Governance and Democracy katarsis survey Paper



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CAHIERS DU CRISES 

 COLLECTION ÉTUDES THÉORIQUES 



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markets, far from being the naturally arising order, are man-made institutions as well (Dugger 

1989: 609), embedded in society (Polanyi 1978). Markets are institutionalised patterns of 

behaviour whose concrete appearance is heavily influenced by, amongst other things, the 

existing legal framework. The legal setting predetermines the “relative rights, relative 

exposure to injury, and relative coercive advantage or disadvantage” (Samuels 1981: 100) of 

the different actors. Thus, it partly anticipates the allocative and distributive results of the 

market forces. It goes without saying that different market participants have a strong interest 

in having a legal framework favouring their respective interests. The place where the contest 

for control of the legal setting is fought out is the state as the central law-making institution, 

which has to mediate between the competing interests (cf. Jessop 1990; Poulantzas 2001), as it 

is impossible to secure all interests at the same time (Samuels 1981). Law is essentially of a 

dual character, protecting some interests while at the same time necessarily restricting others 

(Samuels 1989: 430). As the legal framework in modern societies is not static but constantly 

evolving, the control of the state apparatus is being incessantly contested for (Brown 1992: 

13). The chances for success of the different actors are largely dependent on their relative 

power positions (Medema 1989: 422). Capital owners – by way of their “exit option” 

(Hirschman 1970) – can disrupt whole economies. Thus, Jessop (2002) insists that the 

capitalist state is a “strategically selective” terrain, which creates social exclusion by 

structuring decision making power unevenly. 

Voting rights represent the most obvious and also a very crucial procedural exclusionary 

mechanism. As stated above, law generally serves some interests at the expense of others and 

although universal suffrage has gradually become commonly regarded as a general goal to be 

fulfilled (cf. Sen 1999) there obviously still are groups of people who are not granted the right 

to vote – be it because of their age, their nationality or whatever other reason there might be. 

Thus, the question of citizenship (cf. Bhabha 1999) and questions of ethnicity and age are 

crucial dimensions concerning exclusionary dynamics in the field of governance and 

democracy (cf. Kimberlee 2007). This is particularly relevant as although participatory 

governance structures are gaining importance democratically elected governments still play 

the major role in determining the working rules of their societies and thus heavily influence 

the lives of their nationals. It should therefore always be borne in mind that the regulations 

concerning the right to vote – and thus the ability to participate in decision-making – are 

socially determined institutions and not “naturally given” (cf. Canfora 2006). Another 

important issue is the turnout of voters. Are there group-specific differences in turnout? In his 

analysis of “The positive functions of poverty” Gans (Gans 1972) hypothesised that the poor 

contribute to the stability of the American political system through voting and participating 

less than the rest of the society. The stabilising effect of this behaviour is due to the resulting 

political negligibleness of their interests which would most probably stand in contrast to the 




GOVERNANCE AND DEMOCRACY 

 KATARIS PROJECT



 

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interests of powerful sectors of society. Some recent empirical evidence supporting this 

hypothesis is supplied by Gattig in his analysis of class specific differences in voting 

behaviour and voter turnout in Germany and the US (Gattig 2006). 

A more subtle form of exclusion is represented by clientelist practices (cf. the case study on 

Greece below), where patterns of personal dependency on the decision making power of 

politicians lead to patrimonial relationships (cf. Weber 1922/1980). These practices often 

represent “contemporary leftovers” of traditional societies (e.g. in the form of employment in 

the local state apparatus). Clientelism is likely to be fostered by decentralization processes 

(Hutchcroft 2001) which often are part of reforms towards participatory democracy, because 

these processes promote the shifting of political power and responsibilities to the local scale. 

On the other hand, participatory democracy can also serve as a kind of “antidote” to clientelist 

patterns of decision making, if decision making processes are opened to the public (Abers 

2000). 


Lobbying is the attempt to influence decision-making by parties who are stakeholder, but not 

in a position to decide. This often leads to an overrepresentation of interests which command 

either resources or other sources of power. It spans a very broad and diverse range of activities 

which can be located on a continuum from institutionalised to increasingly informal and non-

transparent modes of influence-seeking. Located at the one extreme are corporatist 

arrangements (through which formal interest groups participate in advisory boards and so on), 

followed by the so-called formal lobbying activities (e.g. the writing of memoranda and 

reports directed at decision-makers), informal lobbying (e.g. the filling of strategically 

important positions with persons well-disposed towards the interests of the group) 

(Biedermann 2005: 20) and culminating at the other end of the scale in corruption. Although 

especially the more formal modes of lobbying are often considered as being essential in 

representative democracies it should nevertheless be borne in mind that lobbying activists 

usually lack democratic legitimation. Lobbyists are hardly elected into their positions. 

Lobbying activities are thus problematic if one takes into account the varying “lobbying-

power” of the different parts of society – lobbying risks favouring the interests of the already 

powerful at the expense of the underprivileged. This is especially the case if lobbying 

activities take place in informal settings where the lobbyists are not accountable to the public. 

Another important issue when talking about exclusionary mechanisms in the field of 

governance and democracy is the gender dimension. The role of the state in the 

exclusion/inclusion of women is a very ambiguous one. Some scholars see the state as 

contributing to the empowerment of women through the implementation of laws and policies 





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