Prospects of ‘Political Democracy’ in Globalisation
By Dr. Rajkumar Singh
The word ‘political democracy’ which is a system of government with regular constitutional opportunities for changing the ruling officials and policies, and a social mechanism permitting a majority of the adult population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders of office. It was during 1950s and 1960s. that a large number of countries, belonging to Asia, Africa and Latin America, began adopting democratic political systems but later the systems developed several major effects including cross-national measures of national political democracy even leading to the collapse of democracy and rise of authoritarianism in a number of nations.
As a result, there was a general decline in social science interest and important works were done by Robert Dahl and others who developed crossnational measures of political democracy which aroused interest in the subject in 1980s and thereafter. Although, no conceptual definition of political democracy, acceptable to all has been provided by scholars, in a working definition it is explained as the system in which political power of the elite is minimised and that of the non-elites is maximised. The elites are a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, political power, or skill in a society.
They are the people or organisations that are considered the best or most powerful compared to others of a similar type. The elites include the members of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the government as well as leaders of political parties, local governments, businesses, labour unions, professional associations, or religious bodies. In the sense, it is the relative power between elites and nonelites that determine the degree of political democracy and where the non-elites have little control over the elites, political democracy is low, but where the elites are accountable to the non-elites, political democracy is higher. In general, there are two dimensions of political democracy - political rights and political liberties-which reflect the political power of these two groups, elites and non-elites.
Basics of the Concept
In the opinion of experts, political democracy exists where political rights prevail to the extent that national government is accountable to the general population and each individual is entitled to participate in the governance directly or indirectly through representatives, while political liberties exist to the extent that the people of a country have the freedom to express any political opinion in any media and the freedom to form or to participate in any political group. In the sense, in any country where leaders are selected by the people, equal value of all votes, franchise and openness of the candidate selection process, fairness of elections, timeliness of election and clean process of representatives are available to the public, it means they enjoy political rights, while political liberties refers to the characteristics which include the freedom of media, the freedom of individuals or political groups to oppose government policies, or officials, and the absence of political censorship.
Thus, the availability and extent of both political rights and political liberties show amply the position of elites and non-elites in any society and if in a country the extent and status of political rights or freedom is low, it means that elites in that society have greater political power over the non-elites than in a society where these rights and liberties are high. These criteria are the real test of any democratic system whether it is political in a real sense or not. It also depends largely on changes in democracy as it may be both - stable and unstable. At the same time, it has nothing to do with other dimensions - social and economic or single party system, bi-party system and multi-party system and it can be obtained in any form, anywhere.
Political Democracy in India
Considering democracy as the best form of government, B.R. Ambedkar viewed Indian democracy in three different dimensions - economic, social and political and this is why he expressed his passionate attachment to the democratic way of life. For him, democracy is not only a form of government, but a government through which revolutionary changes come in the social and economic life of citizens and political democracy is meaningless without social democracy as he conceived democracy as another name for equality as well as social and economic democracy. In this context, political democracy is defined as a democracy in which free and fair elections held for replacing or choosing governments, in which all citizens have equal participation in government decision, elimination of tyranny of majority, equality in law and also provide equal opportunity to public office.
In social democracy the democratic system or State secures its citizens’ rights so as to eliminate any type of discrimination/glaring inequalities, provide its citizens equal justice, ensure equal representation of all community in public institutions and secure rights of weaker sections through welfare work. In general, the democracy to succeed must be backed by a social setting and without which democracy would not last long. For a society to become democratic genuinely, the spirit of democracy should be slowly and peacefully introduced into our customs and institutions and for searching social design of democracy equality in one aspect must be extended in other aspects of life. Thus, equality and liberty are the deepest concerns of democracy and both are joined by fraternity, keeps these two alive, active and purposeful.
Changing Forms of Political Democracy
The concept of economic democracy is a socio-economic philosophy that proposes to shift decision-making power from corporate managers and corporate shareholders to a large group of public shareholders which includes workers, customers, suppliers, neighbours and the broader public. It aims to meet the basic needs of all citizens and secure freedom of choice which consists of two basic elements: a.) democratic planning, which involves a feedback process between workplace assemblies, demotic assemblies and a confederal assembly, and b.) an artificial market using personal vouchers, which ensures freedom of choice but avoids the adverse effects of real markets.
Although, in comparison to political democracy, the term economic democracy is less popular but is a system of checks and balances on economic power and support for the right of citizens to actively participate in the economy regardless of social status, race and gender. However, this traditional notion of economic democracy underwent a drastic change with the coming of globalisation in decades, 1980s and 1990s, which increased alienation as a result of mainstream policy positions and rise of far-right extremism all over the world. The new global trend reflected on the loss of economic control and power experienced by many over their lives as well as a sense of marginalisation from political and economic elites.
Author: Dr. Rajkumar Singh Professor and Head Department of Political Science,: Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences Bhupendra Narayan Mandal University, Madhepura-852113 Bihar, India.