Online Journal of Anthropology

Raventos Democratic Innovation SouthTitle: Democratic Innovation in the South. Participation and Representation in Asia, Africa & Latin America
Edited by: Ciska Raventós
Pages: 237
Year: 2008
Publisher: CLACSO
Series: South-South collection
Print ISBN: 978-987-1183-95-1









“Democratic innovation in the South” is a book edited by Ciska Raventós and participation of many authors, where the promises of democracy, the decline of trust in nation-state as well as the derived economic problems, which citizenry should face, are widely examined. Even if each chapter may be separately read, this text keeps a common thread according to two relevant aspects of politics, the representation of institutions and their commitment in the way of practising the politics. Although it is important to mention the recent process of democratization in Latin America and South has generated a place of inclusion and participation, univocally it seems to be still not enough.

The dichotomies of democracies and the social problems, which she generates, are some of the pending question this book tries to resolve. Some developing countries adopted democracy as primary option of government thinking their material asymmetries will be automatically solved. However, their situation not only has not been improved. Frequently, the implementation of economic policies is done ignoring the demands of citizens; in others, the role of citizens in this process is over-valorised.

Four sections encompasses this compilation, the first refers to the role of civil society in the processes of democratization and its impact on public space. Investigations conduced as Dagnino, Olvera and Panfichi, and Chaguaceda Noriega shows the needs of reconceptualising the importance of participation post dictatorships. The new movement faces serious challenges and problems at time of dialoguing with the former actors that forms the status-quo.  Rather, the second section explores the connection between democracy and social conflict.
M I Pousadelas delves into the world of civil assemblies after the argentine economic crash of 2001 where thousand of savers experienced the lock-out of their deposits. Even if these practices were under the legal-frame of state, interesting aftermaths in the way of conceiving the trust-in-institutions may be found. In similar vein, the studies authored by Bukstein, Gudavarthy and Vijay debates to what extent the threshold of negotiation post crisis situation is of importance to understand the social change. Things change but structures are somehow perpetuated.

Following this argument, G. Bukstein explains that before 2001, many unemployed citizens (known as piqueteros) blocked the accessibility to streets and roads. This style of articulating protests and discontent resisted the neoliberal policies of State in Argentina during almost one decade, but transformed in the preconditions of political instability for next governments. The pole of conflict these movements opened was not only co-opted by Kirchner´s administration, but also generated new movements of resistance, in this vein, opposed to the existent governmental apparatus, even against the same Nestor Kirchner. The process of democratization seems to be very hard to grasp and define as well as their consequences almost impossible to fore-see. Gudavarthy and Vijay describe the case of the civil society in India.
Based on the idea that the communitarian action rests on democracy, there are serious economic imbalances the democracy, as a form of organization, remains still unable to reduce. The third section focuses on the legal framework that facilitates the democracy as a social practice. The protection of civil rights as well as the state right of intervention are two of the factors that pivot the surface of democracy in post-dictatorial contexts.

The example of China and Ghana are studied following the internal juridical discrepancies given by the social conflict. This reminds how the culture and political atmosphere takes for granted at time of adopting democracy is more than important.   Last but not least, the fourth part of this book highlights the role of ethnic minorities and civil wars in the surfacing democracies. At some extent, some democracies not only generate bloody revolts but also pave the ways for the advent of a new dictatorship. If democracy is installed on spaces and countries enrooted in a background of discrimination, segregation and ethnic intolerance, results may lead government to civil war and institutional chaos.

This happens simply because electoral competence leads to institutional deregulation. Under some forms and practices, democracy may create a high degree of polarization, very difficult to intervene. With the benefits of hindsight, this book surely resolves many questions but still others open, such as, if democracy is an ideal form of government? How we explain the increasing discontent and protest in peripheral countries? May we talk about the paradox of democracy?

Certainly, this quandary points out that liberty allows a progressive institutional strengthening by means of empowerment and participation of citizenry, but at some extent, this participation is weakened by the introduction of business corporations, which make a gap between institutions and citizens. Raventós book not only, in parts is written in a pour English, but also rests on a contradictory belief, echoed in some Latin-American scholars, the linkage between legitimacy and administrative efficiency.

It is unfortunate that we have been educated to believe democracy is the only one form of government, the best that make resolve the problems of market, neo-liberalism or economic forces. What is not being duly discussed is that democracy and liberal market are two side of the same coin. As Castel brilliantly put it, the political freedom was conducive to the process of industrialization in late Medieval Times. The sense of liberty not only facilitated to internal migration directly to cities, but also situated farmers in a new unknown condition, the possibility of choice.

As a result of this, many pour peasants were free to negotiate with more than one land-owner about their conditions of subsistence. The capital found the necessary mechanism, articulated by the doctrine of liberal-market and democracy to sustain the basis of nation-state. Whether the democracy in old Greece reminded the possibility of any citizen to derogate a law if necessary, the Anglo-democracy focuses on the voting process but creating a gap between citizens and their institutions.

This hole is fulfilled by the financial powers that operate inside the nation-states. That way, the individual voices in democratic regimes were trivialized in view of the hegemony of jurisprudence and legal-theory. The laws sanctioned in modern parliamentary democracies seem not to be objected by citizens. The individual views fail against the corporate powers that monopolize the well-functioning of Republic. Therefore, it is contradictory to attack the market defending democracy. The capitalist logic today, enrooted in modern Anglo-democracy, are not being placed under the lens of scrutiny.

Castel, R. 1997. La Metamorfosis de la Cuestión social. Una Crónica del salariado. Buenos Aires, Paidos.

Introduction, by Ciska Raventós

Part I
Civil society, public space and democratization

Democratic innovation in Latin America: a first look at the Democratic Participatory Project, by Evelina Dagnino, Alberto Olvera and Aldo Panfichi
Citizens’ participation and associative space, by Armando Chaguaceda Noriega

Part II
Protest, contentious collective action and democratization

Participation vs. Representation? The Experience of the Neighborhood Assemblies of Buenos Aires, 2001-2003, by Inés Pousadela
A Time of Opportunities: the Piquetero Movement and Democratization in Argentina, by Gabriela Bukstein
Antinomies of Political Society: Implications of Uncivil Development, by Ajay Gudavarthy and G. Vijay

Part III
Institutional legal reform: contribution to democratization

The “Democratization” of China’s Laws and Policies: two steps forward one step back from Reform and Tiananmen to Falun Gong, by Gillian Hui Lynn Goh
Innovations in Electoral Politics in Ghana’s Fourth Republic: an Analysis, by Alexander Frempong
On Democratic Consolidation in the South: comments on Frempong’s Paper, by Jorge Rovira Mas

Part IV
Minority rights and democracy

Democracy, Minority Rights and Conflict Prevention in Asia, by Ashok Swain


Reviewed by: Maximiliano E. Korstanje
Philosophical Society of England, UK
University of Palermo
Buenos Aires, Argentina,





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