It’s hard to be highly respected when you’re constantly being juxtaposed in a world that has grown accustomed to the legacy of old dead European guys. Throw in the fact that American political thought is a little bit “rogue” in that it experiments with the overlap between thinking and doing and, well, American political thinkers are up against a lot.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s hard to see American political thought being relevant to anything other than American politics…but nothing could be farther from the truth. In today’s world, ubiquitous ideas of democracy prove that our political thought very much has an influence in the international playing field.
In a move that would probably make all of those dead European thinkers turn in their graves, I am going to insist that this “influence” shows that the relevance of American political thought is not only alive, but growing. Even mechanisms like Morone’s democratic wish are applicable to international movements; in fact, the Arab Spring can be traced to parallel the dynamics of the wish.
Now, before I go any further, I’m going to make one point clear. Morone wrote his piece to discuss the messed up cycle by which political institutions are created in the United States. He doesn’t like the inefficiency of big government, more so that it’s origins are based on a myth called the democratic wish. For the purposes of this blog post, when I am referring to the Democratic Wish, I am referring specifically to the dynamics associated with the mechanism in step three, the democratic calling for unification under a common good. It is important to make this distinction between the whole cycle, which is the focus of Morone’s paper, and the effects of the “wish” itself that this blog post is addressing.
Continuing on, the first step in understanding how the Democratic Wish applies to the Arab Spring is to talk about some of the underlying causes. “But wait, weren’t the revolutions unique?” Yes, but I’m going to pull some conclusions from shared generalities between all of them. The general consensus is that a combination of political and economic factors led to protests. In these factors, we see Morone’s status quo, or stalemate. In the political environment, the ideology of tyranny, corrupt institutions, and political self interests all block change. Poverty and unemployment illicit the image of “people out of doors”, and fuels the disillusionment of the large percentage of educated youth.
Over time, the pressures build and the general populace, being comprised of underrepresented, excluded actors, soon see the need for change. They want increased participation, accountability in their government, so on so forth. This is reflected in various news sources, which reveal discontent that had been building for years in the majority of these countries. For example, in February 2008, it was leaked in a diplomatic cable that Algeria was “unhappy” with long-standing political alienation, and that 9,700 riots and unrests had been recorded throughout the country.
This is where the democratic wish comes in.
This is where the people bond together in popular uprising, where the Facebook organized protests start. What we know as the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, they know as the “Revolution for Dignity and Freedom”, a revolution for the common good and rights of all. The tone of unity and community resonate in their protest songs, in the language of the new political parties calling for increased citizen participation. In this moment, they are a “single united people, bound together by a consensus over the public good which is discerned through direct citizen participation in community settings” (Morone p. 7).
For more protest songs, click on this link.
What happens next? Does the unity break down into petty debate about where the country goes? Do we return to the status quo, with new institutions but the same old mess? What’s left? A power vacuum? A new mess to take care of?
In Tunisia, there is uncertainty about the interim government that postponed an election. Ongoing protest in Tunisia. Limited governmental changes in Lebanon. In Egypt, concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood representing the country in a negative light. Libya, a civil war. Etc., Etc., Etc.
Only time can tell if the democratic wish comes full circle.
Morone’s democratic wish is “a utopian image”. As stated earlier, he wrote his book to criticize the mechanisms underlying American democracy. But is the invocation of wish really unique to the United States alone? And so are the concepts and the dynamics based around the democratic wish unique to the States, as Morone proposes?
What are your thoughts? Can you trace the dynamics of the Democratic Wish in other international events? Are the parallelisms between the Democratic Wish and the Arab Spring something to note?
Or maybe you think that I’m totally off of my rocker and that you totally have a better explanation. Cool. Now T-Paine wants you to write about it.