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Post-Communist Democratization: Democratic Politics as the Art of the Impossible? (review article)
The Review of Politics, Volume: 71, Issue: 2, Pages: 303 - 317
Swansea University Author: Robert Bideleux
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DOI (Published version): 10.1017/S0034670509000357
Since the early 1990s, the dominant rubrics for the study of post-Communist transformations have been provided by the relatively naive and simplistic concepts of 'democratic transition' and 'democratic consolidation' , which portray democratization as a finite, once-and-for-all,...
|Published in:||The Review of Politics|
Cambridge University Press
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Since the early 1990s, the dominant rubrics for the study of post-Communist transformations have been provided by the relatively naive and simplistic concepts of 'democratic transition' and 'democratic consolidation' , which portray democratization as a finite, once-and-for-all, and largely unilinear and unidirectional process. This article, by contrast, argues that it is far more realistic and accurate to regard democratization as a never-ending struggle to realise great democratic ideals which are largely unattainable in practice. Democrats sometimes appear briefly to gain the upper hand, but it is extremely difficult to maintain much effective democratic participation, scrutiny, control, and accountability in the face of the ever-growing economic disparities generated by increasingly unaccountable global capitalism, which has resulted in ever-increasing concentration of incomes, power and wealth in ever-fewer hands. These key challenges or constraints are universal, afflicting advanced capitalist countries just as much as they affect post-Communist states and less developed countries. To think otherwise is sheer complacency, self-delusion, or myopia. Consequently, this article argues that the thousands of books and articles portraying post-Communist democratization as a unilinear and unidirectional process, leading almost automatically (much as day follows night) from ‘democratic transition’ to ‘democratic consolidation’, are peddling seriously misleading and complacent make-believe. In reality, the majority of post-Communist states have sooner or later succumbed to various more or less overt forms of authoritarianism or semi-authoritarianism, or are much closer to ‘illiberal democracy’ or highly personalist ‘delegative democracy’ than to (largely illusory) idealized Western conceptions of liberal democracy. However, while it has become increasingly apparent that most post-Communist ‘democracies’ are even more flawed and corrupt and even less liberal and law-governed than most Western variants, it is also important to remember that ‘democratic consolidation’ is a bogus concept and that all ‘democratic’ countries are in much the same boat when it comes to trying to sustain meaningful democratic participation, scrutiny, control, and accountability in the face of the ever-growing concentration of incomes, wealth and power in ever-fewer hands under neoliberal global capitalism.
Post-Communist democratization, democratic transition, democratic consolidation, concentration of wealth and power
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences