Democracy is almost universally acknowledged to be essential for the fulfillment of individual and collective aspirations, the articulation of interests, and the nurturing of civil society. Globalizing forces have underpinned the dissemination of this message.
Yet the march of democratization is highly contested, and there is little consensus on what democracy is or should be. While the leading international actors are pursuing a rigorous liberal agenda based upon the belief that democracy and market-oriented economics are conducive to a peaceful “international society,” many voices are resisting the model of democracy that this presumes.
The proliferation of democracy defies a universal model. Moreover, this proliferation cannot obscure the problems which have appeared in many democratic countries. Established democracies are increasingly mired in disillusionment, stagnation, and bureaucratic overload. The procedural tenets for democracy may well exist, but the spirit of democracy – a public sphere of debate in the context of political transparency, accountability and representation – is questionable.
The parallel transition to free-market economics and democracy has likewise posed difficulties for many countries. A number of democratic experiments are in jeopardy, and democracy has not been able to meet all the demands that confront these transitional societies. In some circumstances, democratization has proved to be a politically destabilizing and socially uncomfortable process.
This volume gathers essays by eminent scholars which point to a changing and broadening agenda of democracy. Challenges to democracy in established democracies and in transitional societies are addressed, as are democracy’s relations to the media and communications, globalization, religion, culture, and civil society.
While the internationalization of the democratic ethos has marked the post-Cold War context, democracy’s sphere of applicability also has widened beyond the state enclosure. This book highlights the limitations and tensions of this worldwide movement.
Takashi Inoguchi is a political science professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Oriental Culture. Edward Newman is an international relations lecturer at Shumei University in Japan. John Keane is a political science professor at the University of Westminster in England.