31 May 2010

Book: Organized Crime and the Challenge to Democracy

The contributed volume "Organized Crime and the Challenge to Democracy" was edited by Felia Allum and Renate Siebert (Routledge, 2003):


Publisher's description: "This innovative book investigates the paradoxical situation whereby organized crime groups, authoritarian in nature and anti-democratic in practice, perform at their best in democratic countries. It uses examples from the United States, Japan, Russia, South America, France, Italy and the European Union."

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


Felia Allum is a Lecturer in Italian Politics and History at the University of Bath.

German-born Renate Siebert is Professor of Sociology at the University of Calabria, Italy.

30 May 2010

Article: Jamaica's Bloody Democracy

Orlando Patterson's op-ed article "Jamaica's Bloody Democracy" appeared in today's "New York Times".

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


Excerpts: "The violence tearing apart Jamaica, a democratic state, raises serious questions not only about its government's capacity to provide basic security but, more broadly and disturbingly, the link between violence and democracy itself. The specific causes of the turmoil are well known. For decades political leaders have used armed local gangs to mobilize voters in their constituencies; the gangs are rewarded with the spoils of power, in particular housing and employment contracts they can dole out. Opposition leaders counter with their own gangs, resulting in chronic violence during election seasons. These gangs eventually moved into international drug trafficking, with their leaders, called 'dons,' becoming ever more powerful. The tables turned quite some time ago, with the politicians becoming dependent on the dons for their survival. [...]

"Yet Jamaica, to its credit, has by global standards achieved a robust democracy. [...] Freedom House has continuously categorized the island as a 'free' country. [...] It may or may not be true that democracies do not wage war with each other, but a growing number of analysts have concluded that, domestically, democracies are in fact more prone to violence than authoritarian states, measured by incidence of civil wars, communal conflict and homicide. There are many obvious examples of this: India has far more street crime than China; the countries of the former Soviet Union are more violent now than they were under Communism; the streets of South Africa became more dangerous after apartheid was dismantled; Brazil was safer before 1985 under its military rule."

Orlando Patterson is John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard.

28 May 2010

Article: The Abandonment of Democracy Promotion

Tara McKelvey's article "The Abandonment of Democracy Promotion" was published in the contributed volume "New Threats to Freedom", ed. Adam Bellow (Templeton Press, May 2010: pp. 171-80):


Excerpts: "Democracy has been taking some serious knocks in countries around the world. [...] Yet despite the threat to political freedom in Russia, Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other countries [...], Americans have begun to show considerably less interest in helping to promote democracy as part of the nation's foreign policy. These trends will reinforce each other in the coming years [...]. Americans have turned away from the principles of democracy promotion largely in response to President George W. Bush's disastrous efforts in this area. It may seem natural to scale back on this aspect of foreign policy after the excessive zeal of the Bush administration. [...]

"President Obama has demonstrated that he is significantly less interested in democracy promotion than his predecessor; moreover, top members of his cabinet share his views. [...] Meanwhile, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have sent a national-security memo to President Obama, urging him to abandon democracy promotion in Afghanistan, and in the president's proposed 2010 foreign operations budget, funding for democracy projects in the Middle East and North Africa has gone down. [...] [S]ome U.S. officials seem almost disdainful of the attempts at building a democratic society [in Afghanistan] that are currently under way."

Tara McKelvey is a Senior Editor at the liberal magazine "The American Prospect" and an Alumni Fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security.

27 May 2010

Audio: Doomed by Democracy?

BBC Radio 4 on 24 May 2010 broadcast an "Analysis" programme dedicated to the discussion among environmentalists that democracy may have to be "suspended" in order to fight climate change.

The audio is available free of charge here:


The full text of the programme transcript can be read here:


Excerpts: "[Halina] WARD [Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development]: We don't have to be driven by what 50% plus 1 of the population wants to say that we represent a majority view. [Presenter Justin] ROWLATT: And this is Gordon Brown's former special advisor on climate change. [Michael] JACOBS: I don't think it's right to call something anti-democratic if it has the consent of the public even if you couldn't say that they were actively in favour of it. [... Mayer] HILLMAN [Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute]: [...] There's no way that the public are going to willingly say 'I will forego flying'. The fact is that we've got to live on such a low use of fossil fuels for our daily activities. Therefore it's got to be required of them and if they don't go along with it, then we are – I fear – heading for absolute disaster. We are on a trajectory towards rendering the planet steadily uninhabitable. [...] ROWLATT: Establishing a kind authoritarian regime to impose restrictions on people's lifestyle – does sound like fascism doesn't it? HILLMAN: Well it's interesting you should use that noun because I've often observed that in 1939 had there been a referendum as to whether we go to war with Nazi Germany – the majority would have said 'No way' we had a horrific first war – we're not going to go through that again – there are times in history when democracy has to be set aside because of our wider obligation. [...]

"WARD: There are some environmentalists in particular who [...] feel that democracy is hampering progress. But those tend to be very privately expressed thoughts along the lines of China's easier to deal with [in] the intergovernmental arena perhaps because it's not a democracy. Thank goodness for that. And there's another group of activist civil society groups who I think see that democracy presents a huge challenge [...]. ROWLATT: Mayer Hillman [...] now believes the choice is between democracy and the survival of the human species. HILLMAN: [...] Democracy allows people the freedom not to be obliged to do things that we know we must do, so how can one possibly say yes but the principle of democracy must prevail over and above protection of the global environment from excessive burning of fossil fuels? Given the choice, I would sadly – very, very sadly – say that the condition of the planet in the future for future generations is more important than the retention of democratic principles. JACOBS: [...] Am I confident that democratic systems will deal with the issue of climate change? No. [...] ROWLATT: [...] The most pessimistic environmentalists suggesting suspending democracy are likely to remain a minority, not least because there is no obvious alternative. But what seems certain is that the challenge of tackling climate change will test democratic institutions as never before."

25 May 2010

Book: Maoism: A Critique from the Left

Just published: Prasenjit Bose is the editor of the contributed volume "Maoism: A Critique from the Left" (LeftWord Books, May 2010):


Publisher's description: "What is 'Maoism'? What are its roots, and who are the forces waging a war in its name? The Indian Prime Minister characterizes them as our gravest internal security threat. The Maoists, on the other hand, claim they are the only revolutionary force in India today. The debate in India seems polarized between the hardline advocates of a military response to leftwing extremism on the one hand, and those who sympathize with the Maoists on the other. There is need, however, to look at the roots and origins of left sectarianism and critique it from a Marxist standpoint. In articulating a Left critique of 'Maoism', this book adds a crucial dimension to the ongoing debate in India. [...] P.M.S. Grewal makes a detailed, careful critique of the Indian Maoists' history, their programme and praxis. Nilotpal Basu unravels 'Maoism' as an anti-thesis of Mao Zedong thought. Vijay Prashad takes a critical look at the international experience of left extremism, especially in Latin America."

From the introduction: "Following independence, alongside the emergence of the Communist party as a major opposition force to the ruling Congress party within the parliamentary democratic set up, ideological debates also intensified within the Left on the road to revolution in India. [...] The Communist Party of India (Marxist) [...] arrived at a programmatic understanding that the [...] revolution, directed against the big bourgeoisie, landlordism and imperialism, is to be achieved by combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles. This overall understanding, however, was questioned by a small section, which considered participation in the parliamentary democratic process – just as the left sectarians did during Lenin's time – to be revisionist and non-revolutionary in principle. [...] Nilotpal Basu's essay [...] makes a robust critique of the anti-democratic practices of the Maoists and their hypocritical sympathizers. He also argues that Maoists can be effectively dealt with, not by means of imposing bans or security measures alone, but by ensuring their political isolation and addressing the developmental needs of the tribal areas where the Maoists operate."

Prasenjit Bose is Convenor of the Research Unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

24 May 2010

Trend: Latin America tied to anti-democratic leaders

The Argentinean news website Momento24 on 22 May 2010 published a short article titled "Oscar Arias: 'Latin America is tied to messianic populism and anti-democratic leaders'":


Excerpts: "The former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize [recipient], Oscar Arias[,] said that 'Latin America remains hostage of [sic] messianism and populism with presidents who use the election results to justify anti-democratic behaviors. [...] We applaud revolutionary speeches which are empty in all but their threat to the institutions.' He added that 'in Latin America there is only one dictatorship and it's the Cuban dictatorship but other regimes, like it or not, are democratic regimes that have authoritarian propensities. [...] [T]here are leaders in the region that rely on [...] support at the polls as a blank check from the population. Something as democratic as elections, [sic] is used as a shield to subvert the very foundations of democracy.'" (bold removed)

23 May 2010

Book: Democracy: A Religion!

Abu Muhammad 'Aasim (also: Asem/Asim) al-Maqdisi is named as the author of an undated (recent) booklet titled "Democracy: A Religion!"
(translated from Arabic by Abu Muhammad al-Maleki and revised by Abu Sayf Muwahhid). Apparently, this is a pseudonym assumed by the Palestinian writer Isam Mohammad (or: Muhammad/Mohammed) Tahir (or: Taher) al-Barqawi, a cleric and one-time spiritual mentor of the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Maqdisi has been called "the most influential living Jihadi [t]heorist" and "the key contemporary ideologue in the Jihadi intellectual universe". He currently seems to be imprisoned in Jordan.

The full text of the booklet can (currently) be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "They distort the Truth with Falsehood, and mix [...] the Polytheism of democracy with the Monotheism of Islam. But we, with the help of Allah, replied to all of these fallacies, and showed that democracy is a religion. But it is not Allah's religion. It is not the religion of monotheism, and its parliamentary councils are just places of polytheism, and safe havens for paganistic beliefs. [...] We must destroy those who follow democracy, and we must take their followers as enemies – hate them and wage a great Jihad against them. [...]
[O]bedience in legislation is a form of worship, and must not be for any one except for Allah, since Allah is the only One who can provide legislation. Therefore, anyone who seeks to implement a legislation created by someone other than Allah, is in fact a polytheist. [...] If anyone transgresses the limits and does that, he makes himself a legislator, and he will be enacting the role of a deity. [...] Therefore, the legislators became gods to every one who obeyed and followed them, or agreed with them in this disbelief and polytheism [....]

"Be careful not to limit the word 'religion' just to Christianity, or Judaism and so on, because you may follow the other void religions and go astray. It includes every religion, method, judgment system, and law that the creatures follow and adhere to. All of these false religions must be left, and avoided. [...] This may include Communism, Socialism, Secularism, and other such innovated methods, and principles, which men invented with their own minds, and then satisfied these ideas to be their own religions [sic]. One of these religions is democracy. [...] The people in a democracy select representatives and each group or tribe will select a god of these disparate gods, to legislate according to their desires and whims, but according to the constitution's texts. Some of them select their god (their legislator), according to their ideology, or way of thinking, so there will be a god for this party and another one for that. Some of them select him according to the tribe, so there will be a god for this tribe and another for that tribe. And some select a religious god, as they claim, or a bearded god, or an unbearded one, and so on. [...] These representatives, in fact, are erected, engraved images and worshipped idols, and claimed gods that are set up and fixed in their temples, at their heathen sanctuaries (the parliaments). [...]

"Some ignorant people [...] called their putrid democracy a consultation (i.e. they are saying that democracy is the same as a Shura' – the Islamic method of consultation) – to show and imbue a legitimate religious tinge upon this fake religion – to approve it and to make it permitted. [...] The comparison of the democracy of polytheist people with the monotheists['] consultation (i.e. Shura), and the similitude of the consultation council, with the disbeliever's, sinful, disobedient [sic] councils is a vile similitude and false comparison. [...] The consultation is from Allah's decree, His religion, but democracy is a disbelief in Allah's decree and His religion. [...] The consultation must be in the matter that has no judgement, but when we have a text, an evidence, or a judgement, then there will be no consultation. [...] [I]n a consultation, people, or the majority is that who is under the obligation, commissioned to obey Allah and His Prophet (saw) than to the Muslims' leader [sic]. And the leader is not forced to accept the majority's opinion, or Judgement. The majority is forced to obey the leader even if he is wrong, unless he calls to the disobedience of Allah." (first italics originally bold)

22 May 2010

Article: Democracy vs Desire: Beyond the Politics of Measure

Andy Robinson's article "Democracy vs Desire: Beyond the Politics of Measure" was published in "Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed"
(issue 60, 23 [2], fall/winter 2005-06: page numbers not given).

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


Excerpts: "My contention in this article is that anarchy and democracy are incompatible, because anarchy is based on an active politics of desire whereas democracy is necessarily reactive and thus plays into the repressive logics of industrial society and especially, of contemporary capitalism. [...] Democracy and the politics of desire may seem complementary, but in fact they run contrary to each other. [...] That minorities be prevented from expressing themselves with wildness and immediacy – that they remain always the 'loyal opposition' within the confines of a system in which the majority gets its way – is a necessary part of the idea of democracy. For this reason, democracy goes against the emancipation of desire, operating simply as a particularly powerful ideology of recuperation with especially effective, and therefore insidious, ways of excusing social repression. [...] [D]emocracy is a specific instance of state power – and not, as implied by some anarchists, a critique of state power or a form of anarchy. [...]

"The people – the 'decent' or 'law-abiding' or 'hard-working' ordinary folk or 'citizens' invoked to justify crackdowns and repression – are the agent of repression, while the excluded, the new barbarians, defined as criminal, indecent, and 'anti-social,' are the object. It is thus 'rule by the people' at its most brutal – a violent tyranny by those who define themselves as the authentic people, over those who are excluded from it. It is also, of course, a self-policing of capitalism and industrial society – but this is unsurprising, since the 'people', after all, are not defined externally to this society but rather are constructed by it. [...] Reactive psychology, which expresses itself in the ethics of self-deadening 'shoulds,' transmutes the internal repression of desire (itself necessary for one to subordinate oneself to the majority) into a hostility against the expression of active desires by others, thus drawing social repression as the consequence of psychological repression. Where the majority have such character-structures, democracy can be nothing more than a dictatorship by bigots. Where they do not, democracy is unstable, undermined in its calculative finality by desires that overflow it. [...]

"Is it a coincidence that the same self-styled anarchists who identify anarchism with democracy are also often insufficiently rigorous in opposing the new form of capitalist control expressed through the crackdown culture? [...] Everywhere, 'class struggle' anarchists rally behind the calls to oppose 'anti-social' activities, even to the point of critically supporting crackdowns (always, of course, with the usual supplements, denouncing the existing state even while forming the working-class itself into a parallel state with its own repressive force and its own conformity-imposing closures). One thus finds these would-be anarchists cast as the last defenders of the state. For the state, in its last instance, is not the macro-social aggregate; it is the logic of control and policing of life from above, which is epitomised locally in policing agencies (whether those of the official state police or of vigilantes, snoops, and busybodies), and psychologically in repressively formulated ethics (whether those of a liberal or aristocratic elite, or those of a self-righteous 'decent people' fixated on its own decency). Without a rejection of the fixed identities and categories that operate as cops in our heads, there can be no destruction of the state – only its transmutation, fragmentation, and ultimate revival ih [sic] new, and maybe stronger, forms.

"The 'people' who rule must after all be a determinate entity, and in order to be conceived as such, the 'people' must be given fixity as what Max Stirner terms a spook – an ideological construction to which actual people subordinate themselves, and of which one is a part only to the extent that one conforms. [...] 'Rule by the people' thus turns out not to be self-determination by actual people at all, but rather, to be the tyrannical imposition of a normative conception of an essence of peoplehood by those whose own identity is constructed around this category. What is excluded is the 'un-people' to misquote Stirner – the flows of desire and activity which exceed and overflow the fixed category, which are unspeakable in terms of its representations. [...] The adherents of anarchy, the opponents of despotic gestures of this kind, must necessarily be on the side of the excluded, indeed, among the excluded, and thus, against the imposition of conformity, and radically exterior to the imagined 'community' their fixed categories construct. [...]

"Democracy is not an inclusion of all those who vote; it is a means of silencing those who are left in the minority. [...] Active desire is not capable of accepting the a priori insistence that it conform to the result of a majority decision. [...] Thus, desire is minoritarian not simply in that it can often end up in the minority when a vote is taken; it is minoritarian in that it is non-denumerable, it cannot be reduced to something to be counted and weighed on a scale with other desires or with other entities of whatever kind. To reject the aspiration to be the majority – not only in the numerical sense but in the ideological sense, to reject the aspiration for one's own desires and contingencies to be classified as decent and normal to the exclusion of others – is a logical extension of active desire. Active desire, wildness, is unconditional and irreducible. It cannot, therefore, find expression in a system which reduces it to its representation, as one among many elements to be counted."

Andy Robinson is a Leverhulme Fellow in the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, from which he holds a PhD in Political Theory.

21 May 2010

Book: Telecracy Against Democracy (in French)

"Cultural Politics: An International Journal", in its latest issue, publishes the English translation of a text by Bernard Stiegler under the title "Telecracy Against Democracy" (6 [2], July 2010: pp. 171-80):


Abstract: "The text we publish here is the first chapter of Bernard Stiegler's La Télécratie contre la Démocratie. The broad argument of Stiegler's book (and of this introductory chapter) is that what he terms 'telecracy' is ruining democracy by short-circuiting the normal mechanisms of politics and destroying the foundations of citizenship, as understood since the Greeks. As a result, television and the wider 'televisual' program industries have become the central political issue within our societies."

The book was published in French by Flammarion in 2006:


I can't access the full text of either the article or the book.

Bernard Stiegler, a philosopher who spent five years in prison for armed robbery, is Director of the Department of Cultural Development at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Professorial Fellow in the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.

20 May 2010

Afghan poll likely to be undemocratic, says EU ambassador

The "Irish Examiner" published today an article by Juno McEnroe titled "Ambassador: Afghan poll likely to be undemocratic":


Excerpts: "The EU ambassador to Afghanistan has admitted the upcoming parliamentary elections are likely to be undemocratic as a circle of bloody violence continues to cripple the country. Having pumped $75 million (€61m) of EU taxpayers' money [...] into elections in the war-torn nation, [...] EU ambassador Vygaudas Usackas said [...:] 'We wish to have them [the elections] fair and transparent, but it won't be democratic. It won't. I want to be honest with the taxpayers. We won't have the elections we wish to have. Afghanistan has never had a traditional democracy, it has been 30 years in war and they are surrounded by many undemocratic countries in the region. The West, the EU and Americans, we have been exaggerating the expectations in terms of the circumstances we face.'

"About 80% of Afghans are illiterate, according to the EU. Concerns about the September elections include fraudulent or double voting as well as coerced voting, coming on the back of widespread accusations that last year's presidential elections were partially rigged. The ambassador added: '[...] We don't have a voter register. Maybe there's 25, 35 or 40 million voters.' A robust system for voting checks and complaints was needed, he said. EU funding for both elections has included paying for printing, salaries, transportation, training of voting officers as well as security for female candidates."

19 May 2010

Article: The End of Democracy in Thailand?

Andrew Walker and Nicholas Farrelly are the authors of an article titled "The End of Democracy in Thailand?" that was published on 18 May 2010 on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Thailand's fledgling democracy is now all but dead; bloodied and battered on the streets of Bangkok. How did this happen? [...] In the country's rural heartlands Thaksin [Shinawatra]'s policies of universal health care, infrastructure investment, local economic stimulus, and agricultural debt relief were wildly popular. Even the murders that punctuated his bloody 'war on drugs' were applauded by many rural Thais who were fed up with the nightmare of narcotic abuse. To succeed at the ballot box, Thaksin learned to speak the language of rural Thailand in a cadence that alternated between populism and brutality. [...] He was eventually overthrown in the coup of September 2006 and another election was held in December 2007. Thaksin was in exile, but his political allies won again, falling just short of an absolute majority. But the anti-Thaksin forces could not accept this result either and they managed to manoeuvre Abhisit Vejjaiva into power on the back of the yellow shirt occupation of Bangkok's international airport and the dissolution of the pro-Thaksin governing party. [...]

"[T]he underlying motivation of the protesters is clear: they are fed up with having election results overturned. They have gone peacefully to the ballot box three times since 2005 and each time elite forces associated with the palace, the military, the judiciary and Abhisit's Democrat Party, have disregarded their decision. The red shirts have been told that their votes don't count, that they are uneducated country bumpkins, and that they sell their votes to the highest bidder. It is unsurprising that many of them were suspicious about Abhisit's offer to hold yet another election on November 14. There were even more suspicious about the willingness of the forces that back Abhisit to respect its result. [...] Decades of national faith invested in an unelected monarch as the ultimate source of authority and salvation in times of crisis has stunted the development of robust democratic institutions. [...] There is considerable truth to the old joke that Thailand is the world's longest lasting fledgling democracy, and that truth owes much to the fact that the symbolic power of the monarch has overshadowed opportunities for elected politicians to manage national affairs."

Andrew Walker is a Senior Fellow and Nicholas Farrelly is Associate Lecturer in the Department of Political and Social Change at the Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific.

17 May 2010

Book: Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience

The short book "Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience" by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier (AK Press, 1995) may be out of print:


Publisher's description: "The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the [twentieth] century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Including two essay [sic] – 'Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents' and 'Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,' Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere."

The book is fully searchable on Google Book Search:


Janet Biehl is the author and editor of numerous books and articles.

German-born Peter Staudenmaier, a left green activist, is now a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Cornell University.

15 May 2010

Article: Is a Halakhic State Possible? The Paradox of Jewish Theocracy

Aviezer Ravitzky, "Is a Halakhic State Possible? The Paradox of Jewish Theocracy" ("Israel Affairs", 11 [1], January 2005: pp. 137-64):


Abstract: "Is a consistent Jewish religious position requires [sic] either fashioning the State of Israel into a halakhic theocracy or negating it completely? If Torah observers gained control over Israeli society, would their faith require them (or permit them) to impose the Torah's laws on one and all, even against the will of the community and its elected representatives? Would there be no escape from having the rule of Torah undercut that of the State? In this article we propose a negative answer to these questions. We argue that the vision of a halakhic theocracy is vulnerable to challenges on two main levels – on the basis of the age-old inner logic of the Jewish tradition and on account of the actual condition of the contemporary Jews. However, criticism of the 'halakhic state' does not imply endorsement of the opposing slogan, 'separating of religion and Jewish state'. The latter gives rise to its own set of serious difficulties, from the perspective of the religion of Israel and of the State of Israel alike. Both positions may be refutable equally. Yet, there is a wide range of useful political and cultural options available between these two poles."

Excerpt: "The Jewish religion is a religion of legal, societal and national dimensions. It is a religion of law (halakhah), in that it concentrates on its adherents' way of life and takes a greater interest in their tangible actions than in their declarations of faith. It is a social religion, in that it deals with communal values and seeks to shape the public domain, sometimes even before getting involved with the private. And it is a national religion, in that most of its commandments and directives pertain to a particular people, the congregation of Israel, and only a few are directed toward humanity per se. Taken together, these three elements afford the Jewish religious tradition a definite political character. Naturally, such a religio-political tradition can never be indifferent with respect to a state that it regards as the state of the Jewish people. It will strive mightily to influence that state's laws and values and to impose its imprint on its culture and symbols."

The article has been reprinted in "Israeli Democracy at the Crossroads", ed. Raphael Cohen-Almagor (Routledge, July 2005: pp. 137-64). The contents of the book appear to be (almost) identical to those of the earlier journal.

The article (as published in the book) can be partially read here:


Aviezer Ravitzky is Saul Rosenblum Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and recipient of the 2001 Israel Prize in Jewish Thought.

14 May 2010

Book: The Liberal Model and Africa: Elites Against Democracy

Kenneth Good, "The Liberal Model and Africa: Elites Against Democracy" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2001):


Publisher's description: "This book critically examines the realities of liberal democracy; its elitism and non-accountability; and its inequalities and injustices. Participatory systems and movements, whether in Athens, seventeenth and nineteenth century England, or South Africa 1970-1990, are more effective in satisfying the democratic aspirations of the people and in curtailing ambitious elites, than what is passed off now as 'democracy'. By interrogating contemporary democratic regimes, in the United States, and in Botswana and South Africa, the severe limitations and constraints inherent in liberal democracy are highlighted. The need for a clear evaluation of what constituted democracy emerges as a powerful message of Kenneth Good's argument."

Endorsements: "[A] searching, powerful and innovative critique of liberal democracy, notably as it has arrived in Southern Africa." (Roger Southall, Rhodes University)

"This is indeed a useful and timely contribution to the democracy debate in Africa." (Francis B. Nyamnjoh, University of Botswana)

Review: "[Kenneth Good] illustrates in this important book, no country [...] has embraced participatory democracy with its egalitarian face, preferring instead the elitism of the liberal model." ("The Sunday Independent")

Australian-born Kenneth Good was Professor of Political Studies at the University of Botswana. He was declared an "undesirable person" and deported from Botswana in 2005.

13 May 2010

Article: Has Indian Democracy Failed?

Smitu Kothari's article "Has Indian Democracy Failed?" was published on 6 August 2007 on the website of Intercultural Resources (ICR), an Indian-based organization "for research and political intervention on issues related to the impacts [of] and alternatives to destructive development".

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "From whose vantage point do we assess our democracy? The minority that celebrates our 'economic miracle' and has found the means, both legitimate and devious, to enhance its comforts and privileges? Or the over 70 per cent who live on less than Rs 80 [Rupees] a day, some striving to improve their lives against grave odds and others living a life of penury and humiliation? [...] Integral to democracy was the commitment to strive for social and economic justice. Any assessment of our democracy must start with an assessment of that commitment. [...] Can we call our country democratic when, in the past few years, there have been a hundred thousand farmer suicides – a hundred thousand families devastated? [...] This reality points to our being integrated into an undemocratic global economic system dominated by institutions which are silent when the US and Europe heavily subsidise their farmers undermining the very survival of millions of farmers in countries like ours – one of the reasons for the suicides. [...]

"Should we admit failure when the police or the army fire on democratic protests often in the presence of district collectors and senior members of ruling parties? Are the firings and repression in Nandigram and Kalinganagar scattered incidents or are they part of a pattern where 'development flows from the barrel of a gun'? Even a cursory look at what is unfolding in the Northeast highlights how projects ranging from uranium mines to scores of large dams are being implemented with minimal public discussion using lies, subterfuge, armed force and blatant bribery. [...] Despite nine per cent growth, less than one per cent of the national budget goes towards public health spending? We have child malnourishment levels that are higher than sub-Saharan Africa. Highlighting this, a recent government of India-UNICEF study found that 56 per cent of women and 79 per cent of children below three years old were anemic – a situation worse than seven years ago. [...] So you have a classic situation of widening expectations created by a populist image of resurgent India and a reality of disenchantment. It is inevitable in this situation that Maoist movements are finding resonance among despairing populations. Vast areas in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Orissa are now under their influence."

The late Smitu Kothari (1950-2009), a social and environmental activist, was Director of Intercultural Resources (ICR), New Delhi, and Visiting Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

12 May 2010

Pamphlet: Democracy in Crisis: How the Islamic Political System ensures Good Governance

On the day of the general elections in the United Kingdom (6 May 2010), the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the pan-Islamist revolutionary party active in many Muslim as well as western countries, released a pamphlet titled "Democracy in Crisis: How the Islamic Political System ensures Good Governance".

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


Excerpts: "Democracy [...] is the established order in a chaotic and unstable world, where every critic of democracy is viewed with heretical suspicion. [...] For every civilization, for every country for every tribe, for every time – goes the mantra – democracy is the claimed answer to all our ills. [...] In addition to elections, Western democracies also champion a separation of state and religion, liberal values towards personal conduct, as well as capitalism, with its policy of unbridled free markets. Western societies promote individualism, hedonism and utilitarianism, with faith and morality kept strictly to the private arena. There is very little evidence that the people of Kabul (never mind Kandahar), Baghdad or Cairo support or accept that Islam should be marginalised in society and kept solely to the confines of the mosque, nor would most accept that a person has freedom to view pornography or commit adultery. Nor would most agree with laws permitting alcohol, gambling establishments or free market capitalism with all its adverse impacts; yet these are all norms in Western democracies. [...]

"Yet the problem of secular democracies originates not from bad implementation but shaky theoretical foundations. The view that laws become superior to other laws based on the number of people voting for them is as absurd as it is dangerous. We certainly don't decide scientific progress based on the number of people who support a position, if we did then Galileo, Copernicus and the hundreds of scientists who spoke truth to power and who struggled against public opinion must have been wrong. We decide trials based on the quality of evidence not on the numerical superiority of witnesses on any particular side. If people, as they did in the 1930's, vote for a populist leader who would later kill millions of Jews and start a world war, does this validate their choice just because they constituted a majority at a point in time. No it doesn't. [...] It is the active promotion of secular democracy abroad while simultaneously abandoning it at home that is the brazen hypocrisy. In rolling back democracy at home, the West has lost its moral leadership to preach to countries abroad, seriously undermining the pro democracy activists abroad it claims to support. [...]

"Theocracies at their heart believe that there is a group or leaders who are infallible and who have an exclusive right to interpret the word of God, where no one is allowed to challenge their interpretation and anyone doing so is condemned. Muslims believe Prophets are selected by God but that subsequent political leaders are not. Their legitimacy must emanate from the authority of the people. The Islamic political system is not theocratic in nature with anyone allowed to challenge any ruling by either scholars or the head of state. [...] The Islamic system would take the money out of modern politics. The electoral circus every four or five years [...] in the West positively encourages the growth of money in politics forcing politicians to either raise grotesque amounts of money for re-election or maximise their own wealth before they get booted out. The Islamic system, though not immune from the temptations on offer, seeks to actively detach both finance and the interests of corporations from politics [...].

"No one – including the head of state, their family, or any religious scholar – is above the law. And unlike the West where justice is skewed to those that are more powerful and wealthier, Islamic courts have historically – and will do so in the future – exercised justice for the weak, minorities and the less well off. [...] We do not believe in arbitrary arrest or torture or rendition or internment. Every person has the right to a presumption of innocence, a right to privacy and a right to a fair trial. Secular democracies do not have a monopoly over respecting the rights of its [sic] citizens. [...] There are also clear constitutionally enshrined Islamic prohibitions on torture and abusive behaviour amongst other things – applied to the police, armed forces and security services as well as the general population – as a protection from such forceful rule [....]

"The failure to acknowledge the Khilafah State as an alternative, despite its resonance with hundreds of millions of Muslims is not surprising. Western political leaders are more at ease comparing their way of life with the low benchmark of brutal dictators of the Middle East (despite propping up these same leaders for years) than in actually arguing the substantive issues of which political system would be better for the Muslim world. [...] In practice there is a huge gap between the reality of democratic countries and the rhetoric. [...] Debt is rising as democratic states continue to pander to their populations for short-term electoral considerations. The financial crisis of 2008 driven by the unholy trinity of democracy, capitalism and liberalism brought the world to the brink of disaster. We should learn the lessons before its [sic] too late. [...] What we need today is fresh thinking, not another model of secular democracy or some diluted set of reforms. It is a system so bankrupt that the world needs radical new alternatives, intertwined with new values and a new ethos of politics serving the public not a wealthy elite. This is the essence of the Islamic alternative."

The pamphlet includes case studies on the United States, United Kingdom, India, and Afghanistan, as well as a Q & A section on the Islamic Caliphate (Khilafah) system as an alternative to democracy.

11 May 2010

Article: As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere

The "Guardian" newspaper on 8 April 2010 published an op-ed piece by Simon Jenkins titled "As democracy unravels at home, the west thuggishly exports it elsewhere". The subtitle or lead reads: "While the US and Britain slide towards oligarchy, the forced elections in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought no good".

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "The west's proudest export to the Islamic world this past decade has been democracy. That is, not real democracy, which is too complicated, but elections. They have been exported at the point of a gun and a missile to Iraq and Afghanistan, to 'nation-build' these states and hence 'defeat terror'. When apologists are challenged to show some good resulting from the shambles, they invariably reply: 'It has given Iraqis and Afghans freedom to vote.' [...] Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and millions been driven from their homes [...]. The import of democracy has so far just inflamed local tension and fuelled fundamentalism. Like precious porcelain, elections were exported without instructions on their care. In the absence of adequate security, they are little more than tribal plebiscites. [...]

"As the joke in Kabul goes, as long as the west pretends to uphold his regime, Karzai must 'pretend to be Swedish'. He is America's exhibit A for world democracy. [...] Democracy in both America and Britain is [...] said to be sliding towards oligarchy, with increasing overtones of autocracy. Money and its power over technology are making elections unfair. The military-industrial complex is as powerful as ever, [...] democracy is not in good shape. How strange to choose this moment to export it, least of all to countries that have never experienced it in their history. The west not only exports the stuff, it does so with massive, thuggish violence, the antithesis of how self-government should mature in any polity. The tortured justification in Iraq and Afghanistan is that elections will somehow sanctify a 'war against terrorism' waged on someone else's soil. The resulting death and destruction have been appalling. Never can an end, however noble, have so failed to justify the means of achieving it. [...]

"A system of government that they [Britons] have spent two centuries evolving and still not perfected is being rammed down the throats of poor and insecure people, who are then hectored for not handling it properly. Why should they? The invasions of their countries was not their choice. They did not ask to be a model for Britain's moral exhibitionism. They did not plead for their villages to be target practice for western special forces. [...] [T]he only certainty for Karzai is that, one day, Nato will get fed up and leave him to his fate, as it is now leaving Maliki in Baghdad. If he wants to live, he must make his peace with Afghans, not Americans, and that means on Afghan terms. Free and fair elections and a stop to corruption will have no part to play in that survival game. Democracy has been greatly oversold."

Sir Simon David Jenkins, a journalist and book author, is the former editor of "The Times" and the "Evening Standard".

Article: The Mechanics of Regime Instability in Latin America

Adam Przeworski, "The Mechanics of Regime Instability in Latin America" ("Journal of Politics in Latin America", 1 [1], 2009: pp. 5-36).

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


Abstract: "The paper is narrowly addressed to a single puzzle: How did it happen that countries that attempted to install democracy earlier enjoyed it less frequently? Regime dynamics are driven by two mechanisms: (1) Democracies become more durable as per capita income increases, and (2) Past experiences with democracy destabilize both democracies and autocracies. As a result, countries that experiment with democracy at lower income levels experience more regime instability. Moreover, until they reach some income threshold, at any time such countries are less likely to be democratic than countries that first enter democracy when they have higher incomes. Hence, paradoxically, the resistance of European monarchies against democracy resulted in democracies that were more stable than those following post-independence attempts in Latin America."

Excerpts: "Now, the claim that Latin American countries tried democracy earlier and, most importantly, at lower levels of economic development than Europe and North America is not original, even if it often evokes surprise among ethnocentric North American and Europeans. [...] To some extent, this timing is due to the fact that several parts of Latin America participated in the 1809 election to the Cortes of Cádiz, thus launching the idea of representative institutions at the time when many European countries were involved in the Napoleonic wars and elections were still rare. But a more general reason was that Latin American wars of independence were at the same time directed against monarchical rule, while most European countries experienced a gradual devolution of power from monarchs to parliaments. [...]

"Latin Americans had to constitute their institutions anew. And they were traversing a terra incognita. Monarchies, republics with predominantly hereditary collective governing bodies, and one republic with an elected legislature and an indirectly elected president were the choices known when first Haiti in 1804 and then Venezuela in 1811 proclaimed independence. In several new countries the first form of the government was a collective body that exercised both the legislative and the executive function. Triumvirates governed Argentina from 1811 to 1814 and Venezuela in 1811-12. [...] In the end institutions based on the United States pattern prevailed – in time all Latin American political systems would have elected legislatures while placing executive function in the hands of presidents – but this alternative became complicated from the onset by Bolívar's itch to keep the position for life. [...]

"The most creative was Dr. José Gaspár Rodriguez de Francia who, having become one of two consuls who were to alternate every four months in 1813, then a dictator appointed for three years, in 1816 proclaimed himself El Dictador Perpetuo of Paraguay and ruled it until 1840 as El Supremo. While this story may sound anecdotal, Francia's innovation was both radical and durable, deserving to be placed on par with Lenin's invention of the one-party state. It was radical since the only model of dictatorship known at the time was the Roman one, and in this model dictatorship was a power that was delegated, exceptional, and limited in duration. 'Perpetual Dictator' was an oxymoron. Moreover, the last attempt to make dictatorship permanent, almost twenty centuries earlier, did not bode well for Dr. Francia's fate. Yet this invention turned out to be durable: Francia set the precedent for such illustrious gentlemen as Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Kim Il-sung, al-Gaddafi, or Castro. [...]

"Now, how is it possible that Latin American countries attempted to institute democracies at lower income levels but ended up with fewer of them at all levels? [...] [A]t a low income [...] level, the probability of democracy falling is quite high. Suppose this democracy falls. The probability that the subsequent autocracy survives is then lower, so that the probability that this country will try democracy again is higher, but the probability that the second democracy survives is also lower. This sequence can be repeated several times, so that if per capita income were constant, both regimes would become increasingly unstable. But income matters: if the economy grows in the meantime, the probability that a democracy dies declines in spite of the past regime instability. And at one time, income passes a threshold above which democracy is impregnable [...].

"Note that the reasons autocratic spells become shorter and democratic spells longer at higher incomes are different. Autocratic spells are shorter almost exclusively because countries that have higher incomes have accumulated more visits to democracy, and such visits destabilize the subsequent autocracies. Democratic spells are longer, however, only because democracy lasts longer at higher income levels. Although past visits to democracy do destabilize subsequent democratic regimes, this effect is small, while the effect of income is powerful."

Polish-born Adam Przeworski is Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Politics and (by courtesy) of Economics at New York University.

09 May 2010

Article: Parochial Universalism, Democracy Jihad and the Orientalist Image of Burma

Michael Aung-Thwin, "Parochial Universalism, Democracy Jihad and the Orientalist Image of Burma: The New Evangelism" ("Pacific Affairs", 74 [4], winter 2001-2002: pp. 483-505):


Excerpts: "Throughout history there have been [...] rationalizations of parochial universalism. [...] And now, we have Pax Americana declaring the ideals of democracy and human rights as universal doctrines. In all these cases, it is the conquerors [...] (or those who were in control) who have argued that their parochial values were universal, while the conquered [...] (or those not in charge) [...] have invoked cultural relativism. Universalizing parochial values is thus not a new or unique American strategy, but an established, predictable rationalization of the strong, the ideology of the superpower to validate its hegemony. And although that rationalization today is secular rather than religious, and the goals are this-world oriented rather than the next, nevertheless, the zeal, the righteousness, the imagery, and the vocabulary with which this universalism is proclaimed are uncannily evocative of earlier religious evangelisms.

"In part, the belief that these parochial values of the superpower are indeed universal is 'confirmed' by the victims [...] when they confess their 'sin' of having once worshiped false gods (like Communism) and, in return, receive absolution (and material aid). [...] Does anyone seriously believe that [the Nobel Peace Prize,] this highest badge of honour awarded in the name of peace by the West – a form of secular canonization if you will – could ever be given to someone who did not advocate democracy or human rights, his or her actual contribution to peace notwithstanding? [...] Indeed, the establishment of democracy has become, virtually, a sine qua non for legitimate government per se. It now resembles a jihad, a holy war, backed by aggressive and confrontational rhetoric as well as economic sanctions or support.

"The most recent example can be found in the declaration of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec, which includes a 'democracy clause.' It stipulates that any country that retreats from democracy will be banished from the Summit meeting process (in the case of Cuba, not invited in the first place); thereby restricting the congregation to a holy brethren of nations who have been 'saved.' And those who 'fall from grace' are forbidden to remain in – or in the case of the 'nonbelievers,' enter at all – the Garden of Eden. Thus, not only does the word democracy today evoke images and employ vocabulary of ideological purity, it has also become a kneejerk, convenient, 'catch-all,' 'cure-all,' 'end-all' term for simple solutions to complex political problems. It marks good from evil, the latter usually reserved for the Islamic Middle East and non-Christian 'undeveloped' Asia, and provides a blanket (at least public) rationale for the West's God-given right to interfere in virtually any situation. It is the 'white man's burden' and 'manifest destiny' all over again. [...]

"In countries such as Burma, even instances of commonplace grousing is interpreted within a democratic versus authoritarian framework of analysis by democracy advocates, so that ordinary complaints by ordinary Burmese citizens (say, of annoying, standard bureaucratic snafus, found anywhere) automatically become anti-authoritarian, pro-democracy statements. All this tends to encourage the western public to accept simplistic paradigms, so that complicated events are viewed as struggles between the forces of good (western-style democracy and the free market) and the forces of evil (Third World-style everything else), in which the Burmese situation is easy to 'locate.' [...] That this is not well understood, especially among many of the same expatriate Burmese advocating democracy in Burma, is obvious. Many are cut from the same cloth and are as authoritarian and intolerant of alternative views as those they are denouncing. [...]

"Still, the obsession with propagating democracy amongst the 'political heathen' continues, reminiscent of the zeal and piousness found in the literature of imperialism. Only now, the latter's 'superior' religious and racial ideology (Christianity and the white man) has been replaced by equally 'superior' secular political and social ideology (democracy and human rights). The message may have changed but not the righteous assumptions held by the messenger; that is, neither his belief in his own cultural-intellectual superiority, nor, therefore, its rationale (the claim to universality) is substantively different. [...] Thus, in much the same way missionaries during the late nineteenth century declared that belief in the one and only true God would bring salvation, today's advocates of democracy [...] – the new evangelists – proclaim their doctrine as the one and only true ideology that will save a society from hell-fire and damnation of a worldly kind. [...]

"[D]emocracy jihad's assumption that the electoral process is the sole criterion for determining legitimate authority everywhere is self-fulfilling and tautological in any case. According to this argument, since elections are considered the only valid procedure for determining legitimate authority, only one kind of government will ever be considered legitimate anywhere in this world – a democracy – thereby excluding a priori all other kinds of political systems, their procedures, and the principles on which they rest. [...] Sukarno's 'guided democracy' and Mao's 'democratic centralism' are [...] lamented by the west as a 'corruption' of 'pure' principles, a reaction not dissimilar to the way the 'localization' of Christianity in Asia and Africa was viewed. [...] Democracy [...] is not even an issue for most of the people of Burma most of the time."

Burmese-born Michael Aung-Thwin, a historian by training, is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

08 May 2010

Book: Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear

Monique Skidmore, "Karaoke Fascism: Burma and the Politics of Fear" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004):


Publisher's description: "To come to Burma, one of the few places where despotism still dominates, is to take both a physical and an emotional journey and, like most Burmese, to become caught up in the daily management of fear. Based on Monique Skidmore's experiences living in the capital city of Rangoon, Karaoke Fascism is the first ethnography of fear in Burma and provides a sobering look at the psychological strategies employed by the Burmese people in order to survive under a military dictatorship that seeks to invade and dominate every aspect of life. Skidmore looks at the psychology and politics of fear under the SLORC and SPDC regimes. Encompassing the period of antijunta student street protests, her work describes a project of authoritarian modernity, where Burmese people are conscripted as army porters and must attend mass rallies, chant slogans, construct roads, and engage in other forms of forced labor. In a harrowing portrayal of life deep within an authoritarian state, recovering heroin addicts, psychiatric patients, girl prostitutes, and poor and vulnerable women in forcibly relocated townships speak about fear, hope, and their ongoing resistance to four decades of oppression.

"'Karaoke fascism' is a term the author uses to describe the layers of conformity that Burmese people present to each other and, more important, to the military regime. This complex veneer rests on resistance, collaboration, and complicity, and describes not only the Burmese form of oppression but also the Burmese response to a life of domination. Providing an inside look at the madness and the militarization of the city, Skidmore argues that the weight of fear, the anxiety of constant vulnerability, and the numbing demands of the State upon individuals force Burmese people to cast themselves as automata; they deliberately present lifeless hollow bodies for the State's use, while their minds reach out into the cosmos for an array of alternate realities. Skidmore raises ethical and methodological questions about conducting research on fear when doing so evokes the very emotion in question, in both researcher and informant."

Review: "Skidmore captures perfectly how even the passing visitor to Burma absorbs the atmosphere of fear and internalises the vulnerability and precariousness of a life under a military dictatorship. It is rare for an academic work to be so captivating." ("Australian Journal of Anthropology")

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


Professor Monique Skidmore is now Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra.

06 May 2010

CFP: Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010

Please circulate widely!


Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010

Organized by: Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS)

Location: Gottfried-Semper Villa Garbald, part of the Collegium Helveticum of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the University of Zurich, at Castasegna, in the Swiss Alps

Date: 8-10 November 2010

The "Anti-Democracy Agenda" (www.anti-democracy-agenda.blogspot.com) has been run by the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society since January 2010. The blog is the premier resource on the net for the study of anti-democratic thought and practice across the boundaries of various traditions and academic disciplines.

The Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010 will be the first event we organize in conjunction with the blog. It will build up though on a highly successful event on anti-democratic thought SCIS organized earlier, at the Annual Conference Workshops in Political Theory in Manchester, England, in September 2007, drawing participants from the world over. That workshop led to the publication of an edited volume, "Anti-Democratic Thought" (Imprint Academic), in December 2008.

The Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010 is set to be equally international and interdisciplinary in scope. We invite affiliated academics, independent scholars, and doctoral students and candidates from a wide range of disciplines, such as Philosophy, Political Theory, Political Science, International Relations, Development Studies, Security Studies, Law, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Literature, History, Classics, Theology, Religious Studies, Education, and so on. Papers may not only cover any and all aspects of criticisms of democracy and anti-democratic thought and practice, from perspectives including anarchism, libertarianism, conservatism, communism, Islamism, the extreme right, and others, but also related concepts such as authoritarianism, dictatorship, military rule, monarchy, chieftaincy, mixed constitution, the backlash against democracy promotion, terrorism, post-democracy, voter apathy, voter ignorance, etc. Have a look at the blog to see what might be of interest and falls within our remit. Papers may be theoretical and/or empirical in nature. Work in progress is welcome too.

We expect that 10-15 participants will be attending the workshop-style Anti-Democracy Agenda Symposium 2010. Over the course of two and a half days, each presenter will have 60 minutes to present his or her paper and discuss it with all others.

As with all SCIS events, no fees will be charged from participants, and no funding is available to cover participants' travel and accommodation expenses. We will be glad to issue letters of invitation on request to assist participants in securing funding from their usual sources. The charges payable directly to the Villa Garbald (approx. $510 half-board/$570 full-board per person) cover accommodation for three nights and food and drink (except alcohol and minibar) throughout your stay. Participants will be arriving on Sunday, taking in the magnificent scenery of the Swiss Alps on a spectacular 5-hour train journey from Zurich airport (via St. Moritz) to a remote Italian-speaking Swiss valley (Val Bregaglia), home to Europe's largest chestnut forest, and leave on Wednesday after lunch, on the same way (cost of a return ticket approx. $115). Alternatively, you can get there in 3-4 hours by train from Milano airport, passing Lake Como. During the symposium there will be ample time to explore the surroundings. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Detailed travel instructions will be provided to confirmed participants. Don't miss this unique opportunity.

The Italian-style Villa Garbald was built by German star architect Gottfried Semper (of Semper Opera in Dresden and Vienna Burgtheater fame) during his exile in Switzerland. A pro-democracy activist in aristocratic mid-19th century Germany, his experiences with direct-democratic government in Switzerland turned him in later life increasingly against democracy.

Please send your proposal to: e.kofmel@sussexcentre.org

Deadline: 31 July 2010

Later submissions may still be accepted, but early submission is strongly advised and proposals may be accepted as they come in.

Erich Kofmel
Managing Director / Research Professor of Political Theory
Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS)
E-mail: e.kofmel@sussexcentre.org

Postal address:
Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society
1200 Geneva

SCIS is an international association under Swiss law.
Founded 2006 at the University of Sussex.

Muslim anti-democracy activist approved for assassination

On 6 April 2010, the "New York Times" reported that US President Barack Obama's administration (including the National Security Council) authorized the assassination of American-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (sometimes spelled al-Aulaqi), an outspoken critic of democracy. Born of Yemeni parents, al-Awlaki, a former imam, was lately a Lecturer at Iman University (alternatively transcribed as al-Iman, el-Eman, or al-Eman University) in Yemen, an institution that appears to have been attended by many students later involved in terrorist activities. Al-Awlaki has been linked to al-Qaeda himself, although the evidence is shaky. He is said to be in hiding in Yemen now.

Before the 2008 presidential elections in the United States, al-Awlaki released a scathing statement against democracy, titled "Voting for the American President". The article was originally published on his blog, which seems to have been taken down since.

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


Excerpts: "Democracy in [sic] an un-Islamic system and we as Muslims should have nothing to do with it. Whether one looks at the root and history of democracy or at the reality of democracy today one can realize that it is a system that is not only different than the Islamic system but is opposed to it. Can't you see that the West in its war against Islam is offering the democratic system as an alternative to Sharia? So if the West, which is the founder of democracy, sees democracy as an opposing system to Islam why are some Muslims still insisting on participating in it and adopting it as their political religion?

"Democracy is a Western system that was founded and developed in the West and today the West, not the Muslims, have full authority and right to tell the world what democracy is and how it should be practiced and implemented. We have our own system of government and likewise it is the Muslims who are going to define it and will not allow non[-]Muslims to meddle with our religion and teach us what is right from wrong.

"Muslims should seek to avoid any forms of participation in Western democracy. The promoters of participation in American elections argue that we are choosing the least of the two evils. This principle is correct but what they are missing is that in the process of choosing the lesser of the two evils they are committing an even greater evil. The breaking down of the psychological barrier that should exist between Muslims and non-Muslims, the erosion of the aqeedah of wala and bara (loyalty to Allah and disavowal of the enemies of Allah,) [sic] and the risk of loosing one's religion are evils that outweigh any benefit that may come out of such participation.

"Also the types of candidates that American politics has been spitting out is [sic] absolutely disgusting. I wonder how any Muslim with a grain of iman in his heart could walk up to a ballot box and cast his vote in endorsement of creatures such as Mcain [sic] or Obama?! How can a Muslim sleep with a clear conscience after he has chosen the likes of G.W. Bush? No matter how irrelevant your vote is, on the Day of Judgment you will be called to answer for it. You, under no coercion or duress, consciously chose to vote for the leader of a nation that is leading the war against Islam."

It is thought that vocal homebred anti-democracy activist Anwar al-Awlaki is the first US citizen ever singled out for "targeted killing" by the CIA, the Joint Special Operations Command, and possibly other US security agencies.

05 May 2010

Press release: Governments flood internet with antidemocratic views

Pro-democracy organization Freedom House on 29 April 2010 released its annual "Freedom of the Press" survey. The 2010 report was accompanied by a press release titled "Restrictions on Press Freedom Intensifying":


Excerpt: "Governments in China, Russia, Venezuela, and other countries have been systematically encroaching on the comparatively free environment of the internet and new media. Sophisticated techniques are being used to censor and block access to particular types of information, to flood the internet with antidemocratic, nationalistic views, and to provide broad surveillance of citizen activity."

Despite an intensive search I could not find any further elaboration or substantiation of the "flood the internet with antidemocratic [...] views" claim either in the overview essay or any of the charts, tables, and maps provided by Freedom House online.

04 May 2010

Book: The Rule of Law without the State

The late Michael van Notten's book "The Law of the Somalis: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa" was published posthumously, edited by Spencer Heath MacCallum (Red Sea Press, 2005):


Publisher's description: "Written by a trained and sympathetic observer, this book shows how Somali customary law differs fundamentally from most statutory law. Lawbreakers, instead of being punished, are simply required to compensate their victim. Because every Somali is insured by near kin against his or her liabilities under the law, a victim seldom fails to receive compensation. Somali law, being based on custom, has no need of legislation or legislators. It is therefore happily free of political influences. The author notes some specific areas that stand in need of change, but finds such change already implicit in further economic development. Somali politics is based on consensus. The author explains how it works and shows why any attempt to establish democracy, which would divide the population into two classes – those who rule and those who are ruled – must inevitably produce chaos. Viewed in global perspective, Somali law stands with the Latin and Medieval laws and the English common law against the statutory law that became prominent in Europe with the modern nation-state. This book explains many seeming anomalies about present-day Somalia and describes its prospects as well as the dangers facing it."

Dutch-born libertarian Michael van Notten (1933-2002), a Law graduate of Leiden University, spent the last twelve years of his life promoting economic development in Awdal, Somalia.

The book's editor, Spencer Heath MacCallum, is also the author of a number of articles on Somalia, among them "The Rule of Law without the State", published by the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute in its "Mises Daily" on 12 September 2007.

The article can be read free of charge here:


Excerpts: "Were there such a category, Somalia would hold a place in Guinness World Records as the country with the longest absence of a functioning central government. When the Somalis dismantled their government in 1991 and returned to their precolonial political status, the expectation was that chaos would result – and that, of course, would be the politically correct thing to expect. Imagine if it were otherwise. Imagine any part of the globe not being dominated by a central government and the people there surviving, even prospering. If such were to happen and the idea spread to other parts of Africa or other parts of the world, the mystique of the necessity of the state might be irreparably damaged, and many politicians and bureaucrats might find themselves walking about looking for work. [...]

"[A] study published last year by Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute, concludes: 'We find that Somalia's living standards have improved generally ... not just in absolute terms, but also relative to other African countries since the collapse of the Somali central government.' Somalia's pastoral economy is now stronger than that of either neighboring Kenya or Ethiopia. It is the largest exporter of livestock of any East African country. Telecommunications have burgeoned in Somalia; a call from a mobile phone is cheaper in Somalia than anywhere else in Africa. [...] All of this is terribly politically incorrect for the reason I suggested. Consequently, the United Nations has by now spent well over two billion dollars attempting to re-establish a central government in Somalia. But here is the irony: it is the presence of the United Nations that has caused virtually all of the turbulence we have seen in Somalia. [...]

"Like most of precolonial Africa, Somalia is traditionally a stateless society. When the colonial powers withdrew, in order to better serve their purposes, they hastily trained local people and set up European-style governments in their place. These were supposed to be democratic. But they soon devolved into brutal dictatorships. Democracy is unworkable in Africa for several reasons. The first thing that voting does is to divide a population into two groups – a group that rules and a group that is ruled. This is completely at variance with Somali tradition. Second, if democracy is to work, it depends in theory, at least, upon a populace that will vote on issues. But in a kinship society such as Somalia, voting takes place not on the merit of issues but along group lines; one votes according to one's clan affiliation. Since the ethic of kinship requires loyalty to one's fellow clansmen, the winners use the power of government to benefit their own members, which means exploitation of the members of other clans.

"Consequently when there exists a governmental apparatus with its awesome powers of taxation and police and judicial monopoly, the interests of the clans conflict. Some clan will control that apparatus. To avoid being exploited by other clans, each must attempt to be that controlling clan. The turmoil in Somalia consists in the clans maneuvering to position themselves to control the government whenever it might come into being, and this has been exacerbated by the governments of the world, especially the United States, keeping alive the expectation that a government will soon be established and supplying arms to whoever seems at present most likely to be able to 'bring democracy' to Somalia. [...]

"A [...] point about the Xeer [customary law] is that there is no monopoly of police or judicial services. Anyone is free to serve in those capacities as long as he is not at the same time a religious or political dignitary, since that would compromise the sharp separation of law, politics, and religion. Also, anyone performing in such a role is subject to the same laws as anyone else – and more so: if he violates the law, he must pay heavier damages or fines than would apply to anyone else. Public figures are expected to show exemplary conduct. [...] Michael van Notten's book describing this system of law deserves to be better known and widely read. It is the first study of any customary law to treat it not as a curiosity of the past, but as potentially instructive for a future free society."

Spencer Heath MacCallum, a social anthropologist and business consultant, is a Research Fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute.