Globalization and Local Democratic Governance*
University of Pennsylvania
A core component of arguments in debates on the causes and consequences of globalization is whether it promotes or destroys democratic governance. This question is embedded in several others, which together create a theoretical knot. A number of the asserted, tangled relationships are unidirectional, both positive and negative, on several value dimensions: economic growth; distribution of wealth; life styles; group identities; and the environment. In a significant progressive sense, these debates take as a point of departure the demise of the main horror questions of the twentieth century: death by genocide,Ademocide@, and wars among nations. When the question of globalization and democracy is introduced today, the necessary corollary questions are whether democratic governments can stop, slow down, or shape processes of globalization. If they could and should, then would they choose to do so?
One set of relationships in this theoretical-political mess involves that among prosperity, peace, and democracy. First, does democracy promote or inhibit economic growth? Second, does democracy lead to the distribution of existing wealth, improving or hampering economic growth? Third is it necessary to have a certain level of affluence in order to have and then to nurture democracy, enhancing the freedoms conducive to economic growth or allowing the mal distribution of wealth and expression of social and ethnic conflicts, which destroy it? Finally, does democracy create the stability necessary for economic growth, or is economic growth (in some versions, a middle class) necessary for the stability required for viable democratic politics? Then, of course, there are the sequencing and time functions of these relationships. These, in our time, are the main theoretical questions for the social and political sciences. They have been only ambiguously formulated and examined empirically in a rudimentary way with country comparisons for a few recent decades.
To these questions another must be added: what kinds of political systems and what kinds of institutions and processes does democracy help or hinder? The nation-state; regional authorities and governments; local governments: universities; schools; perhaps private associations, parties; or corporations? It remains unclear whether democracy is possible at the level of large nation-states that evolved into an international system of states during the past two centuries with expanding capacities to coerce their own populations; defend against and destroy external enemies; and project power and influence to gain resources and spread their ideologies. The credibility of assertions that democracy required small-scale polities exemplified by a city-state or a local government could be taken as a question of the concepts and definitions of democracy. It may be that democracy is unsuited to the scale of political systems needed to meet human aspirations for tranquility and prosperity.
* A version of this was presented to the Workshop on Globalization and Democracy at the 41st Annual Convention of the International Studies Association Los Angeles, March 14, 2000.
Democracy: States and Localities
The historicalAmodels@ of democracy in the Western tradition are faulted on grounds of exclusion of resident populations of slaves, women, the poor, and the ideologically deviant. The cases of Scandinavia and Switzerland are easily discounted because of their small size, social homogeneity, or an unassertive central government. Today, the enduring question about democracy and size should be superceded by the controlling question about democracy as governance of diversity. In the U.S., it was assumed, that a national government would be repressive but individual autonomy and freedom could be assured only by various kinds of local options in federalism and a market economy, providing choices of submission (loyalty), participation (voice), or moving out (exit). Those choices, however, depend on whether there are structures for participation, alternative places to go, and individual knowledge and resources to know where to go and get there, if allowed in.
Globalization should weaken the states--the strongest existing, world-wide hierarchical political authority--by expanding options for polities, individuals, and groups subordinated within them to establish relations beyond them, participate in decisions of higher levels of both public and private organizations, and to join alternative ones. Two structural characteristics of globalization are easier penetration of territorial political systems by higher level transnational and global organizations and more information and connections of individuals and groups to move about both physically as well as psychologically. These organizations have strong incentives to re-locate people and to establish their presence nearly everywhere. Individuals and groups will seek autonomy by expanding their choices.
Globalization processes shake-up exclusive claims of authority. What kinds of evidence are there that this is true and what are the indicators that the result will be more or better democracy? First, in Europe the evidence for more and more complex regions with self-conscious political discretion, including a "third" and even moreAtiers@of regions, seems to be compelling not only in the recent past but also based on current projections. There is the European Union, the Baltic, the Northeast Baltic, and many more in Europe, including new forms of autonomy for older regions, noted examples being Wales and Scotland and prospective others in the U.K. Second, for some time now, local governments, including provinces and Astates@ in Europe and North America, have intensified their Ainternational relations@ with representational offices in capitals of other countries, in bodies of regional associations, or memberships in international associations of various kinds of public officials. Third, of course, there are the Apenetrations@ of corporations, civic organizations, and universities all over the world, causing and justifying political movements for protection or open resistance. Fourth, whatever else they do, new forms of electronic communications provide challenges to all hierarchies in their efforts to design and influence information to enhance their control. Of course, there is contrary evidence in technologies of electronic surveillance and the politics to exclude bad and unwanted information through government.
Another Body of Evidence
The Democracy and Local Governance Research program has been gathering data on localization, democracy, and globalization in Eurasia and two other continents for nearly a decade. It has interviewed more than 15,000 local political leaders, mayors, council members, political party leaders, and some administrators and bureaucrats. Although it is about to conclude getting data from its 30th country, what is reported here are the findings from 26 countries from about 11,000 of these local leaders in about 620 local governments, scattered about in 120 identifiable regions. Nine former communist countries were studied two or more times (but the data presented here are from the most recently completed studies).
These local leaders were interviewed face-to-face in most of the countries and in a few suitable ones by mail questionnaires. About 15 leaders were targeted in each of the randomly selected localities, ranging in size from about 25,000 to 500,000, depending on the degree and nature of urbanization of each country. The sample size of localities ranges from 19 in Lithuania to more than 70 in Russia. The questionnaire was primarily directed to democratic values of local leaders, using more than 45 value scale items, and local democratic practices. In addition to the usual background and other questions, there were several on local autonomy; perceptions about the impact of globalization from trade, immigration, media, pollution, and tourism; and local decision-making; andAproblems@. 4
A few of the basic variables in the research will be used in this discussion. First, and most central, is the Demscore, composed of nine value items taken from three value scales: political equality (everyone counting the same); minority (vs. majority) rights; and acceptance of conflict and differences (pluralism). Second is the support structure that the local leader seeks. Leaders were asked to identify the groups that they turn to when making political decisions from a list of 16 that covered economic, civic, political parties, and so forth, adjusted to those most relevant in each country. The total number of groups chosen is the variable, support groups. Third, leaders were asked to check from a list which ways people in their communities attempt to influence political decisions. The variety of ways chosen is the variable, ways of influencing. Finally, leaders were asked to identify with what politicalAlevel@ they identified: local community (the favorite), a region within the country, the country, a transnational region (Europe, Asia, the world). The leaders were allowed more than one response and anything beyond the country is scored as international identification.
Because of the global reach of the data, it is possible to compare the distribution of democratic politics across vast areas of the world. The general hypothesis is that the more global the locality and region, the more local democratic politics and the higher the democratic values of local political leaders. AlthoughAglobalization@ is now part of the ordinary political terminology, even if not firmly based conceptually, about change during the past decade, there are only limited data over time. Change over time data in the former communist countries seem to indicate an early spurt in globalization consciousness along with the espousal of democratic values among local leaders, and then stabilization of these orientations and commitments by the end of the twentieth century, with some exceptions.
Some General Findings
The research design and data of the Democracy and Local Governance project contain several theoretical paradigms. These include conflict, regionalism, administrative arrangements as well as beliefs about processes of change. What is presented here is an introduction to the most macro findings, looking at 26 countries over a breath of data. The political systems of countries determine a great deal of the configurations of relationships within them, but there are some clear global patterns set in long histories of human societies in the various regions of Eurasia.
1. Democratic values have permeated nearly everywhere but they are rooted in radically different political soils. The proportion of leaders that can be put into a general democratic value category ranges from around 90 percent in Sweden to less than 10 percent in Central Asia, and those reside in urban centers. This spread can be seen in the Maps, which shows the Eurasian (excluding the U.S.) distribution of democratic local political leaders. In Eurasia there is a west to east pattern that can be described as three political cultures in Europe. 5 Central Asian local political leaders are just beginning to be
2. The relationship (impact?) of globalization on democratic practices is present at all levels: for individual leaders and across localities, regions, and countries. This is found in the strong positive relationship between the international identification of leaders, the breath of support groups sought out when making decisions, and perceptions of the multiple ways people have to influence decisions. These correlations are presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Demscore Correlations with Democratic Practices and International Identity*
Leaders Localities Regions Country
Support Groups .21 .40 .42 .53
Ways of Influencing .24 .36 .40 .43
International Identification .18 .32 .35 ---
N= 11, 202 628 120 24**
*significant at the 0.000 level
**excludes Iceland and combines East and West Germany
3. Involvement of the local economy in the international economy impacts democratic values of local political leaders, but not as strongly as the local leaders
4. Political leaders, individually, as local groups, as aggregates by regions, but not nationally, who are more committed to democratic values also believe they do not have sufficient local autonomy to address local problems and see political differences among people in their communities. There is, in other words, a strong relationship between leaders who are democratic, dissatisfied with what they can and are allowed to do, and their recognition of local political differences. Local politicization is associated with aspiring to more local political autonomy. 6
5. Over time localities with local leaders that sought out more support groups when making political decisions, perceived more ways or means that are open to people to influence local political decisions, and identify internationally became even more enmeshed in those relationships between 1991-92 and 1995-6. These relationships are across communities at two points in time (N=125). One interpretation of these over-time correlations is that the relationship in communities that were doing well globally and democratically early in the 1990s extended and strengthened the global orientation and commitment to democratic values of their leaders. There is a contrary story for those countries that did not do well either economically or politically. The local leaders in both Belarus and Ukraine rejected democratic and market values over time.
Stories Masked by the Global Data
It can be argued that the 21st century, after a decade of what might prove to be the beginning of the Second Democratic Revolution, also changed the theoretical perspectives of the social sciences from international to global. The Democracy and Local Governance research and a few other programs at least are framed on a global scale. The decade of the 1920s was one in which social science came into its own in Europe and North America asAnational@ sciences; the 1960s shifted the social sciences to an international, comparative science, marked by a few large scale, macro comparative research projects; the 1990s was a decade in which the world opened up not only to the processes of globalization but also to a global social science.
Vast national differences remain hidden in this analytical overview of the Democracy and Local Governance data. It began at the beginning of an accelerating process of globalization. The ascendance of a world system of states and major wars among them in the twentieth century imprinted human societies as deeply as the spread and consolidation of the great world religions. The political cultures shaped by the histories of states must be used to interpret the relationships found in the last decade of political transformations. Some of the countries in this research have of established democratic institutions and habits across generations, and others, only years. Some are burdened with underdeveloped infrastructures of production and distribution. Specific national politics and policies ofAtransitions to a market economy@ or of becoming a part of a New Europe or a global political economy account for some of the differences in local politics across these 26 countries. What does show up are strong, enduring transnational regional differences--Western, Central, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and East Asia. The long histories of these regions for many localities are as important as nineteenth and twentieth century encounters with Napoleon, fascism, socialism, or communism.
Local conditions are often easily incorporated into stories of local differences within countries. Those cities and regions most exposed to theAwes", or those siting on traditional ports and rivers of trade, are both more open to globalization and have more leaders with more deeply embedded democratic value and habits than those removed from the cross-roads of exchange. How that happened, of course, is recorded in histories of kings, invasions, and inventions.
The big surprises of the last decade were the collapse of communism and the continued success of market economies. What followed in different parts of the world was not so surprising. Countries and regions with more developed infrastructures adapted to democratic politics and markets more easily than those in areas where civic society and entrepreneurship were obliterated. What is likely to be happening now is much less dramatic change locally and regionally than what happened at the beginning of the last decade. The forces of globalization are unlikely to weaken. They are likely to accelerate democratic developments in most parts of the world but have shaky consequences for a few.