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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

The Transformation of Democracy
Anthony McGrew ed

(Cambridge: Polity Press/in association with the Open University, 1997)
279pp, index, bib, 0-7456-1816-2.

The two book reviewed here are from a trilogy written for the Open University course on 'Democracy: From Classical Times to the Present'. The study of democratization by Potter et al. is a fairly comprehensive account of the spread of liberal democracy around the globe. Apart from the introduction and conclusion it is organised into separate parts for different areas of the globe: Europe and the USA, Latin America and Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the communist and post-communist countries. There are some problems with the organisation of the chapters. Putting Latin America and Asia together creates an awkward third part that is made up of two general chapters on the history of democratization in Latin America and three chapters dealing with specific Asian cases. Although China appears in the Asian section the chapter on Vietnam is located in the part dealing with communist and post-communist states. Some of the other detailed case-studies area little predictable. South Africa and Israel receive extended analysis, though they are hardly typical of Africa and the Middle East as a whole. Sadly, interesting cases such as Canada and Japan get little attention. If the Potter book looks at how territorial liberal democracies have spread around the globe, the McGrew book examines how globalization may be undermining this approach to thinking about democracy. Having digested a substantial volume on state-based democratization it is rather disconcerting to turn to the second book's claim that globalization may be transforming liberal democracies and reconstituting the nature of sovereign statehood. One hopes that the Open University students can cope with this slightly schizophrenic approach. These contradictions seem inherent in the nature of the contemporary global system rather than any serious drawbacks in the way these volumes were written, but greater collaboration might have been produced a more coherent overall package.
In the introduction to his volume McGrew examines globalization, defined as an intensification of global interconnectedness, and what this means for democracy. In Part one we have chapters on what is being transformed and there are discussions of militarism, the economy, the environment, and the women's movement. Part two examines the extent to which existing structures of global governance are responsive to democratic control and the obstacles to the democratization of world order. Areas covered are human rights, mulitnational corporations, the European Union, and the United Nations. All of these four chapters point to a democratic deficit in their respective areas. There is a concluding chapter by the editor which takes the analysis into new areas through an anlysis of the work of important contributors to the globalisation debate such as Held, Linklater and Giddens.
Both volumes are reluctant to engage with ethnicity. The Potter volume is better in this respect as there are some references to ethnic conflict (especially Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Israel) and consociationalism (but not Lijphart) in some of the chapters. Yet it is surprising how infrequently they arise in such an extensive analysis of demo0cratization. The McGrew study makes no reference to ethnicity except when discussing specific cases such as the former Yugoslavia. There is no attempt to explore the relationship between Ethnicity and globalization or the way that intensified global relations are forcing us to redefine our cultural identity. The Potter book concludes that ethnic, cultural or religious cleavages have significant effects on attempts to consolidate democracy within specific territories and these may not go away just because democracy may be moving beyond borders.

Stephen Ryan, University of Ulster

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