Democratizing Democracy: A Postcolonial Critique of Conventional Approaches to the ‘Measurement of Democracy’
ABSTRACT In most approaches to measuring democracy, the underlying assumptions are highly a-historical and a-cultural. This article is a critique of such approaches and provides the outline for an alternative interpretation. It argues that different histories and cultures produce different democracies. Conventional measuring paradigms are insufficient to adequately measure progress towards democracy in postcolonial settings. The article offers four arguments as to why democracy in the postcolony will not, and cannot, develop in a similar fashion to those in the North American and Western European settings. It focuses on the different historical trajectories of state construction; the limits of the postcolonial state in terms of its domestic capacities; the positioning of emerging market economies and democracies in the global financial system; and, finally, the variety of cultural conceptions of the proper relationship between community and individual. These four factors ensure that postcolonial democracies will differ in their trajectories from those of their Western counterparts. The article concludes that it is high time to ‘democratize democracy’, so that postcolonial attempts at creating democratic systems are given equal weight in the debates concerning progress towards democratic regimes and that different trajectories and conceptions of the meaning of democracy are take into account in Western democratic discourse.
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ABSTRACT: This article examines the case of lower-caste politics in the populous north Indian state of Bihar in order to show the ways in which the liberal democratic model fails to capture the realities of democracy in postcolonial India. In order to explain the rise of lower-caste politics, I examine the ways in which relationships between state institutions, caste networks and locally dominant groups shape contemporary political possibilities, necessitating a re-evaluation of the relationship between liberalism and democracy in India. With state institutions being unable to effectively enforce rights, a caste-based notion of popular sovereignty became dominant – as an idea (the lower-caste majority should rule) and as the everyday rough-and-tumble of an electoral politics that ultimately revolves around the force of numbers. It is inadequate, and actually unhelpful, to simply point out the obvious fact that the enforcement of rights is routinely and systematically undermined in practice and to call for more effective implementation. In fact, I argue that effective implementation in places such as Bihar could only be possible through a radical restructuring of local power that can only come from below, through democratic practice itself.Democratization 01/2011; DOI:10.1080/13510347.2011.593327 · 0.73 Impact Factor
Conference Paper: Governance by Indicators: Opportunities for Democracy?[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Over recent decades, demands for improving the quality of democracy and for monitoring democratic processes have stimulated the sophistication of data collection, management and evaluation. Yet, and presumably exactly because this production and use of indicators is characterised by a strong air of technicality and technocracy, the act of measuring itself is rarely understood as a democratic innovation that brought forward innate means for political and democratic change. Taking up this underexplored link, this paper claims that indicators could aspire to improve democratic governance, if they embraced a non-hierarchical, integrative vision of governance (both in their production process and in their own conceptual matrices). To explore this argument, the paper elaborates on the relationship between numbers and civil society participation in framing and measuring governance. The paper proceeds as follows: In the first part we argue that contemporary measures of governance, as relatively new post-regulatory policy tools, still encompass a series of methodological and conceptual constraints that potentially limit their capacity to impact on the quality of democracy. In response to these constraints, and departing from the dichotomy between output and input indicators, the paper analyses, under what conditions governance indicators might become instruments to stimulate further democratic change. Then we analyse the relationship between indicators and citizens, across the two generations of governance indicators. The second part of the paper explores the conceptual and instrumental function played by the Corruption Perception Index as a key example of governance indicators in encouraging knowledge creation; the emergence of epistemic communities; and the dissemination of the anti-corruption normative quests, model, and practices. The third part of the paper analyses the evolution of the relationship between indicator practices and civil society across the second generation of governance indicators in order to scrutinise the democratic innovation potential of indicator-based processes themselves.ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops 2015, Warsaw; Workshop Number 3: Can Democratic Innovations Improve the Quality of Democracy?, Florence/Warsaw; 03/2015
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ABSTRACT: This paper explores the extent to which democratic values and institutions propagated by the international community and measured by influential governance indices correlate with local perceptions of politics and democracy in one eastern region of Madagascar. A careful reading of the political crisis that erupted in Madagascar in 2009 highlights how ‘undemocratic’ behaviour – a ‘coup’ even – can have roots in democratic desires that have little to do with elections. I argue that local perceptual lenses, identifiable by characteristic competences and dispositions, have considerable interpretive significance regarding what might otherwise be labelled deviant behaviour in unconsolidated or hybrid democracies. Using qualitative data collected using an innovative methodology during five months of ethnographic fieldwork immediately preceding the crisis, this paper examines the interface between international democracy assistance policies and mass local political perceptions. It concludes that long-term prospects for deepening democracy in Africa and elsewhere depend in part on how – and how well – external experts strategically engage with the communities they propose to reform.Democratization 04/2011; 18(2):535-561. DOI:10.1080/13510347.2011.553371 · 0.73 Impact Factor