Democracy and Democratization: Processes and Prospects in a Changing World

By Georg Sørensen | Go to book overview
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CONCLUSION

This chapter opened by asking whether democracy is really worth the trouble and by asking if it paves the way for improvements in spheres of life other than those narrowly connected with political freedoms. A number of reasons were given for an affirmative answer to both questions. Not only is democracy a value in itself, but it helps promote other civil and political rights. Furthermore, although democracies may not invariably perform better than authoritarian systems in terms of economic development, the notion of a general trade-off between democracy and development was rejected. Most of the authoritarian systems are oppressive, and they are also poor performers in terms of economic development.

At the same time, transitions toward democracy do not guarantee a promised land of rapid economic development and a vastly improved human rights situation. The elite-dominated frozen democracies seem to hold out few promises for a process of economic development that would benefit the large groups of poor people. The transitions themselves can lead to situations of instability and the breakdown of authority that involve higher human rights violation than before. The promise of democracy is not that of automatic improvement in areas of life that are not narrowly connected with political freedoms; it is the creation of a window of opportunity, a political framework where groups struggling for development and human rights have better possibilities than before for organizing and expressing their demands. Democracy offers the opportunities; it does not offer guarantees of success.

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