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Globalization and Democracy. Progress and Paradoxes

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Globalization and democracy, two encompassing and ambitious concepts, are commonly used to characterize secular processes, which have been unfolding over long periods of time, perhaps several centuries, but only most recently developed to full display. Today, it is said, we live under the conditions of globalization, which can be felt almost everywhere. Certainly in economic affairs, where globalization is associated with the liberalization of capital markets since the Tate 1970s, but also in every-day live, from world music to tourism and fashion, globalization is present. Even more impressive changes are assigned to the political sphere: Today, more countries than ever before are classified as electoral democracies. The worldwide diffusion of democracy seems to have pushed the “age of extremes” which was overshadowed by nazism, communism and third world dictatorships of all kinds back into history: Over the two last decades the sky cleared up and opened the prospect of a coming “Democratic Century”. Since globalization and democracy are omnipresent in the media, in politics and in the social science discourse, since both processes became intertwined and nearly coextensive, the widespread impression emerged that we more or less know the implications of both processes and how they interact.

Unfortunately this is not the case. Especially the relation between globalization and democracy remains ambivalent and essentially contested. Broadly speaking, there are two opposed camps. The liberalist school explains the flourishing of democracy by economic growth and rising prosperity. If globalization is “spreading the wealth”, as David Dollar and Aart Kraay from the World Bank suggest, then it comes hand in hand with liberty, a rising world middle class and democratic institutions. When, on the other side, Branko Milanovitch, another World Bank economist, is right, then globalization aggravates inequality on the national, regional and global leve1. Under these conditions globalization may lead to global instability, a backlash against free trade, slowed economic growth und right wing nationalism; exporting Western free market capitalism to the rest of the world risks to provoke violent upheavals of impoverished masses against market-dominating minorities, especially if these are recognizable as outsiders or ethnic groups. All this would reduce the chances of a democratic future, as feared by sociologists like Ralf Dahrendorf.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Values and Norms in the Age of Globalization
    The authors of this book, scholars from Germany, Austria, the United States, Kirghizia and Poland, seek an answer to the challenges posed to social sciences by the globalization epoch. The challenges apply to such problems as the establishment of rights and rules and institutions governing the existence of supra- and international communities, the development of a common system of ethical values, moral standards and norms (or even the creation of a system of entirely new values, standards and norms) supporting the unification process, as well as the legitimacy and validity of transferring the values and standards and the models of economy and politics characteristic of European culture to other cultures and civilizations. This book raises the questions that are particularly significant to the present-day political practice in its European and global dimensions: the questions of place, role and dimension, as well as topicality or transformations in the post-modern order of the world, of such moral values, standards and norms present in politics as human rights, freedom, justice, responsibility, solidarity, tolerance, forgiveness, peace, security, education, modernization or democracy and law.
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