Table of Contents
The Democratic Paradox is a collection of different essays, which have been written by Mouffe – a Belgian political theorist. The collection of essays on the paradox of democracy is an internal misunderstanding of the factors that make up the modern democracy. This dispute is mainly brought about by two separate ideas of the political thought (Holmes 195). These ideas refer to the concept of classical liberalism that is fused with the traditions involved in democratic theory, which, in turn, form the process of a liberalized democracy. In the case of Mouffe, he is convinced that balancing liberalism and democracy can only be accomplished through the process of ensuring that we value and sustain more important issues than consensus in the democratic process.
The Paradox of Democratic Exuberance
The radical democratic theory is a phenomenon that is divided into different ideologies and theories. One of the theories was put forward by Habermas, and there is also another one by Rawls. However, these principles conflict, as one supports the rational consensus, while the other one supports political liberalism (Mann). To understand the concept of modern democracy, we need to know what it means. The word ‘democracy’ merely denotes the power people have. Since democracy does not have a definite meaning, it can be said that democracy is the power of majority, where the majority are the decision makers in the matters that affect them. Democracy can be divided into two types, the first being the power of voluntariness by the public to perform any activities. The second form of democracy is the form that deals with the power, given to state officials, which state that each has an equal right to power (De Smaele 43).
Transition from Non-Democratic to Democratic
Democracy in modern times is seen as the best form of leadership. This is because it promotes equality in power, human rights acknowledgment and equal involvement of the public on matters concerning a particular state. The modern democracy, therefore, can be seen to be based on diversity factor, associated with the interests of public and means of their expression (Rodrik 21). The modern democracy exhibits numerous advantages. First and foremost, a state ruling under modern democracy recognizes the rights and responsibilities of all its citizens. Moreover, the democracy allows for the ordinary citizens to have a shot at the upper ranks of power within the government. Another advantage is the fact that the state embracing modern democracy is ensured to be stable (Diamond 48).
To properly understand the paradoxes of modern authoritarianism, we should first focus on Russia. This is because Russia’s political history over time has been crucial in the process of autocracy and democracy. During the late 90’s, there was the development experienced in Russia; this development has shaped the global view on the advancements in democracy. Moreover, it was Russia’s failed attempts at achieving the freedom at the beginning of the millennium that also made many people change their opinion on the subject of democratic revolution. Russia is also a good example to use in the discussion of this issue, since it depicts the essential components of modern authoritarianism. The government in Russia was said to be moderately repressive, in such manner that the President Putin was a moderate type of dictator (Canovan 25).
While the political repressions in Russia still exist, since there have been reports of harassment of journalists and other people who try to oppose the existing government. Russia can be seen to be operating in a much more democratized nation now, more than ever, because people can move freely and even do the business freely (Kurlantzik). In the past, Russia was a country that operated behind the closed borders. Nowadays, Russia is compared to China or Iran-Russia is better off, as the government does not control the internet. Third, we look at Russia, since, unlike other countries where the elite and the commoners view the government to be successful, in Russia the elites and the commoners consider the government to be unsuccessful and even oppressive. Therefore, it can be seen that the paradox of Russia’s democracy is that even though the people realize that they are being oppressed, the government continues with its businesses unmoved and oblivious. One of the burning questions that people ask is the reasons as to why people accept the authoritarianism in Russia (Evangelista 1).
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The modernization theorists tend to define democracy as a core element of modern regimes. They compare democracy to the matters like urbanization and industrialization. Lipset, who is a famous theorist in the matters of democracy, states that economic development boosts the chances of democracy being sustained in a country. The theorist believes that there is an elective affinity with both capitalism and democracy. He tries to explain that when the economy of a country grows to be better and better, the regime of the country is changing into a better democratic government (Downs 135).
In the modern world, authoritarianism can be said to be forgotten and that democracy is the new way for current regimes to properly function. An argument that supports this notion is the obsoleteness of authoritarian regimes. Based on Ian Bremmer’s research, it was clear that under conditions, such as free trade, free flow of information and free travel, it is only the regimes that practice democracy that can be stable. This theory means that in order to reach a stable autocratic government in modern times, the government should ensure it has closed its borders to the outside world (Benhabib 35).
Another issue in the modern democratic paradox is the fact that, for many years, authoritarian governments have tried to imitate the democratic way. This imitation comes when they stage the elections, so that they can show that they were chosen by the people in an effort to reduce the pressure from the outside world, advocating for change. This, however, ends up messing them up (Mann). The authoritarian regimes end up turning completely to the modern democracy, since, once a free body is established in the country at one point, it ends up biting the authoritarian regime, changing it completely. This, in turn, supports the fact that, in recent times, only democratic governments can succeed. It, therefore, becomes necessary to realize that the notion of modern democracy simply means a new form of political society that is specifically an articulation of different traditions (Canovan 26).
Liberal traditions constitute the rule of law and the subsequent defense of human rights. This also entails the respect of an individual’s liberty. The major traditions, encompassing the democratic notion, are those of equality for all. The link between democracy and liberalism has been a result of various struggles in the past, which have made it possible for people to continue enjoying them up to date. The expression of a legitimate liberal democracy is totally founded on the idea of sovereignty. Therefore, free democratic bodies should not be taken for granted. This can only be possible if we understand their real importance and the dynamics in derivation of different operations of their logic (Mann).
Apathy has been associated with being the cause of democratic deficit. This notion rests all the blame on citizens and does cover other factors, like the social and institutional factors. Discontinuity of representative democracy can be a part and parcel of the factors. This factor shows the way citizens do not fully participate in politics, except only when they are asked to elect a leader. Therefore, the government and political bodies lack someone they can be accountable for, except for itself and the people who fund them. The results that come from such issues include corruptions and other diverse governmental scandals. In fact, the people that are elected do not adequately represent the citizens. Therefore, the citizens of many countries do not feel very comfortable with the politicians representing them. In a nutshell, democracy is supposed to be much more than participating in elections (Holmes 195).
Another factor that causes democracy to fail in many countries is the fact that the education system fails to teach its citizens to be active, engage in political issues and to be critical of the governmental projects and problems. Therefore, the education system in most countries does not promote citizenship among people. The leaders are also not trained properly in schools, and the only place, where people think leaders are prepared, is in elite schools. This failure in a countries’ education system, in turn, ensures that the democratic processes are not taught well, which leads to the country, lacking the democracy in all its political functions (Diamond 50).
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The paradox of democracy can be listed into three groups, which can be analyzed further. The first is that in a democracy, there is a need for competition and conflicts usually come with competition. This factor is good for a healthy democracy, however, people should watch out, since too much conflict might end up in serious instability. Conflicts need to be integrated in a manner, such that people will be able to decide when they have had enough before the conflict escalates and leads to instability. The second group is that a countries’ democracy should be able to have a balance of power and governance. On the one hand, this group only means that democracy should entail a regime that concentrates power on one person then that person transmits that power throughout the whole system. Power, on the other hand, means that a good regime should have the capability to take action, when faced with a situation and not be tied down to the rules and procedures of the country (De Smaele 44).
Third in the group is that, in a democracy, the process of consenting to something does not necessarily mean there is the effectiveness involved. Consent requires a legitimate issue and in democracy, a regime must deliver by having good performance in all the socio-economic areas. However, many states identify good performance with unpopular reforms in that they do not respect the concept of consent and legitimacy. Ensuring that these groups are intertwined can be tough. This is because they arouse suspicions as to being the autocracies. Therefore, this may hinder the political leaders from making the right decisions if they are unpopular, since they may harm their reputation in the public opinion and, in turn, lose their status (Canovan 30).
Crisis of Democracy
These groups of paradoxes are something that democracies need to deal with because they are true. An example would be the events that took place in Poland during the late 90’s, where the then head of state implemented some reforms that were unpopular with the citizens. His main agenda in applying these changes was so that he could push the country forward, but people did not like his decisions (Kurlantzik). This later had certain consequences, as he lost the following elections, however, later, he was able to secure other posts in the government. All the groups of paradoxes need to be applied to democracy for it to be really successful. They are not meant to show that democracy is not as good as the autocracy is. They are made to show people that democracy involves a lot more than just a few processes, hence leading to the conclusion that democracies are complex (Evangelista 3).
Reaching the Equilibrium
Democracy was seen to be unable to resolve the paradox of its existence. In the previously discussed theories by Rawls and Habermas on the various meanings of democracy, they tried to find a way of reaching a consensus which was rational to both of them. Despite their different meaning of democracy, whereby in Rawls case a well stable order democracy functions by the laid down principles, as a result of a shared understanding of justice. In Habermas case, however, democracy needs to foster the creation of rational legislative policies that have been set through legitimacy. Therefore, as a result of this, we can deduce that legitimacy is a process of democracy that is reached through the deliberation by free and unconstrained citizens. This discussion involves all matters that are seen as matters of concern (Kurlantzik).
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Democracy, as used in the ruling of people, is the principle of power of the people to rule themselves through political leaders, who take into account their needs. One may ask what makes ‘modern democracy’ modern; it is because of the democratic revolution that the old democratic notion emerges one more time. The difference is that its emergence, this time, is with a consistent framework for a message and empowering message of self-liberty (De Smaele 44). The principles that the development of this notion brings about are the principal constituents of liberalization. Therefore, with modern democracy, we deal with a new and improved regime, whose development is dependent on two forms of elements. On the one hand, these features include the liberal tradition, which consists of the rule of law, together with the defense of human rights and the same respect for a person’s liberty. On the other hand, we have the democratic tradition, whose central ideas reflect those of equality in power distribution to the various government officials (Benhabib 36).
In a liberal democracy, there are always limits, which are put in place to control the people. The limits are structured, such that they provide the very essence of protecting human rights, and they have been made non-negotiable. Since they are described in such a way that is consistent with the human rights, an act they are, therefore, subject to contention. The only thing that is not negotiable in liberal democracy is the fact that the limits put to control people are advisable, and this is why the paradoxical nature comes along. What we look at, is that the concept of liberal democracy is a result of two ideas. However, they face a problem which states that they cannot be easily reconciled. This fact has been the reason as to why the liberal democracy is always faced with the hardships which, in turn, provide a driving force of the political developments (Rodrik 30).
The only way to ensure that the problem of reconciliation of the two ideas can be solved is through the temporary control of their factors through the process negotiations between political forces, which, subsequently, come up with a fuse between them. Therefore, this causes the required temporary stabilization. Once it arrives at the conclusion that the equality of liberty cannot be realized and, instead, only the temporary stabilization is possible, then it is clear that the idea of any other method of configuration of power is something that cannot be realized. With this disappearance, there is the legitimate form of expression for the resistance against the dominance of power in their relations.