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The Ashgate Research Companion to the Politics of Democratization in Europe.

The Ashgate Research Companion to the Politics of Democratization in Europe

Edited by K. Palonen, T. Pulkkinen & J. M. Rosales

Aldershot: Asghate Publishing Limited, 2008, 421 pp., ISBN 978075467250.

This edited volume brings together 23 articles by various authors who examine different aspects of European democratisation under four headings: Concepts, Practices, Changes and Contexts.

In the first section, "Concepts," contributors tackle different definition of democracy, drawing on discussions in classical literature and examining contemporary challenges to democratization in the global age. In the opening article, "Representative Democracy: Rosanvallon on the French Experience," Frank R. Ankersmit claims that representative democracy has advantages over direct democracy, as the laws governing the former provide foundational bases for a political order. In the following article, "Direct Democracy, Ancient and Modern," Mogens H. Hansen looks at direct democracy more closely. The author points out that direct democracy existed only in Ancient Greece and that several centuries after the Hellenic era, scholars introduced the concept of representative democracy and institutions but no serious debate took place regarding the democratic character of these institutions. Hansen discusses the prospects of revitalizing the institution of direct democracy through the use of modern tools. In her article, entitled "Neither Ancient nor Modern: Rousseau's Theory of Democracy," Gabriella Silvestrini discusses Rousseau's perception of democracy and concludes that it had very little relevance to majority rule. In "Representative Government or Republic? Sieyes on Good Government," Christine Faure focuses on controversial thinker Abbe Sieyesm, and argues that, in his time, he suggested an elected king who would resemble the modern institution of the President of the Republic.

The remaining articles in this section look at the contemporary contexts of democratic theory. In "Democratic Politics and the Dynamics of Passions," Chantal Mouffe argues that democracy is not necessarily a clash between two antagonistic sets of interests. Advancing her own notion of agonism, she maintains that democracy may well be an effort to find the most reasonable solution between pros and cons in a debate. In "Disobedient State and Faithful Citizen? Relocating Politics in the Age of Globalization," Olivia Guaraldo notes that democratic systems try to keep violence away from democratic debates, but argues that they exercise their monopoly on violence by using the state structures. In "The Gendered 'Subjects' of Political Representation," Tuija Pulkkinen examines the concept of 'subject' in the context of contemporary feminist political theory, in an effort to highlight how the history of democratization has created 'women' as a political subject.

The second section, "Practices," undertakes several case studies to demonstrate how democratization has become a product of rhetorical struggles not only among political actors but also historians. In "Political Rhetoric and the Role of Ridicule," Quentin Skinner looks at one form of rhetoric, ridicule, pointing out that political discourse closely follows the rules of rhetoric set out in the textbooks of Roman and Greek authors. In "Political Times and the Rhetoric of Democratization," Kari Palonen focuses on how political leaders learn to perform rhetoric properly in the public sphere. Given the centrality of time to democratic politics, he presents politicians as individuals seeking to utilize time as a political tool. The subsequent articles turn to an inquiry into rhetorical struggles among intellectuals in relation to democratization. In "Democratization and the Instrumentalization of the Past," Irene Herrmann compares Switzerland and Russia from the democratisation standpoint and concludes that in both of these countries historians have taken part in politics through their own work in reference to history. In "The Rhetoric of Intellectual Manifestos from the First World War to the War against Terrorism," Marcus Llanque looks at the use of manifestos by intellectuals who assume the role of representing a public position, although they are not in fact elected representatives. The final two articles by Anna Schober and Simona Forti study rhetorical actions by feminist non-professionals, and the residual totalitarian practices in contemporary European democracies, respectively.

The third section, "Changes," studies the various processes of change that contemporary European democracy has gone through. The section starts with articles that delve into the changes that have affected the status of women, resulting in greater female participation in politics. In "Women's Partial Citizenship: Cleavages and Conflicts Concerning Women's Citizenship in Theory and Practice," Claudia Wiesner claims that, in practice, in many contemporary European democracies gender equality does not exist, and that women's citizenship is only a 'partial citizenship.' The following article, "Gendering Political Representation? The Debate on Gender Parity in France," by Laure Bereni takes up a case study of France, where the issue of gender parity was addressed through legal regulations in the 1990s.

The next two sections examine another major transformation in the democratization process: how the notion that delegates participating in democratic decision-making should not be economically dependent produced the institution of professional representatives. In "Political Professionalism and Representative Democracy: Common History, Irresolvable Linkage and Inherent Tensions," Jens Borchert identifies a sort of paradox for contemporary democracies: while the professionalization of political offices is almost inevitable, it also poses many threats to the underpinnings of democracy and violates democratic principles. In "Democratization and Professionalisation: The Disappearance of the Polling Officer in Germany and the Introduction of Computer Democracy," Hubertus Buchstein looks at another aspect of professionalization: polling practices. He argues that the new electronic polling systems diminish the importance of voting officers, and undermine people's belief in democratic principles. In "The History of Parliamentary Democracy in Denmark in Comparative Perspective," Uffe Jacobsen takes a broader comparative perspective and looks at the evolution of European democratization by using a case study of Denmark. Jacobsen claims that a scholarly study of the transition from authoritarian to democratic rule reveals a remarkable similarity between Eastern and Western Europe.

The last section, "Contexts," focuses on manifestations of democratization in different contexts through detailed case studies. In "A Long and Hard Process of Democratization: Political Representation, Election and Democracy in Contemporary Spain," Gonzalo Capellan examines Spain's uneven and challenging democratic experience. In "Do Political Parties Matter? Direct Democracy and Electoral Struggle in Switzerland in the Nineteenth Century," Pierre-Antoine Schorderet points out that despite the strong existence of direct democracy at the cantonal level in Switzerland, the country has in fact developed representative institutions and presents a combination of both systems. In "The Breakthrough of Universal Suffrage in Finland, 1905-1906," Jussi Kurunmaki studies early stages of democracy in Finland and offers an explanation for the rather anomalous case of how Finland became the first country to introduce universal suffrage in 1906, even before other more advanced democracies of the time. The final two essays of the section continue to look at specific cases. In "Nationalism, Constitutionalism and Democratization: The Basque Question in Perspective," Jose Maria Rosales examines how ethnic conflict and separatism have affected the broader democratization process in Spain. In "The Dis-/Appearance of the Demos", Meike-Schmidt-Gleim examines the effects of societal violence on democratization. She revisits the banlieue revolt of 2005 in France and argues that the way the French government responded threatened to undermine France's democratic principles. The book ends with "Postscript: The Past, Present and Future of Democratization," in which Kari Palonen concludes with a positive note on the future of democracy.

Although democratization experiences have become one of the key areas of interest in European politics in recent decades, no scholarly analyses had tackled the conceptual problems associated with democratization and the widely-held assumption that the contemporary European experience presents a reference point for democratization experiences elsewhere, in an in-depth manner found in this study. The Ashgate Research Companion to the Politics of Democratization in Europe provides an incisive inquiry into the foundations and evolution of the European democratization experience through a good mixture of specific case studies and conceptual analyses. It promises to be reference reading for scholars and students of political science alike. It also offers valuable insights for practitioners actively involved in the making and remaking of the democratization experience in Europe and elsewhere.

Yasar Yakis

Member of the Turkish Parliament
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Author:Yakis, Yasar
Publication:Insight Turkey
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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