John Keane | Democracy in the 21st Century: Global Questions
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-658,single-format-standard,do-etfw,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.1.2,vc_responsive


Democracy in the 21st Century: Global Questions

  |   Articles & Essays JK, Democracy in the 21st Century   |   No comment

In 1945, following several decades that saw most experiments in democratisation fail, there were only a dozen democracies left on the face of the earth. Since then, despite many ups and downs, democracy has bounced back from near oblivion to become a planetary phenomenon for the first time in its history (Diamond, 2008; Dunn, 2005; Keane, 2009). Fresh research perspectives on this sea change are required, and that is because the point has been reached where the language and institutions of democracy have taken root in so many different geographic contexts that several fundamental presuppositions of democratic theory have been invalidated. As democracy spread through the world, the world has made its mark on democracy, even though the metamorphosis has remained largely unregistered in the literature on democracy.

I give two recent English examples: the effort of John Dunn (2005) to write a history of the word democracy ignores its pre-Greek origins, its survival in the early Muslim world, its earliest modern redefinition in the Low Countries, its penetration of the countries of Spanish America during the nineteenth century, and its more recent metamorphosis in contexts as different as southern Africa, Taiwan, Indonesia and India; and the influential textbook treatment by David Held (2006) of various ‘models’ of democracy that have a distinctively Eurocentric bent which precludes references to many anomalous cases, past and present.

Read the rest of the essay in PDF format