Integrative Governance: Generating Sustainable Responses to Global Crises (Foreword)
Paolo Davide Farah, Foreword to Margaret Stout, Jeannine M. Love, Integrative Governance: Generating Sustainable Responses to Global Crises, Global Law and Sustainable Development, gLAWcal Book Series, Routledge Publishing (New York/London), ISBN 9781138695733, 2018, pp. XV - XXI.
25 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2018
Date Written: February 25, 2018
We live in peculiar times: on the one hand, many people — mainly in Western countries — enjoy an unprecedentedly high standard of living from a historical perspective. On the other hand, a considerable part of the population has a feeling that something went wrong, which is underscored by their feelings of discontent and uncertainty. Despite their potential to have positive impact on society, globalization and the rapid pace of technological development, including robotics and artificial intelligence, might shake up the lives of individuals as well as governance frameworks at global and national levels. The rules of play developed mainly in the 20th century can hardly keep pace with the developments of the 21st century. There is a longing for something new after the experiences with the -isms of the 20th century (fascism, socialism, capitalism etc.).
It seems that Fukuyama's argument concerning the end of history with the ultimate win of liberal democracy requires serious rethinking and readjustment. As the example of China shows, which is also part of my own research, authoritarian regimes making an effective use of the principles of market economy are able to enhance the standard of living of their populations, without any drawbacks, and gain more respect at international level without introducing substantial democratic reforms and compromising their authoritarian rule. At the same time, in the recent past, until the previous Chinese leadership, it is also true that China had been gradually expanding its own systems of public participation and local governance with Chinese cultural characteristics. This narrative brought forward by China and other authoritarian countries against the risks of liberal democracies is now even more supported in the dynamics of political discourses, because as it happened between the two World Wars and all the events that led to the Second World War, liberal democracies are again showing the potential loopholes in their own systems. The risks that anti-democratic, xenophobic, and racist movements and political parties might develop and take the power through the democratic instruments should not be underestimated. They must be closely monitored and damage control must be made immediately to intervene when the core values of liberal democracies and their Constitutions are at stake.
For all these reasons, the adherents of liberal democracy can no longer see themselves as ultimate winners in arguments with their contenders; they need to justify their position and, eventually, acknowledge the need for adjustments in their views.
However, the real danger for liberal democracy might come from its core: the model of representative democracy seems to be less and less appealing, as many people feel unrepresented by those they have elected, a sentiment often truer in periods of economic recession and/or in areas of growing economic and human poverty. A reaction to these developments might be seen in the calls for more direct democracy. Unfortunately, as we live in the age of “alternative facts”, even (at first sight) democratic instruments, such as referenda, might lead to destabilization and situations with an inherent conflict potential. The examples of the Brexit vote and the Catalan independence referendum demonstrate that the public might be vulnerable to misinformation and that elected representatives, blinded by their ambitions, might irresponsibly gamble with these democratic instruments. The similar risks of disinformation or even propaganda are also happening within regular election campaigns like in the recent presidential elections in the United States and in different European countries. These examples are often used by the proponents of representative democracy who argue that direct democracy undermines the democratic foundations of our societies and should not be used to decide about issues that are too complex. On the other hand, the calls for more direct democracy might also be seen as a sign that the model of representative democracy has shortcomings and needs certain rearrangements.
Keywords: Governance, sustainable development, global crisis, globalization, food security, China, liberal democracy, radical human approach, participatory democracy, bitcoin, block-chain, alternative forms of cooperation, buen vivir,
JEL Classification: Q40, Q48, Q50, Q56, Q58, Q34, Q37, Q32, Q23, Q24, Q25, Q27, K33, K32, Q17, Q18
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