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The Limits of Democracy

The academic community repeatedly acknowledged the benefits of the democratic form of government. However, the effects of the expansion of democracy beyond the national borders are a debatable issue. Many scholars agree that the rapid democratization of the state may produce quite aggravating results. In the midst of the emergence of the new political environment, the lack of functional authority and well-developed political institutions may lead to economic stagnation, political disorder, and restrictive immigration and minority policy.

Democratization may not be the leading cause of the economic growth as well as the result of it. According to Schmitter and Karl (1996), numerous types of democracy in the developing countries have failed to establish effective political institutions that would accomplish peaceful formation of the new government, regulate the economy and social conflicts, and influence the public opinion during the transition period. Similarly, Samuel Huntington (1968) claims that the unsuccessful state-building is likely to become the main cause of the disruption of public authority by reactionary social forces due to insufficient accumulation of authority and power of political institutions. In addition, Schmitter and Karl (1996) indicate that the economic growth and social improvement may not be immediate results of the transition from the authoritarian to democratic regime as in response to the possible and imagined threats, political and business elites may provoke the capital flight, low rate of investment or sabotage. The aforementioned scholars agree that the successful process of institutionalization and behaviour of the political elite lay at the core of the state’s political, economic, and social well-being. Moreover, Samuel Huntington (1968) argues that economic prosperity and political stability are not interconnected notions but different goals pursued by the government. There are numerous instances of politically stable states with slow economic development as India, for example, and prosperous countries, Venezuela and Argentina in particular, that cannot enjoy benefits of political stability (Huntington 1968). Therefore, economic success is neither the prerequisite for the emergence of the democratic state nor the expected outcome of democratization.

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Furthermore, the system of democracy may not be the most effective form of governance. Schmitter and Karl (1996) argue that the proper performance of a democratic state largely depends on proper institutionalization that essentially is a set of patterns that are known, practiced, and acknowledged by the majority of political actors. According to Huntington’s definition, institutionalization is a process of acquiring validity and stability of political institutions (Huntington 1968). However, the democratic government may prove to be slower as the decision-making process takes more time, consumes more resources, and the final compromise is dissatisfactory for the public (Schmitter and Karl 1996). Samuel Huntington (1968) strongly advocates the idea of the institution’s functional adaptability as the key indicator of its highest development. At the core of this assumption lies the theory that political institutions and organisations may prove their adaptability by facing environmental challenges and changing their functions according to the arisen demands (Huntington 1968). In that case, the performance of the state government largely depends on the behaviour of the political elite. Stefan Wolff (2011) claims that the state’s capacity to deliver public services such as providing health care, education, transport and communication infrastructure, security, and the rule of law  across its territory to its population is the main measure of its efficiency. Therefore, the inability of the state to accomplish its goals is the primary cause of the state failure. The international community defines the state breakdown as complete disintegration of the public authority followed by the civil wars, political crisis, revolutions civil wars, massive violations of the human rights, and ethnic wars (Wolff 2011). The most vivid examples of a serious political crisis are the events that happened in the 1990s in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liberia, and Afghanistan (Wolff 2011). Furthermore, the turbulence of transition period may cause the increase of domestic violence. Historical accounts suggest that there is a direct correlation between the levels of violence and political stability in the modernizing states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Political scholars generally attribute the growing instability to the abrupt process of institutional changes that creates the discontinuity between the pre-industrial and industrial stages of state development (Huntington 1968).Thus, the alternative forms of government may be a more promising variant. Samuel Huntington (1968) argues that communism is a solid example of the consolidated state authority. The communist ideology formulates the basis of legitimacy, and the party organisation provides effective mechanisms of accumulating public support and exercising the policy. A beneficial feature of the communist system is its ability to establish strong institutional foundation of the government that allows upholding the political order (Huntington 1968). In general, the possible beneficial outcomes of incorporation of liberal institutions do not outweigh the probable risks.

Naturally, the effects of democratisation on the concept of citizenship raise scholars’ interest. According to Schmitter and Karl (1996), citizenship is an extremely important element of democracy as it completely lifted racial, gender, and age restrictions on acquiring the status of a citizen. However, Marc M. Howard (2006) admits the existence of a perplexing paradox. Although citizenship basically means the right of free participation in the political life of a nation, it effectively prevents access to citizens’ privileges for non-residents. The conception of citizenship seems to be a legal criterion rather than a distinctive feature of the civil society in the Western-European countries and the “supra-national” Eurpean Union (Howard 2006). Howard (2006) identifies three major trends that emerged due to the policy of limited citizenship for immigrants: prevention of participation in the domestic affairs at the national level, exclusion from the social benefits of the national citizenship, and restricted labour mobility. Restrictive measures related to acquiring citizenship appear to be inappropriate as the naturalized non-citizens tend to be more loyal to the new homeland and may significantly contribute to the improvement of the European demographic issues (Howard 2006). Moreover, despite possessing the status of a citizen, many groups endure the lack of access to the political rights due to their socioeconomic status and cultural background.

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