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

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


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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