Democratizing Democracy: A Postcolonial Critique of Conventional Approaches to the ‘Measurement of Democracy’

Democratization (Impact Factor: 0.73). 02/2008; 15:1-28. DOI: 10.1080/13510340701768075

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.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This article provides an overview of existing obligations for democratic elections in public international law (PIL), and links these obligations to criteria for assessing electoral processes. We argue that PIL provides a basis for election observation that is more transparent, more objective, and has greater authority with host countries because it relies on states' acknowledged international legal commitments. In addition, the authors argue that this approach provides a solid foundation for building broad consensus on what constitutes ‘international standards for democratic elections’, an often-used term for which there still is no single commonly accepted definition.
    Democratization. 01/2010; 17(3):416-441.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Throughout Africa, charismatic Christianity has been caricatured as an inhibitor of democratization. Its adherents are said either to withdraw from the rough and tumble of politics (‘pietism’) or to preach a prosperity gospel that encourages believers to pour their resources into their churches in the hope that God will ‘bless’ them. Both courses of action are said to encourage such people to be politically quietist, with no interest in democratization or other forms of political activity. This is said to thwart democratization. This article utilizes an ethnographic case study of a ‘progressive’ charismatic congregation in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2007, to provide evidence that ‘pietism’ and ‘prosperity’ are not the only options for charismatic Christianity. Drawing on the concept of ‘spiritual capital’, it argues that some varieties of charismatic Christianity have the resources to contribute to democratization. For example, this congregation's self-styled ‘de-institutionalization’ process is opening up new avenues for people to learn democratic skills and develop a worldview that is relationship-centred, participatory, and anti-authoritarian. The article concludes that spiritual capital can be a useful tool for analysing the role of religions in democratizations. It notes, however, that analysts should take care to identify and understand what variety of spiritual capital is generated in particular situations, focusing on the worldviews it produces and the consequences of those worldviews for democratization.
    Democratization 12/2009; 16(6):1172-1193. · 0.73 Impact Factor