Democracy as a modernization project: the opportunities and limits of development

Abstract. This article considers the concept of democracy in terms of its impact on the modernization process. Particular attention is paid to the internet revolution, which has led to the formation of an electronic or internet democracy. The author considers this process as a new stage in the development of democracy.

By the end of the twentieth century, when the world socialist system led by the Soviet Union had collapsed, and a whole series of authoritarian regimes had gone into historical oblivion, it seemed that there was only one step to the complete triumph of democracy in the world.

The experience of the advanced countries had also shown that one of the key factors in their success was a democratic political system based on liberal democratic values.

The thesis of F. Fukuyama concerning the end of history in connection with the complete and unconditional victory of democracy thus seemed simply the statement of an accomplished historical fact. The scholar stated emphatically: “The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism

That is, the end point of the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” [1].

In his reasoning F. Fukuyama relied on the so-called wave theory of democratization of S. Huntington, according to which modern democracy has been formed as a result of three consecutive waves.

The first wave originated in the nineteenth century and reached its peak with the advent of the new democracies after World War I. The second wave of democratization began with the end of World War II, when, against the background of the collapse of the international colonial system, many former colonies took the path of democracy.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the third wave of democratization arose, undermining the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes and ensuring the movement towards democracy throughout the world. This process began in Southern Europe, spread to Latin America and Asia, and later embraced Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union [2].

The Journal of Democracy, summing up the twentieth century, stated that in 2000, electoral democracies, which included about 120 countries, made up of 63.2% of the world's population [3].

It is not surprising that at that time the opinion was widely spread among politicians and scientists that democracy was “the most influential political idea of the 19th century, which became a political reality by the beginning of the 20th century, and geopolitical reality - by the middle 20th century, and by the end of the 20th century, universal paradigm of the political dispensation, voluntarily or unwittingly implied point of reference of political systems though accepted not by everyone” [4].

At the start of the 1990s, Kazakhstan, like other post-Soviet countries, actively joined the process of building a democratic political system. Naturally, this determined a surge in academic research into both the phenomenon of democracy itself and the specifics of the transition to that system. At the same time, a large number of scholars both in the West and in the former Soviet republics, a priori adhering to the above views, considered young democratic states as transit ones, i.e. transitioning to the Western EuroAtlantic model, and accordingly referred to them as the so-called Democrats (quasi-democracies combining structural democracy and functional dictatorship). Therefore, any costs and inconsistencies with Western standards were automatically perceived as a developmental disease.

However, it was not so easy. According to the events at the turn of the 20th-21st centuries, tectonic shifts had begun, indicating the entry of world democratic practice into the transformation strip, which affected the very paradigms of its development. The large-scale and turbulent processes that unfolded during this period in the economic, communicative, technological and socio-demographic areas contributed to the emergence of new types of political practices that came into conflict with established democratic institutions.

A characteristic sign of the times was the loss of the traditional institutions of civil society in the face of political parties, pressure groups, trade unions, churches, public movements, NGOs, and the media-monopoly on the expression of public opinion.

The so-called network communities - mobile initiative groups operating in social networks - go more confidently into the political arena. They quickly and easily unite around interests in a particular area, achieve their goals and also easily fall apart.

Public participation is increasingly acquiring a network character. As a result, qualitatively new, mostly weakly formalized practices of political participation, far from an orderly typology of organizationally sustainable forms of participation, emerge [5].

Today, there are already powerful international networks and pressure groups of interest. These social groups that are informal in legal terms and are not subject to any national jurisdiction social groups have significant resources and opportunities to influence the advancement of their specific interests in particular countries.

The mobilization potential of the new institution of civic participation was fully demonstrated during the events of the “Arab Spring” that swept the countries of the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-2011 [6]. In many respects, the activity of network communities was also responsible for the growth of protest moods in Russia in the winter of 2011–2012.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that the modern era stimulates not only the development of new forms in the face of network communities, but also institutional and functional modification and change in the form of work of traditional institutions of civil society.

Thus, as a result of the synthesis of network communities and traditional mobilization institutions, so-called cyber parties have emerged. Today, this type of parties is a serious opponent in the political arena. The main criterion of the popularity of network parties is the attendance of its online-representations (on websites, forums, blogs, social networks, chat rooms) and the activity of supporters. Currently, network parties no longer use the Internet as a tool for their work; they themselves are political networks, cyber institutes of the political process [7]. The Internet, on the other hand, provides them with a stable platform where they work with their voters and supporters.

In other words, the internet revolution is now actively underway in the world; and this will largely determine the new system of relations between citizens and the state [8]. In this regard, researchers are increasingly talking about the erosion of traditional democratic institutions of participation [9] and the beginning of the formation of an electronic or internet democracy as a new stage in the development of democracy [10].

E-democracy is a logical link in the evolution of the democratic system in its transition to an information society as observed in western democratic countries. Its political significance and institutional influence on the management system of states has yet to be comprehended. However, today, at least two facts are obvious.

First, there is the fact that developed countries have already begun their movement towards the development of political internet-based platforms, and this process will only accelerate. And, second, that a state that cannot adequately assess and respond to the challenge of the global information age will not be able to ensure the functionality and stability of its socio-political system in the future.

At the same time, it should be noted that the process of erosion of traditional mobilization institutions is determined not only by scientific and technical achievements that have led to the rapid growth of communications but also by the significant transformation of the social structure of modern society itself.

This happens under the influence of such factors as globalization; a change in the technological structure of the economy; the activities of transnational corporations; mass migration processes; and the expansion of LGBT rights.

The processes of weakening the territorial, professional, and psychological separateness of various social groups, which began in the 1960s in the western democratic countries and which led to the erosion of class and religious identification within society, have only deepened today.

As a result, new social groups are entering the political arena, such as women, ethnic and sexual minorities; and these largely shape the agenda of modern states. Having acquired the form of civil initiatives - informal and mobile associations of people seeking to solve specific, local problems, as well as universal human issues of global development - they firmly fit into the landscape of modern society.

It is no coincidence that one of the topical issues today is the problem of gender equality or women's representation in politics and in government structures. Currently, most states in the world have recognized the need to combat sexism. The UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women has been ratified by 189 countries.

It seems that women have already achieved equality at the political level. However, the figures say the opposite. According to the InterParliamentary Union (IPU), the average number of women in parliament around the world today barely exceeds 23%. In the countries of the European Union, this indicator is significantly higher - from 48% (in the Irish Parliament) to 26% (in France) [11].

In different countries of the world, the situation with the representation of women is different; but in the East, for example, this problem is really very serious. As a result, in more than 50 countries, particular legal measures are being taken to introduce special gender quotas or the statutory representation of women in government [12].

Today, under pressure from Western countries, there is also politicization of the issue of the rights of LGBT communities [13]. Their position and rights become an indispensable condition for “democracy” in evaluating a particular political regime. The rights of the LGBT community have already been brought to the level of the UN international committees on the observance of human rights.

All this may gradually lead to the fact that, in the near future, in a number of countries, special quotas will be introduced for LGBT people to be represented in government bodies in order to protect their rights at the political level (this can be seen from the fact that in 2016 the UN, in order to enhance the protection of members of the LGBT community from discrimination, for the first time in history, the UN appointed a commissioner for the rights of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people) [14].

Equally relevant is the problem of political participation and representation of various racial, ethnic, and religious groups in government.

This problem becomes especially relevant due to global migration processes. The scale of international migration is impressive. Thus, while maintaining the current figures (244 million people - in 2015, 258 million - in 2017) the number of migrants by the middle of the twenty-first century will exceed 320 million [15]. This has already provoked a migration crisis in Europe, where a flood of refugees and illegal migrants has rushed from the countries of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

According to forecasts, the share of the Muslim population of Europe may increase from 4.9% (2016) to 7-14% by 2050 even in the case of a reduction in migration flows [16]. At the same time, as the evidence from practice has shown, the Muslim diasporas do not seek to integrate into host countries, while maintaining to a high degree their linguistic and ethno-cultural autonomy.

No wonder, as they grow, the Muslim diasporas in the EU countries are gradually gaining political weight. For the secularized European states and the ones that preserve Christian nature, the search for ways to integrate Muslims (both immigrants and citizens) into the sociocultural and political space is a serious problem [17].

All these large-scale movements of people change not only the ethnic and religious landscape of the European Union, but also lead to the erosion of the traditional European values of democracy and affect the established forms of political participation.

As a result, a critical attitude is growing in the world, and in places a rejection of democratic values. Such sentiments have intensified against the background of “velvet” revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe; “color” revolutions in the post-Soviet space; and the “Arab spring” in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa, where active intervention by the West was recorded with the aim of reformatting national political systems under certain universal standards of democracy.

In turn, such factors as the growth of economic, political and cultural influence of China, the active positioning of Russia on current global agenda issues, the strengthening of the Islamic factor in the world, coupled with the mass migration of Muslims to Europe, etc., lead not only to a decrease in the influence of the Western model of democracy, but also to an expansion of the reciprocal influence on it from non-Western political systems.

As a result, discussion on the prospects of democracy has developed on two planes.

According to the first position, the evaluation of democracies based on the textbook models of Western democracy is erroneous, and we should talk about different models of democracy. In other words, the globalization of democracy should not proceed in line with the unification of the political map of the world, but through the diversification of democracy through the expansion of democratic development options [18].

Proponents of the second point of view raise the question of the very nature of a democratic political system from the point of view of its exceptional effectiveness and legitimacy in terms of the implementation of citizens' political interests, and, accordingly, its universality and no alternative in the context of social development.

All this together determines the need for a systematic scientific and methodological rethinking of the paradigms of democracy and its prospects as the leading model of the socio-political modernization of society.



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Year: 2019
City: Almaty