The conditions for a society to become a democracy are analyzed

February 17, 2014

In view of the changes that have taken place in Europe,JuleGoikoetxea, a lecturer at the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Social Sciences and Communication, has been conducting research into "the conditions needed for a people to become a democracy or sustain its democratisation process over time."The study has been published in the specialised journal Nationalities Papers.

According to Goikoetxea, nation is not synonymous with demos: "The nation is the will, socially and historically articulated, that a group has in order to be a political subject.The demos refers to the way of turning that will into reality."In fact, a nation can have different political systems; it does not have to be a democracy.Nevertheless, in democratisation processes nations are turned into demoi, in other words, into human groups that govern themselves," added Goikoetxea, who did her research at the University of Cambridge where she also studied Political Science.

Having drawn the distinction between demos and nation, Goikoetxea adds that the demos has two dimensions: the objective one and the subjective one. The subjective one refers to the common identities, interests and beliefs held by the population.These beliefs, identities and interests, if they are to become common and be sustained over time, need the objective dimension of the demos, which refers to the public institutions, preferably the state ones, since "the state institutions are the objective (i.e. institutionalised) setups that wield greater political power, and let us remember that political power is a power that creates social reality, and therefore, the one able to bring about socio-economic and political equality, which is the basis of every democratisation process.

The Basque case

So for Basque democracy to be possible, the researcher regards two variables as necessary: firstly, the Basque state institutions should have enough political power to control the population, and secondly, these institutions need to be capable of carrying out the demands and priorities of Basque society.

Goikoetxea speaks of reproduction, because the process to create the Basque demos would not start from scratch; "that is why I say that it's a reproduction, although new elements always emerge in a process in which something is produced anew," she asserts. She goes on to say, "The concept of reproduction is the key component when it comes to explaining a people's survival over time and in a space. At the end of the day, the most important thing in politics is not creation but survival."

The importance of social protest in the process to create the demos is also highlighted by Goikoetxea.In her view, "a certain dynamic between Basque state institutions and Basque society is indispensable to enable a democratisation process to take place. Why? Because in democracy the institutions realize social demands, however, in order to achieve that, society must become an organised society. And an organised society is one that engages in protests by means of which the social players articulate the demands of that society. Without protests and action, society as a whole cannot articulate its demands."

On this point Goikoetxea is pessimistic with respect to the current situation of democracy in Europe. In her view, when social movements, trade unions and political parties are unable to articulate the demands of society, it is the lobbies that take their place."In other words, protests and action are necessary for democratisation to become reality; otherwise, the institutions respond to the demands of the lobbies. Democratisation is possible only within a dynamic of contention."

However, according to the UPV/EHU's researcher, since the start of the crisis, the lobbies have seized power:"Throughout Europe the institutions are subordinate to the economic elite, and now we're suffering the effects of this.The consequences are also very serious.We are not moving deeper into democracy; quite the opposite, a regression has taken place:we are right in the midst of a de-democratisation process. And in the Basque Country the situation is worse, if anything, because the public institutions which are supposed to implement our demands depend on the central governments of Spain and France, and these governments respect neither the Basque institutions nor the demands of the Basques."
-end-


Elhuyar Fundazioa

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