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Models of Democracy and Post-Democracy


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Title: Models of Democracy and Post-Democracy

Models of Democracy and Post-Democracy
  • Alistair Cole

Regime Typologies
  • Traditional comparativists sought to distinguish
    between different types of regime that is
    clusters of regimes which share sufficient
    characteristics to enable them to be considered
    as belonging to a group of similar regimes.
  • Comparative politics traditionally operated a
    tripartite division of the world into liberal
    democracies, Communist regimes, third world
    states (this last being the most unsatisfactory
    of the three). None of these categories was ever
  • The Political Development school of the 1960s and
    1970s assumed eventual convergence to liberal
    democratic norms
  • Liberal democracy was assumed to be superior

The loss of clusters
  • The traditional tryptic has been challenged by
    the evolution of history, not least the collapse
    of communism in 1989-1991.
  • Unit of analysis less likely to be single
    country, more identifying explanatory variables
    across countries

Liberal Democracy aka Gordon Smith, 1986
  • political competition for the highest offices of
    state, as expressed by competing political
  • the free interplay of interests, and an
    acceptance of political and economic pluralism
  • alternation in power ( or at least the
    theoretical possibility of it).
  • recognition of a boundary between the state and
    civil society, implying freedom of the media.
    (liberal democracy)
  • recognition of the rights of legal opposition.
  • a recognition of constitutionalism i.e. that
    political processes are regularised by reference
    to respect for duly established rules and
    constitutional norms. This might take the form of
    a written constitution, or an unwritten form but
    of greater importance than this is the extent to
    which each branch of government theoretically
    operates within the strict parameters of legal
    rules, safeguard against arbitrary government.

Limitations and criticism
  • This classic definition of liberal democracy is
    rather a formalistic one it does not consider,
    by itself, whether democracies are capable of
    providing effective government, of delivering the
  • It is one based on a model of competitive
    elitism alternative elites stand by ready to
    conduct the affairs of government. It is one that
    requires a minimal democratic participation.
  • Too much participation can be destabilising in
    one version of this (Lipset and Bendix)
    democratic stability requires limited
  • The claim sustained by the liberal democracies to
    allow for the free interplay of democratic forces
    has in most cases proved accurate this can be
    measured by the fact that most of the core 20
    liberal democracies have at some time managed an
    alternation in power.
  • Moreover, it has been rare for any one government
    to remain in power for more than ten years

Limitations and criticism 2
  • Marxist critique the liberties safeguarded by
    liberal democracy are excessively negative and
    formalistic, designed primarily to safeguard
    existing property relations
  • Marxist critique of the notion of pluralism -
    i.e. a dispersal of power throughout the
    political, social and economic systems - is a
    myth that the pluralist idea of fair interaction
    between competing interests is erroneous, with
    the odds heavily stacked in favour of those
    possessing capital and that the idea of
    democracy itself is a misnomer, since power is
    exercised by a small pro-capitalist elite.
  • liberal democracy has proved intolerant of
    genuine attempts at revolutionary change any
    attempt fundamentally to challenge the norms of
    capitalism, e.g, has invited a reversion away
    from democracy towards dictatorship- such as in
    Chile with the overthrow of Allende's Marxist
    government in 1973.
  • Reverse attempts to impose democracy through
    arms, as in Irak. Huntingdon crisis of
    civilizations and imposing democracy through the
    barrel of a gun. S. Huntingdon, The Third Wave
    Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century,

Six Models of European Democracy
  • D. Held, Models of democracy,1987, 1996, 2005
  • Held 1 Athenian Democracy
  • Small communities, direct participation
    sovereignty (polis) over all public affairs
  • Office short term, by election, lot rotation
  • Women slaves excluded
  • Low participation
  • Domination by demagogues factions as/ more
    likely than deliberation instability

Held 2 Competitive elitist democracy
(Majoritarian Model)
  • Theoretical roots in Weber Schumpeter
  • Influenced by the protective model of democracy
    dominant 1945-70s rather similar to the model
    outlined above
  • Key feature competition between alternative
  • Governments are strong within parliaments, but
    subordinate to elections, and hence parliaments,
    over time. This is particularly apposite to
    describe British democracy.
  • Participation limited and intermittent. Too much
    particpipation destabilising (Lipset and Bendix)

Held 3 Legal Democracy (Consensual model)
  • State strongly constrained by the law/the rule
    of law
  • Separation (sharing) of powers emphasised
  • Minimum role for state in society
  • Markets and free trade should be given fullest
    possible scope
  • Epitomised by l.C20th neo-liberal trend

Held 4 Participatory Democracy
  • Inspired by developmental democracy in C20th by
    Macpherson Carole Pateman
  • A knowledgeable, participating citizenry is
  • Participation in regulating the state, local
    community/ies and the workplace
  • Party elites directly accountable to members
  • Need for consistency between power structures in
    public and private spheres. Democracy can not
    thrive of structures of civil society remain
  • Driver behind new social movements, participatory

Beyond Held Social Democracy
  • Dahrendorf 1945-1980 welfare states added a
    substantive (material) basis to the largely
    procedural basis of liberal democracy. Democracy
    consists in a set of rights and duties, including
    expectations of welfare rights. Democracy is a
    form of social citizenship.
  • Bobbio Rolling back the welfare state implies
    rolling back/undermining democracy itself
  • R. Dahrendorf, After Social Democracy, 1980
  • N. Bobbio, Liberalism old and new in idem.
    The Future of Democracy, 1987

C. Crouch, Postdemocracy, 2004
  • Early C21st world-historical peak for democracy,
    in terms of its geographical range
  • But there are many problems in established
    democracies. Everywhere there is increasing
    abstention, dissatisfaction with performance of
    democratic regimes, a challenge to the
    effectiveness of democratic regimes
  • There is also, specifically, a problem with
    American democracy, which is bound to impact upon
    European countries. US leadership of democratic
    world established in the 1930s, on the basis of
    the Roosevelt Welfare state, when most of Europe
    turned Right. But since the 1980s, USA has
    changed fundamentally it no longer represents
    value-based, or normative leadership.
  • For Crouch, post-Democracy is NOT non-democratic,
    nor anti-democratic, but it is satisfied with
    residual democratic and welfare rights.
    Individual market-based economic rights have the
    primacy over social or political rights
  • In post-democracy, social movements are less
    vibrant, especially those of Labour,,, and the
    trade unions are marginal actors

Post-Democracy (suite)
  • unions are marginalised
  • State as policeman ? more prominent role for the
    state in regulating everyday lives, a more
    instrusive state
  • Wealth gap grows taxation less redistributive
    with moves to the global economy
  • The poor return to pre-democratic condition of
    non-participation in the US, this is flagrant,
    but is also evidence in western European
    democracies, where electoral registration has
    declined. Poor do not register either because
    they do not have a home, or because they fear the
    State (for taxation purposes, e.g.).
  • The nature of political communication is changed
    in an age of mediatisation and soundbites.
    Genuine discussion in the public space fades

Lijpharts Majoritarian and Consensual
  • Lijphart, A. (1984). Democracies. Patterns of
    Majoritarian and Consensus Government in
    twenty-one countries,
  • Lijphart, A. (1999). Patterns of Democracy.
    Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six

Lijpharts Majoritarian and Consensual
  • Executive-parties cluster
  • Concentration of executive power in a single
    party majority cabinet/broad coalitions
  • Domination of Executive-Legislative relations by
    the Executive/ an active legislature influencing
  • The prevalence of a two-party system/ a
    multi-party system
  • A majoritarian electoral system(first past the
    post or two ballot)/ a proportional electoral
  • A pluralist interest group system, with
    free-for all bargaining/ a corporatist style
    pattern of interest mediation

Federal-Unitary cluster
  • Unitary and centralised government / devolved or
    federal government
  • Unicameral concentration of legislative
    power/powerful second chamber representing
    societal interests
  • Flexible constitutions/written constitutions
  • Legislative sovereignty re the
    constitution/constitutional arbitration in a
    system of shared and separated powers
  • Executive-dependent Central Banks/independent
    monetary authorities.

  • European democracies, for Lijphart, could be
    divided according to these two poles. In
    practice, individual democracies would lie
    somewhere between the two extremes. Britain, for
    example, as the archetype of the Westminster
    model, was clearly the representative of the
    first camp more divided countries, such as the
    Netherlands, of the second camp.
  • This model has long been very influential, as a
    basic way of differentiating between European

Lijpharts 1999 study
  • study increased also addressed the issue of
    substantive outcomes. He considered which, of
    majoritarian or consensual democracies, performed
    better in relation to A) Economic performance
    and B) Democratic quality.
  • Lijpharts main conclusion was that
    consensus/negotiation democracy pole is far
    superior to the majoritarian, winner-takes all
  • Lijhpart found that there was little difference
    between Consensual and Majoritarian democracies
    in relation to economic performance.
  • But that consensual, non-majoritarian
    democracies ensured a much higher democratic
  • The consensus model ensures a positive logic of
    negotiation and compromise whereas the Winner
    takes all system is inherently conflictual and
    negative sum.

Consociational Democacy
  • Lijpharts concept of consociationalism was also
    very influential for many years. According to the
    consociational model, divided societies such as
    the Netherlands or Belgium could nonetheless
    support effective and consensual political
    systems, as a result of elite-level compromises
    between the main pillars represented in a
  • In a society divided by issues of religious
    identity, for example, elite level accommodation
    ensured broad support for the system.
  • The Lijphart model was a critique of the
    pretensions of the Westminster model of
    democracy and celebrated the fact that
    negotiation, compromise and coalition produced
    not only fairer, but also better politics.

  • One such critique was that of Paul Penning. The
    first criticism that this model betrayed the
    empirical reality, as much in Majoritarian
    systems, as in Consensual ones.
  • TheMajoritarian model did not necessarily
    produce a winner takes all mentality, because
    regular alternations in power meant that
    governments exercised power with caution.
  • Likewise, the negotiated consensual and
    consociational mechanisms of divided societies
    did not always succeed in producing a fairer, or
    more effective politics.
  • The role of institutional incentives could be
    overstressed in these accounts. In the
    consociational model, as in Belgium, this has
    clearly broken down, with territorial elites
    repillarising Belgian society.
  • P. Pennings, Parliamentary control of the
    executive in 47 countries, paper prepared for
    the ECPR, April 2000 _at_ http//

Penning, 2000
  • Penning argued that the Lijphart model
    exaggerated differences and explained these
    overly in relation to institutional, rather than
    societal arguments.
  • The dichotomous view of there being two types of
    democracy is highly misleading. Contrary to
    Lijpharts assumptions, strong executives do not
    automatically imply weak legislatures this is
    far too mechanical and assumption, one that
    relies too much on structure and not enough on
    agency explanations.

Role of electoral system and coalitions
  • There have also been criticisms about the role of
    the electoral system. PR systems can create
    stalemate and instability, just as easily as they
    can create compromise and flexibility. On the
    other hand, majoritarian electoral systems and
    moderate multi-party systems, in particular, tend
    to generate slightly higher levels of
    institutional confidence than alternative
    arrangements' (p.234). Institutional confidence
    is maintained because Majoritarian democracy can
    contribute to rapidly forming and maintaining
    stable governments

Democratizing the Economy while Economizing on
  • Economic benefits/Democratic Drawbacks
  • Prosperity, consumerism, rising middle classes
  • State denationalized, decision-making dispersed
  • Capitalism is European (and Global), Democracy
  • National democracy
  • Government by, of and for the people with
  • Political participation, citizen representation,
    effective government interest consultation
  • EU Democracy
  • EU level governance for and with
  • National level government by and of
  • Puts pressure on National politics
  • EU policy without politics Natl politics
    without policy

Challenges to National Democracy
  • Citizen demobilization or radicalization
  • Interest group politics, social movements, INGOs
  • helps with associative democracy with the
  • does little for representative democracy by and
    of the people
  • civil society not what it seems expertocracy
  • National government responses?
  • Europeanization
  • Blame-shifting, credit-taking on policies
  • Silence on polity issues
  • Globalization
  • Blame-shifting increases sense of powerlessness
  • Whether risk society (Blair)
  • or protection in globalization (Sarkozy)