The question of ‘democracy’ is at the heart of the ‘globalisation’ debate. It appears essential to really understand the link between privatisation of globalisation (under the restrictive figure of economic and financial globalisation) and privatisation of democracy (under the rival forms of European and American democracies).
On one side of the debate, the Western governments, multilateral organisations and international firms use ‘democracy’ as a sales pitch, or even the ultimate objective of ‘mondialisation’ reduced to its contemporary economic phenomenon of industrial and financial globalisation. This last, ignoring or breaching the normal frontiers of the past (geographical, legal, monetary…), equalising production and consumption costs, harmonising living conditions, facilitating transfers and exchanges, more rapidly diffusing knowledge and tools, would also have the virtue of extending the democratic paradigm to the whole planet. For one ‘democracy’ as a positive model would be better known and reproduced in the entire world. And also, the improvement of the economic and social environment, the supposed effect of globalisation, would bring in its wake an improvement of democratic practices and conditions. Thus globalisation would produce democracy, in the same way as Monsieur Jourdain, without even realising it.
In fact, strengthened by this continually reaffirmed conviction, the Western democratic governments only grant access to the paradise of the free market on the condition that a ‘democratic clause’, its content set out how they will, is satisfied. The same goes for the future Free-Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) headed by Canada and the United States, this clause meaning that the entry of any future member (like Haiti) depends on an immediate and controlled democratisation of its regime. The same for the IMF and the World Back, a grant of a structural or provisional financial package being only allocated in the presence of or with the promise of a better democratic framework. Thus a state cannot expect long-term economic benefits of democracy if it does not give democratic guarantees in the short term.
On the other side of the debate, the critics of this idyllic vision of the future ‘world democracy’ denounce the actual recent results of economic globalisation. Results that they feel are disastrous not only on a social level but also for the evolution of democratic regimes and practices. Thus, countries in South-East Asia, such as Singapore, whilst they have seen impressive economic growth over the course of the last two decades, their ‘exemplary globalisation’ was achieved in part to the detriment of a comparable progress on the democratic front. The same for many of the Latin-American countries, which the North-American politicians take great pleasure in underlining no longer suffer under dictatorships or coups d’Etat, yet remain very fragile ‘democracies’ (precisely because they are faced with new forms of instability generated by globalisation) which barely conceal their profoundly oligarchic characters. The same for some Eastern European countries which were expected to quickly democratise after the USSR was dismantled and are now showing signs of contradictory evolution: with the ‘progress’ from one euphoric electoral day often being quickly erased by a return to ‘past tendencies’.
Moreover, those who remain sceptical about its democratic virtues predict that the worst is yet to come, beyond the inventoried effects of the last two decades globalisatory wave. In fact, ‘mondialisation’ reduced to the economic/financial form of ‘globalisation’ should not only be understood as ‘a process’ or ‘a fact’ that you must be content to accept, with consequences that are difficult to manage on a democratic level. Globalisation would carry with it a simplistic democratic project, or even be clearly ‘antidemocratic’. Through the limitations that it inflicts on the expression of cultures and minority nations, through development of the oligarchic practices and of the power distribution that it favorises, through the weak representativity of the elite who bring to this project for world democracy’ their tendency to invalidate uncontrollable forms of political participation in ‘civil society’, it would rest on a profoundly undemocratic ideology. In the end, it is nothing less than a project for privatising the world.
A privatisation which would begin with that of the criteria, practices and objectives of ‘democracy’ understood as having only one meaning. The idea that the dominant American/European democratic model could be spread over the whole world in the same way as Hollywood blockbusters or Coca-Cola cans, and by similar commercial means. The idea that between commerce, free-trade and democracy, there would be not only little fords but also identifiable and reproducible causality. The world privatisation of democracy would be the movement through which, borrowing from the paths of commerce, a small number of public and private leaders would give themselves the right to impose on the world ‘a certain idea of democracy’, because it would be ‘the best for everyone’ – and, of course, for this very small number. ‘Everything that is good for General Motors….’: we know how it goes…
The last take over bid, the consecration of so many efforts, the outcome and the reality of such a process, would therefore be a take over of ‘democracy’ itself.
If it has not already taken place?
(On the same problem or on connected issues we recommend the following article in Spanish by the same author : Comercio de la democracia, democracia del Comercio)