Can Democracy Survive in Western Europe?

Can Democracy Survive in Western Europe?

Can Democracy Survive in Western Europe?

Can Democracy Survive in Western Europe?

Synopsis

A historian and a former diplomat analyze the prospects for democracy's continued survival and health in Western Europe. As democracy is the most rapidly spreading form of government in the world today - from Eastern Europe to Asia to Africa and South America - it makes sense to examine its home base in Western Europe. The authors find that democracy there has very real problems, and they assess its future prospects in light of those problems. Their method is to analyze examples of democracy in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, looking at the long history of these countries and their cultural values as keys to understanding the future of this form of government. The study concludes with specific recommendations for governments on both sides of the Atlantic. An important work that should be of interest to scholars, students and policy-makers in comparative politics and international relations.

Excerpt

We live in an age of democracy, or so it would seem. Throughout the Western world, the media salutes every democracy born out of some dictatorial relic. The Franco regime in Spain, which ended in 1975, is cited as the current democratic miracle, while U. S. government officials push hard to see democracy come to Haiti and elsewhere in the New World. Third World governments hold elections and claim they are moving toward democracy, while the republics of the ex-Soviet Union do the same. Even parts of war-torn Yugoslavia use the ballot box to determine if the United Nations should interfere in the local civil war.

That there has been an enormous expansion of governments which mimic the features of democracy there can be no doubt. Clearly, representational governments have enjoyed a Golden Age in the late twentieth century. But we also know, as we enter the twenty-first century, that ours was only one of twenty centuries; that the previous nineteen were rarely marked by democratic behavior. We know that the long arm of history rests heavily on the shoulders of all peoples.

We have only to look around us to realize how profound the role of history is on today's events. The warfare in Bosnia is a classic example of long‐ standing historical issues flaring up. Basque and Catalan regionalism in Spain is another. In Ireland, resentment of the British has a 700-year history. Ethnic rivalries, repressed for some seventy-five years during the dominance of communist rule in Eastern Europe, instantly manifested themselves with the demise of the Soviet Union. In Italy, where the fifty-fifth government since World War II was installed in April 1996, the new Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, had to call for calm, saying that his fellow citizens were looking for political "sympathy." In short, historical forces are real and inescapable. To ignore them is to misread how societies approach such issues as family structure and political behavior.

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