing force against the instinctive hatred of any form of distinction on the part of the 'democratic herd'. [...] These higher types need to understand, but keep their distance from, the herd and its values. [...] Nietzsche has, in fact, two politics: the one is a perfunctory endorsement of existing institutions he considers essential, inevitable and contemptible, the other is a proto-politics of para-personal drives and intensities, practiced by genealogists and critics of existing values and institutions. [...] Let me give the last word to Nietzsche: 'Liberal institutions immediately cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: subsequently there is nothing more harmful to freedom than liberal institutions [...]'."

Hungarian-born Béla Egyed is Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Carleton University and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Concordia University, Canada.

04 April 2010

Article: Electorial Regimes and the Proscription of Anti-Democratic Parties

John Finn, "Electorial Regimes and the Proscription of Anti-Democratic Parties" ("Terrorism and Political Violence", 12 [3-4], autumn 2000:
pp. 51-77):


Abstract: "Elections are central to the theory and practice of constitutional democracy. A decision to exclude particular groups from the political process represents a fundamental choice about the nature and character of legitimate political conflict. Whether in the form of a constitutional ban, as in the case of Article 21 of the Federal Republic of Germany's Basic Law, or in statutory form, as in the US Internal Security Act of 1950, the exclusion of anti-democratic parties constrains the universe of what a people may will and determines who is entitled to participate in the political sphere. Assessing how such proscriptions affect the level and likelihood of political violence requires strict, systematic scrutiny. It leads us to ask a series of questions about which factors motivate exclusion, on what rational grounds such restrictions may be justified, and if and under what conditions the democratic experiment is advanced by such bans. Moreover, the exclusion of anti-democratic parties in transitional states, where democracy is still in its nascent and therefore tenuous stage, may provide for interesting case studies in addressing the issue of how limits on self-governance affect the strategies of political parties as well as regime legitimacy."

Excerpts: "Elections provide much of the political and moral capital behind the state's condemnation of political violence as a means of securing legitimate political change [...], especially in a political universe where non-democratic means of legitimation, such as monarchic rule or appeals to communism, no longer provide a certain or reliable means to legitimacy. [...] I consider one aspect of electoral design, largely overlooked by lawyers and political scientists alike, namely constitutional provisions that proscribe anti-democratic political parties and organizations. Such bans are a common feature of twentieth century constitutions. [...] In every case, the inclusion of such provisions is predicated on the claim that some points of political conflict are no longer open to discussion (e.g., the adoption of democratic and constitutional forms themselves). Continued contest over those forms is a type of political activity that cannot be subsumed, in other words, within the confines of those constitutional forms. Proscription rules, like other rules that regulate the electoral process, thus represent an effort to end or, more often, to change the nature of the conflict. [...]

"[Proscription] rests upon a claim that some kinds of political choices and norms (those that embrace democratic processes) are inherently superior to others. [...] Proscription is typically applied to political parties – and sometimes to other organizations – that advance anti-democratic programmes. In the normal course, [...] it may be difficult to come to any shared, much less principled, understanding of what constitutes an 'anti-democratic' ideology or programme. Most constitutional provisions speak in grand generalities [...]. Proscribing antidemocratic political parties may help to contribute to the stability of otherwise fragile democratic regimes [...]. On the other hand, exclusion can work in ways that undercut the integrating and binding functions attributed to democratic elections. Excluding opponents may contribute to their sense of alienation and isolation, making them more likely to resort to violence. [...]

"[T]he use of such provisions may have a chilling effect on political dialogue more generally. This may take the form of self-censorship by timid parties or a fearful populace, or it may provide the basis for more aggressive state efforts to clamp down on dissidence. [...] The many possibilities for abuse, coupled with the ease with which banned parties manage to circumvent their bans, either by going underground, by forming party militias, or by simply reincorporating themselves, suggests that proscription provisions are unlikely to contribute meaningfully to democratic consolidation and maintenance. [...] As a matter of abstract democratic or constitutional theory, these provisions present no insurmountable problems, especially if (1) there is included in those theories a recognition that democracies are inherently fragile not only in space but also in time; and (2) a more sophisticated understanding is adopted, also temporal, of the people that constitute the democratic community."

John E. Finn is Professor of Government at Wesleyan University.

Article: Is 'School Effectiveness' Anti-Democratic?

Terry Wrigley, "Is 'School Effectiveness' Anti-Democratic?" ("British Journal of Educational Studies", 51 [2], June 2003: pp. 89-112):


Abstract: "This paper explores the connections between School Effectiveness as a research paradigm and developments in policy and practice. With a particular focus on the English school system, 'effectiveness' is examined as a discourse which underpins the accountability regime, and in terms of its influence on the related field of School Improvement. Anti-democratic tendencies in areas such as school leadership, teacher professionalism, curriculum and pedagogy are related to a failure, at the heart of the 'effectiveness' concept, to give critical consideration to social and educational aims."

Excerpts: "In Britain, perhaps more than elsewhere, educational change has been driven by School Effectiveness. This reductionist mode of research claims scientific status by replacing sociological and pedagogical analysis with increasingly complex statistics [...]. It resolutely avoids questions of educational aims, reducing all sense of purpose to the attainment of higher test scores. We have almost reached the stage where what cannot be measured simply does not count. [...] School effectiveness (as research, policy and ideology) is part of a package, and needs to be explored within a [...] dense forest of high stakes testing, league tables, accountability, teacher competences, performance pay, performance review, an increasing emphasis on education as the production of human capital, curricula imposed from above, and, under New Labour, government-imposed teaching methods, the restoration of selection and accelerating privatisation. [...]

"We are dealing with a nexus of mutually reinforcing structural and cultural effects; the combined result is anti-democratic because: i. it creates illusions of being able to overcome through education the disadvantages brought about by an increasingly polarised society – a new version of the Victorian 'self-made man' myth; ii. it actively penalises those who are teaching and learning in marginalised communities; iii. it trivialises learning, making it increasingly difficult to think through the world we live in and understand the powerful forces which structure our lives; iv. it narrows our discourse for thinking about education and its goals; v. it limits the scope of teachers to provide curricula which make sense to working-class and minority ethnic pupils, or indeed other pupils who may have difficulty in their learning; vi. it increases the asymmetry of communication between teachers and learners; vii. it deprofessionalises teachers, and undermines the collegiality and reflection needed for teachers to take schools in new directions and respond to learners’ needs; viii. it gives headteachers illusory power, within a wider game in which they are increasingly dancing to someone else's tune."

Terry Wrigley is now a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Article: The Non- and Anti-Democratic in Post-Modernity

Masahiro Hamashita, "The Non- and Anti-Democratic in Post-Modernity" ("Diogenes", 55 [4], November 2008: pp. 27-31):


Abstract: "Is, or has, democracy a universal value? This is the main question raised by this paper, which distinguishes between two aspects of democracy: political institution in opposition to despotism, and political belief against any kind of slavery and subordination. The role played by intellectuals in the development of contemporary democracy, and the relation of democracy to mass culture and the influence of mass media on a true democratic attitude, are studied within the frame of an overall 'mass aesthetization' which characterizes contemporary societies."

An article I could, unfortunately, not access.

Masahiro Hamashita is Professor of Aesthetics in the Department of Intercultural Studies at Kobe College, Nishinomiya City, Japan.

03 April 2010

Book: The French Revolution and the Russian Anti-Democratic Tradition

Dmitry Shlapentokh, "The French Revolution and the Russian Anti-Democratic Tradition: A Case of False Consciousness" (Transaction Publishers, 1997):


Publisher's description: "The political uncertainty following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rejection of the revolutionary model has brought Russian political thought full circle as democratic forces contend with authoritarian nationalism. This volume is essential to understanding the antidemocratic tradition in Russia and the persistent danger of totalitarianism."

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search (including table of contents):


Dmitry Shlapentokh, born in Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union, is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University South Bend.

Audio: Jonathan Meese's "Lolita de Sade"

Jonathan Meese is a German painter and sculptor, performance and installation artist. In February 2010, the Verlag für moderne Kunst in Nürnberg released "original sound recordings" (Originaltonaufnahmen) of Meese, edited by Brigade Commerz – Audio Arts Archive, under the title "Lolita de Sade":


The recordings seem to be in German, but the following English description is to be found on the publisher's website: "'Children – Lolitas – Democrats', this is how the world is built for Jonathan Meese. Democrats are human machines that in reality want to suck us dry. They entice us with the most pornographic and disgusting thing of all: with culture and the journey into the self. Meese cannot find anything obscene in the sex shop, on the other hand. It only has toys, and anyway the vampire in art is the most lewd thing for him. Art simply takes place in front of us. It is like peeing, or like the 'Haifischmund'
[shark's mouth] of Scarlett Johansson: 'Total metabolism, total fertility, total anti-democracy, total neutrality. A pure object, a plug for all and none ... too large or too small for everyone'."

Unfortunately, I can't quite figure out what it is all about. Might be some kind of art work or (merely) an interview.

Press release: Anti-democratic temptations still present in Latin America and the Caribbean

On 30 March, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a press release titled "Insulza: 'Anti-democratic Temptations are Still Present in Different Sectors of Our Region'":


Excerpt: "The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said today that 'in our continent electoral processes have made remarkable progress, and so democracies have become legitimate in their origin. Nevertheless, institutionality is still fragile and the constitutional changes produced in some countries must prove they can generate stable governments.' The Secretary General's remarks came during a conference organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

"During the conference, entitled 'The Inter-American System: Governance and Democracy,' Insulza said that poverty continues to be the most important though not the sole factor limiting the possibility of reaching democratic stability in the region. He also explained that though democracy progresses in its origin, 'anti-democratic temptations continue to be present in different sectors of our region, especially in two forms: one based on the false premise that whoever has a majority has the right to change the system as he sees fit, and the other one is the tendency of the dominant sectors to distrust the whole process of reform and to make corrections in the most brutal way.'

"In his analysis, Insulza identified lack of freedom of expression, corruption and restrictions to the necessary separation of state powers as 'some of the most important limitations in the transition of regional countries towards democratic stability.' In this context, and in reference to the situation of Honduras, Insulza said that 'if the government of Honduras had requested action by the OAS in a timely way, we could have controlled that conflict before it became a coup d'état. [...']"

02 April 2010

CONF: The Role of Law in Undermining the Defense of Democracy

Conference "The UN's Goldstone Report: The Defamation of Israel and the Threat to American National Security in the Age of Terrorism" of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (AAJLJ) and Touro College's Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust (IHRH), at Fordham University School of Law, 140 W 62nd Street, New York City, 27 April 2010, 9.00 am-5.00 pm

Description: "International law and legal institutions are being used to pursue strategic and political goals as a corollary to modern warfare. In the case of Israel and the threat posed by terrorism in the 21st century, 'lawfare' can be as biased and lethal as any other form of weaponry. Attacks on the legitimacy of actions taken in self-defense by democratic states, in the halls of the UN and international and domestic courts, radically undermine the ability to protect the welfare of the Jewish state and all democracies from the scourge of terrorism. This assault empowers and emboldens the enemies of democracy and encourages the intolerance and antisemitism at the root of the terrorist and anti-Zionist agenda.

"In particular, the semblance of authenticity and the cloak of legal language surrounding the Goldstone Report have given it an undeserved legitimacy and inspired a plethora of further mechanisms intended to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel. The report and the lawfare strategy it embodies, erode the legitimacy of international law and pose a clear and present danger to the right of all democratic states, including the United States, to defend themselves. This [conference] will explore, examine and expose the fallacies of the Goldstone Report, and other manifestations of lawfare, as well as suggest strategies for fighting back."

Of particular interest may be the part of the programme on "The Role of Law in Undermining the Defense of Democracy".

Confirmed speakers include: Gabriela Shalev (Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations), Shmuel Trigano (Professor of Religious and Political Sociology, Paris West University Nanterre La Défense), Anne Bayefsky (Director, IHRH, Touro College), Samuel Edelman (Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, American Jewish University), Malvina Halberstam (Professor of Law, Cardozo School of Law), Kenneth Marcus (Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality and Justice in America, Baruch College), Ed Morgan (Professor of Law, University of Toronto), Nicholas Rostow (University Counsel and Vice Chancellor, State University of New York), Peter J. Haas (President, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East), and Martin Kramer (Senior Fellow, Shalem Center).

Kosher lunch provided.

Seating is limited and participants must pre-register. Please RSVP asap: info@jewishlawyers.org

Co-sponsored by B'nai Brith, American Jewish International Relations Institute, International Council of Jewish Women, World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues, Jewish Law Students Association of Fordham School of Law, American Zionist Movement, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and Women's League for Conservative Judaism.

A first conference on lawfare last month, also held in New York City, was criticized afterward for not inviting any speakers from the opposing camp. Although seemingly more academic, this one sounds fairly one-sided too.