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11_02 Held, David. Democracy, The Nation State and the Global

11_02 Held, David. Democracy, The Nation State and the Global

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11
Democracy, theNation-Stateand the Global System
Therehas
beenan
assumption atthe heart of
modern
democratic theory,manifest in the lastchapter asweil,concerning a'symmetrical'
and
'congruent'relationshipbetween political decision-makers
and
the recipientsof political decisions. Infact, symmetry
and
congruencehave
been
assumed attwocrucialpoints:first,betweencitizen-voters
and
the decision-makers
whom
theyare,inprinciple,ableto hold toaccount;
and
second,between the
'output'
(decisions,policies,etc.)of decision-makers
and
theirconstituents-ultimately,'the people' inadelimited territmy (Held, 1991a, pp. 198-204).Throughoutthe twentiethcentmy, especially,democratic themy has focusedon the organizationaland socioeconomic contextof democratic proceduresand the effectsthiscontexthas
on
theoperation of 'majority rule'.Fromthe development ofthethemy ofcompetitive elitismto theelaborationof dassiepluralism,or tothe critiqueof these ideas
in
thewritingsofradical thinkers,thefocusofmodern democratic theory has been
on
theconditionswhich foster or hinderthe democratic
life
ofanation.
It
has beenassumed,furthermore, by theoristsand criticsof modern democracy alike, that 'the fate ofanational community'
is
largelyin its own handsandthata satisfactorythemy of democracycanbe developed
by
examiningthe interplay between'actors' and'structures' in the nation-state.
At
thecentreof the debate
about
democracy has
been
ataken-for-grantedconceptionof'sovereignty'. The sovereigntyof the nation-state hasgenerally
not been
questioned
(cf.
Laski,1932;Figgis,1913;Hirst,1989b).
It
hasbeen
assumedthat thestatehas control
over its
own
fate,
subject
onlytocompromisesit
must
make
and
limitsimposed
upon
it by actors,agencies andforcesoperating within its territorial boundaries,
and
by theagents andrepresentativesof othergovernments
and
states.
It
is
evident
that
nineteenthand twentieth-century democratic theory,alongwith
muchof
therest
of
social
and
political theory,hasgenerally regardedthe world beyond the nation-state
as
a given -subjectto
an
'all eisebeingequal'clause.Leadingperspectiveson social
and
politicalchangehave
assumed
thatthe
origins
of
societaltransformation
aretobe
foundlargelyinprocesses internal tosociety
(cf.
Dunn,1990,eh.
8;
Giddens,1985).Change
is
presumed
to occurviamechanisms 'builtin',asit were, to thevery structure
of
a given society
and
governing itsdevelopment.Theworld putatively 'outside' the
nation-state-
the dynamicsoftheworldeconomy,the rapidgrowthof transnationallinks
and
majorchangesto the nature of internationallaw,for example -hasbarely
been
examined, andits implicationsfor democracyhave
not
beenthought
out
at allby democraticpolitical theorists. Up to this point, theargumentinfavour
of
demoe1·aticautonomyhas barely touched
on
these questionseither.
I
i:
V
fi
ac
b
Cl
st
dl
dt
ec
of
OI
re
na
m;
de
de
thl
Intrar
det
ofc
org;
 
e
:theory,ngruent'politicalocrucial
~y
are,inecisions,ely, 'thecusedons andthe
~lopment
,
orto
the
'modern
nder thelrists and
is
largely
~loped
by
:ate.r-grantedgenerallyhas beenonlytonciesandents andrieteenth
t
ofsocialn-state
as!Ctives
on'societal[cf.Dunn, sms'built;!rningitsnamicsof·r changestined,andemocraticemocratic
Democracy
and
theGlobal System
291
In
what
followsthese mattersare explored asacomplementto the issues raised
in
chapter
10.
Thefocus
is
on
the
'other
side'of democracy:theinterrelation between democracy
and
theglobal system. Thechapter beginswith
an
accountofsomeof the particular ways in which national politics
intersects
with regionaJI
and
global forces.Against this
backgroundan
assessment
is
made
of thechangingforms
and
Iimits of democracy. While themainpurpose of this chapter
is
toset
out
a
number
ofadditionalunresolvedproblemsfacing democratic thought, in the finalsection someremarks are affered
on
thechangingmeaning of democracy in theglobal system, and
on how
thetheory of democraticautonomy
must be
recast further toembracetheglobal networksofstates
and
civilsocieties.
Democraticlegitimacy and borders
TheIimits ofa
themy
of politics
that
derives its terms of referenceexclusivelyfromthe nation-statebecome
apparent
from aconsideration of thescope
and
efficacyof the principle of majority rule;
that
is,
the principle
that
decisions
that
attractthe largest
number
ofvotes shouldprevail.The application
of
thisprincipleis at the centre ofallcontemporary conceptions of democracy,
and
it
is
attherootof the claim of democratic political decisionsto
be
regardedasworthyor legitimate.Problems arise,however, froma
number
ofsources.In thefirstinstance, they arise because many of the decisions of
'a
majority' or, moreaccurately,its representatives, affect (or potentiallyaffect)
not
only theircommunities
but
citizens in other communitiesaswell.
To
takesometopicalexamples:a decision to buildanuclear plant
near
theborders
of
aneighbouringcountry
is
likely to
be
adecision taken withoutconsultingthose in the nearbycountry(or countries), despite the manyrisks
and
ramificationsfor them. A decision to increase interest rates in
an
atternpt tosteminflation orexchangerate instability is most often taken asa 'national' decision, althoughit may wellstimulate economic changesinternationally. A decisionto
permit
the 'harvesting'
of the
rainforestsmay
contribute
toecologicaldarnage far beyond the borders
that
formallyIimit theresponsibilityof a given setof political decision-makers. These decisions,alongwith policies
on
issuesasdiverse assecurity,arms procurement
and
AIDS,
aretypicallyregarded asfalling within the legitimate domain
of
authorityofa sovereignnation-state.But
in
aworld of
regionalandglobal
interconnectedness, there aremajorquestionsaboutthe coherence,viability
and
accountabilityof nationaldecision-making entitiesthemselves.Furtherdifficultiesemerge forthe nature of democratic legitimacy from decisionsmade by quasi-regional or quasi-supranational organizations
such
asthe
European
Union
(EU),
the World Trade Organization
(WTO),
or
theInternationalMonetaryFund
(IMF).
Forthese decisionscanalso diminish the rangeof decisions
open
togivennational 'majorities'. (Illustrations
of
suchdecisions will
be
discussed later.) The idea
of
acommunity
that
rightlygoverns
1
By
a regionI
mean
a
duster
ofnation-states ina geographicalarea which share a
number
of
common
concerns
and
which maycooperatewitheachotherthroughlimitedmembership organizations(suchastheEuropeanUnion).
 
292
WHAT
SHOULD
DEMOCRACY
MEANTODAY?
itself
and
determines its own future
-a
n idea
at
theveryheart of
the
democraticpolity-is today,accordingly,
problematic.
Any
simp
le
assumption
indemocratic theory
that
political relations are now or could
be
'symmetrical' or'congruent' is
open
to question.The examplesafferedaboveof
the
regional
and
globalinterconnectednessof political decisions
and
outcomes raise issues whichgoto the
heart
ofthecategories of
dassie
and
contemporarydemocraticthought. Theidea that
consent
legitimates government
and
the
state system
more
generally has
beencentral
to
nineteenth
-
andtwentieth-century
liberal
democrats.
Thesedemocrats have focused
on
the
ballot boxasthe
mechanism
whereby
th
eindividualcitizen expressespolitical preferences
and
whereby
the
citizen
bod
yasawhole periodicallyconfersauthority
on
government to
enactthe
law andregulateeconomic
and
sociallife.But
the
ve1y
idea of
consent
throughelections,
and
the particular
notionthatthe
relevant
constituenciesof
voluntary
a~ement
and
debateare
the
communities ofa
bounded
territory or astate,
beco~e
open
to questionas
soon
asthe
matter
-
öf
national, regional
and
gl9bal
interconnectedness
isconsidered
and
the nature of
aso-called'relevantcommunity'iscontested.-
Whose
agreement
is
necessary
and
whose participation
is justifiedindecisionsconcerning, for example,the use of non-renewable resources, orthe disposal of nuclear waste, or the
management
of financial flows, or the rulesoftrade, or
AIDS?
What is
the
relevant constituency: national, regionalorinternational?
To
whom
do decision-makers have to justify their decisions?
To
whom
shouldthey
be
accountable?Further,
what
arethe implications for theidea of legitimate rule of decisions taken in polities, with potentially life-and
death
consequences forlarge
numbers
of people,
many
of
whom
might havenodemocraticstakein
the
decision-making process?Territorial boundariesspecifythe basis
on
which individualsareincludedand excludedfrom participation in decisionsaffectingtheir lives (however limited the participation might be),
but
the outcomes
ofthese
decisions,
andofthe
decisionsofthose in other politicalcommunities
and
agencies,oftenstretchbeyond national frontiers.Theimplications of this are troubling,
not
only for thecategories ofconsent
and
legitimacy
but
for
all
the key ideas of democracy: the nature ofaconstituency, the meaning of representation, the properform
and
scopeof politicalparticipation, theextentof deliberation,andtherelevanceof the democratic nation-state as the guarantor
ofthe
rights, duties andwelfareofsubjects. The
ve1y
p r o c
~
_
s
ofgQvernance seemsto be 'escaping the
c~tegories'
of the nation-state.Regional
and
global
interconnectedness
contests the traditional nationalresofütiöns of the central
qu
estionsofdemocratic theüly
and
practice.
Regional and global flows: oldand
new
There
is
a strikingparadox to
noteabout
thecontemporary era: fromAfrica
to
Eastern Europe,Asia to Latin America, more
and
more peoplearechampioning
the
idea of'rule
bythe
people';
but
theyaredoingso
atjustthat
momentwhen
the
ve1y
efficacyof democracyasa national form
of
political organizationappears
open
to question.
As
substantial areasof
human
activityareprogressively
organizE
indepen
It
cou
global
iJ
politicsobjectiointercoreconom
3).
Fmtlbeen
in1
underst1often
th
claim
tl
modernnothingdifferen
havean
ofparticand,
on
economleading
commu
enormoscope
fc
military
on
terrotogoverlink distdeveloptransactunfoldsthe
bad
capital,·people,process1What
human
activity,deepeni
on
the
happen
decisi01reverbe1Glob
c:
that
m<
worldwiofleveh

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