Democratic Theory and the Formation of a Public Sphere
Transition theory's inability to explain processes of democratization due to the inadequate assumptions it derives from the democratic elitist tradition points to the need to look to other traditions within social theory. Three alternative traditions recommend themselves by their long-standing disagreement with democratic elitism over the ability of the elites to solve the problem of democracy: republicanism, pluralism, and critical social theory. All three also offer alternatives to transition theory's approach to democratization insofar as they agree on the existence of a space for public debate which precedes democratic institutional arrangements.
Republican political theory is based on two main tenets: the idea that politics is a community's way of life; and the idea that freedom and, thus, democracy, is a self-governing form of community organization (Arendt, 1958; Held, 1987; Barber, 1984). The roots of the republican conception of politics can be traced back to the Greek polis and the way it connected community and democracy (Finley, 1973). Transporting republicanism into the modern era leads to a very specific understanding of democracy that rejects the possibility of institutionalizing either politics or sovereignty. The rejection is based on republicanism's dissociation of politics from religious and moral order. Nicola Machiavelli was the first modern author to tackle this issue by pointing out that “there was no natural god given framework to political life. Rather, it was the task of politics to create order in the world. … Politics is, thus, ascribed a preeminent position in social life as the chief constitutive element of society” (Held,
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Publication information: Book title: Democracy and the Public Space in Latin America. Contributors: Leonardo Avritzer - Author. Publisher: Princeton University Press. Place of publication: Princeton, NJ. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 36.
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