Alexis LampreaHank WoodardJake KunkelOn Political Equality Chapter 6 and Democratization Chapter 24 In Chapter six of Dahl’s book: On Political Equality, Dahl ponders and provides facts on whether or not the political inequality we see in the United States will grow among American citizens. The author starts the chapter by stating that he will center his analysis around the United States political arena. Dahl believes that the future of democratic states is uncertain and offers a scale on the measurability of democracy. He offers the six barriers to equality that are hard to accomplish within democratic states. The next problem that we face as a democracy is that there is no gray area between democracy and being nondemocratic which means that the government will be uncertain if we fall away from being a democratic state. Within the six barriers of equality there is one called “the irreducible limits on time” which may be already happening within the United States. Dahl says that if we assume that this barrier is actually happening now then the other five could grow higher in scale and end up generating even more political inequality than there already is. Dahl starts off by examining the distribution of political resources. He claims that, if there are inequalities in income and wealth, there will likely be other inequalities produced. Economic inequalities lead to political inequalities. For instance, a senator is more likely to hear the concerns of their constituents who have more money and power than those who are of lower income and less power. This brings the concern that political resources are possibly divied up to a point where they cannot brought back down, thus leaving those with less economic power to have less resources. This brings the cost of fighting for political equality to be extremely high; so high in fact, those who are lower on the metaphorical totem pole may be less likely to want to fight for political equality because the cost for them is so great and the benefits of political equality too low. This brings us to market capitalism and disposition. Many Americans view the fight for inequality to be at a high cost and the benefits to be of low value or even nonexistent though, the competition and culture of consumerism is a much bigger influencer on the American public then the “culture of citizenship” as Dahl puts it. Consumerism drives each person to want to be “better than the Joneses” so to speak. Dahl hones in on the emotion of envy and the large role it plays in the competition of the American culture. People want to be in the “higher level of society” therefore they put themselves into debt in order to do so, “to become relevant”. People who make $10,000 are buying houses in neighborhoods where the average income is $20,000 dollars a year and so on. The competition driven by the consumerism culture are pushed to be in higher places in turn earning a higher status and besides the very small percentage of people at the top, for everyone else there seems to be an “infinitely higher level” to be able to reach. Therefore the citizens of America don’t work together for citizenship but to be better than one another in the act of envy or fairness. The next issue Dahl examines is the dilemma of size and why it will require undemocratic systems. In a country as large as the United States, many policy-makers have to often choose to sacrifice the autonomy of the country in order to provide for security, trade, finance, labor standards, health, immigration, poverty, hunger, human rights violation amongst other things. In order to accommodate the country and its needs, policy-makers will join treaties and organizations with other countries to help provide for these things. In doing so, the assembly of international organizations will happen and Dahl believes that they will not be democratic. The actions, policies and treaties within these organizations will be negotiated through bargaining tactics brought by various bureaucracies arriving at decisions in an undemocratic nature. Therefore, the cost of joining these groups and organizations will be at the cost of the American political equality because the people will not be able to vote or partake in the decisions being made within these groups. Terrorism is the next topic Dahl brings about political inequality. The event he focused on was the national crisis of September eleven. In times of crises the citizens of the country tend to give power over to the executive branch of the government, and allow all crucial decisions to be made by the President. After 9/11, there was “virtually no influence over the specific actions taken by the American government,” says Dahl. The citizens of the United States allowed the president to make the decisions and approved based off of democratic legitimacy that the president held. Though the threat of terrorism has established many systems of control including surveillance, arrest of citizens and noncitizens in an “effort to combat terrorism”. After the attacks on the world trade center, the government was releasing false information insisting that Iraq held weapons of mass destruction in order to persuade congress as well as the citizens to support the president’s decision. This tore the country apart, marking people who looked a certain way, practiced a certain religion, and wore certain clothes as possible threats to the country, thus, widening the political inequality gap. After this, Dahl believes that the American political system may have “dropped well below the threshold for democracy broadly accepted at the opening of the twenty-first century”. The last section that Dahl provided was the myth of the mandate. When a candidate wins the presidential race, the citizens of America have an expectation that the candidate will deliver on his promises that he made throughout the campaign. Though there are two assumptions that a mandate rests on. First, there is no way of being able to scientifically prove the true opinions of the individual voters. Those who vote for the candidates are most likely voting for those who share similar beliefs and values that they too believe, though they may not be the exact same. The second assumption is that because there is a third party and not knowing where the voters votes would have gone between the two parties, there is no fair mandate to give to the winning candidate. Voters who voted for the third party did not directly give an opinion on the two major party candidates, therefore there is no way of knowing their expectation of the presidential candidate. An example of these assumptions is the diagram we were shown in class. Voters will vote for their closest ideals and they will vote for the candidate who is closer to their respective party, ideals, and values even though they are not the exact same. It is just the candidate they would rather have and the change they want to see that’s closest to what the voter believes should happen.Chapter 24: Conclusions and Outlook – The Future of DemocratizationA democratic transition is a top to bottom process encompassing every class of citizenry. The poor or working class apply pressure for a regime change to those in the middle class who in turn empower them and together they form a coalition of the masses to apply pressure to the elites. Ultimately, it is the ruling elites who must choose to concede power in order to establish democracy. As power maximizing actors, authoritarian elites are highly unlikely to surrender control unless pressured/forced to do so. The problem posed to ordinary citizens is finding the most effective means of applying pressure to the elites in order to bring about change. One possible method is to fuel rifts amongst members of the ruling class. A democratic transition is easier if elites split into factions with opposing agendas. This is more common in developed, more complex societies where holding together different facets of the regime proves more challenging. A big component of this can be growing pressure from legitimacy crises caused by economic setbacks, failed policy promises or crises management, etc. Elites also split because it presents an opportunity for some of these elite groups to try and strengthen their position in the regime by enacting reforms they believe will garner popular support. By doing this, the door is opened for opposition groups to surface and make claims for democratization. It’s important to note that regime opposition does not always come from elites starting the process. Sometimes policies are so bad that there’s widespread, mass opposition that launches a legitimacy crisis and forces elites into negotiations.Understanding the basis of an authoritarian regime is important for instigating a transition because it emphasizes weak points to target and pressure for a democratic change. For instance, military regimes almost always take power as crises managers so their power is often presumed to be temporary. Because citizens expect them to relinquish their regime, they lack long term legitimacy and don’t tend to have any ideological mission. Another example is personalistic regimes. Their credibility relies on the welfare and strength of a central figure’s charisma. When the leader dies, it presents the opportunity for political change. It’s hardest to transition out of one-party regimes because of their ideological mission taking roots in society, but one way is to demonstrate that the regime betrays its own ideals. An example of this occurred in communist countries where opposition movements revealed that the regimes weren’t living up to protecting human rights as they had promised creating legitimacy crises.Splits in the elites of the ruling regime open up pressure from domestic actors as well as international ones. International actors take a more active role in pushing for democracy. They send aid, finances, and assist in the transition. Sometimes this is to the point of military intervention. An example of this is Afghanistan and Iraq where the authoritarian regimes were ousted in favor of democracy by international actors. In these cases, like many others, a democratic transition failed because of a lack of domestic forces at work. There were few domestic opposition groups or actors ready or established enough to guide and grow the movement. Tactical and strategic factors, such as political dissidents, reforming elites, and international assistance are important in a transition, but not as important as the subjects of a regime pushing for democracy. There’s no better way to get the masses moving than through developing the nation, especially economically. Empowering the people with resources, education, and ambitions will lead to a push for democracy from within.If public perception is centered around external threats or internal group hostilities, authoritarian regimes will maintain and wield massive amounts of power. It’s much easier under these circumstances for leaders to rally people around the flag, united against a common enemy. In an “us versus them” kind of mentality, people will tolerate extreme actions by the regime for a feeling of security. If a country is repeatedly involved in international conflicts, this can undermine democratic institutions. Conflict makes people feel threatened and out of fear they’ll give power to charismatic leaders who enact policies that suppress democratic ideals.Although group divisions aren’t necessarily problematic, they can be another potentially dangerous hindrance to democracies. It’s easy to turn groups against each other based on race, religion, etc. Charismatic leaders can manipulate these differences to give rise to authoritarian regimes. Because of this, it has historically been easier for democracy to establish in relatively homogenous and egalitarian societies (ones that believe all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities). Whether or not these factors are present hindering democracy, deep democracy requires active participation and pressure by citizens. Shallow democratization involves creating institutions but deep democratization empowers society to embrace these institutions and develop their ambitions and skills.
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