Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Democracy's multiple sequences and consequences


Oriya poet Bishnu N. Mohapatra on Tuesday observed that the time had come to think about the pattern of development being practised and ...
Bishnu N. Mohapatra: After completing his education at the University of Delhi and University of Oxford, Bishnu N. Mohapatra has been teaching at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, since 1994. Currently he is looking after the Governance portfolio of the Ford Foundation’s South Asia office located at New Delhi. His research interest covers themes such as democracy, minority rights, identity politics, pluralism and social justice. His short essay ‘Understanding Indignities’ based on Dalit autobiographies has drawn accolades from scholars belonging to different social science disciplines. He is one of the editors of the volume on Social Capital and Democracy, published by Sage Publications in 2004. An admired poet in Oriya language, he is deeply sensitive to human suffering. Bishnu Mohapatra « A Fragile World
There is no ‘finished product democracy’. How should democracy or self-rule be explained and evaluated today? It requires respect for the democracy of knowledge. Introducing a global conversation into the public domain
What is The Democracy Manifesto? A global conversation involving academics, civil society and social movement activists from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America, has set out a credo for our fast-moving times, followed by responses from four of the participants as they continue their conversation in the public domain.
There is no ‘finished product democracy’. How should democracy or self-rule be explained and evaluated today? It requires respect for the democracy of knowledge. A global conversation held at three international meetings, involving academics, civil society and social movement activists from Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America, has issued in a Democracy Manifesto for our fast-moving times. We publish initial responses from participants each day this week to continue this conversation in the public domain.
The Democracy Manifesto: Re-imagining Democracy in Our Time [edited]
  1. The self could be seen in terms of the individual citizen or in terms of a social community.
  2. An idealized notion of western liberal democracy hegemonizes the democratic imagination. It is assumed that capitalism and modernity have an intrinsic relationship with democracy.
  3. Reimagining democracy along these lines is one of the most pressing ethical and political tasks of our times.
  4. Yet the western legacy is neither singular nor unambiguous. … The democratic aspiration spread to most of the world by way of anti-colonial struggles and the various movements for self-determination and self-rule in the last two centuries.
  5. This artificial binary construct must come to an end.  Democratic practices may exist in apparently non-democratic regimes. Established democratic states can embody a vast array of non-democratic practices. There is no "finished product democracy" and there never will be.  The aspiration for democracy is open-ended. Each fresh step opens new horizons.
  6. The dominant orthodoxy espouses teleology. Democracy is the ultimate and inevitable destination. This often leads to thinking in terms of stages or pre-conditions to the ‘transition’ to and ‘consolidation’ of democracy. Yet, there are multiple sequences and routes by which different political regimes come to be democratic.
  7. This also enables us to think of democracy beyond the formal domain of politics. Practices within the domain of the family or the market, for example, need to be viewed in terms of the extent to which they enable or constrain self-rule. Democracy needs to be thought of as a way of life.
  8. The quest for democracy must go wherever effective and binding decision-making occurs.  Shifting sites of sovereignty require that we begin to think of inter-national relations as an arena of democratic contestation. The same could be extended to the level of continents or other groupings of nations. At the same time, the unit of analysis needs to be extended downwards, to regional and local units, for this is the level at which most citizens experience self-rule or its absence.  
  9.  The demand that democracy all over the world must conform to a fixed definition first worked out in one part of the globe is inherently undemocratic. … If democracy is anchored in reason, dialogue is the custodian of reason.
  10.  Institutions are crucial to the formation and strengthening of democracies, but what institutions do depends on the context in which these are located.  We need to shift the focus from the form of an institution to its real-life consequences in a given context.
  11. The search for a richer democratic imagination requires that we look for practices, institutions, intellectual traditions and thinkers everywhere to help us reshape democratic theory.
  12. The very notion of exporting democracy is inimical to the spirit of democracy. Democracy promotion can turn into democratic imperialism. Like all ideologies, democracy too can turn into a dogma.
  13. The insistence on difference and divergence is designed to synthesize the multiple experiences of democracy. This is a necessary condition for reclaiming the global heritage of democracy and for reimagining a truly global future for it.

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