September 12, 2012

How Might Mass Democratic Movements Serve the Poor?

Mass democratic movements often do not achieve democracy for all. Even the Indian colonial liberation movement of the 1930s and 1940s, perhaps one among a handful of iconic democratic movements, did not achieve full citizenship for all Indians. Take the cases of the bonded laborers from the scheduled tribes of West Bengal, India, such as the Lodhas, the Mundas, and the Kherias.

July 11, 2012

Trade Area Agreements Damage Democracy


Everybody is aware of the effects of Trade Area policies like NAFTA and CAFTA.  They promise lower prices and prosperity, freedom and happiness, but deliver draconian policies and enforcement mechanisms that hurt workers, the environment, and democracy.  The latest maneuver in this bait and switch approach to trade, which some know as “NAFTA on steroids,” is called the TransPacific Free Trade Area proposal, or the TPFTA.

May 10, 2012

Gyatri Spivak

"...an acceptance of radical vulnerability..." - Gyatri Spivak

Jacques Ranciere

Rancière, Jacques: Rancière believes democracy is neither a governmental or societal structure. Rather, it is the underlying principle which makes both possible.  For Rancière, democracy is the equality at the heart of inequality. Democracy, equality, is the underlying condition of politics, and not a goal or structure to be attained.

Wendy Brown

Brown, Wendy: The word democracy means only that “the people” rule themselves, that the whole rather than a part or an Other is politically sovereign. However, as Brown points out, this definition does not necessarily entail “representation, constitutions, deliberation, participation, free markets, rights, universality or even equality.”

Giorgio Agamben

Agamben, Giorgio: Agamben suggests the word democracy has at least two, distinct meanings that often get mistakenly conflated. First, democracy refers to the political agreements (such as a constitution, public law, social norms) through which the people organize and make collective decisions. Agamben calls this a “political-juridical” rationality—meaning this aspect of democracy refers to the creation of laws, and the constant revision of law, by the people of any given collective.

April 26, 2012

The Costs of Killing Democracy


 After Manuel Zelaya was elected President of Honduras and took office early in 2006, he began supporting some reformist policies such as raising the minimum wage, reversing deceptive land ownership practices, and aligning with the international group of countries known as ALBA.  Shortly after pursuing these policies he was overthrown by the Honduran political class through a 2009 military coup d’etat.  Shortly after the coup, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Organization of American States opposed the new leadership, but within months the United States changed its position to support the military leadership. The United States also supported the elections in the fall of 2010 to replace the overthrown civilian leadership when other countries globally refused to recognize the new government.  And the U.S. renewed full military aid by February 2010, even though in the case of other coups in Nicaragua, Mauritania, and Madagascar the U.S. terminated aid agreements.

February 7, 2012

Are U.S. Government-funded NGOs Promoting Democracy Abroad? The Cases of Egypt and Honduras

Two activist conservative U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations were among the seven NGO offices raided by the Egyptian authorities last December 29. The attempts to bring publicity to the work of these organizations by the Egyptian military rulers escalated January 26 , when Sam LaHood and other employees of the International Republican Institute’s program in Egypt were refused permission, at the airport,  to leave the country. As the story continues to unfold, the U.S. embassy has now decided to protect some of the NDI and IRI employees in the large embassy compound in Cairo.

January 23, 2012

Tahrir Square One -Year Anniversary – Jan. 25, 2012

Early in 2011 Egyptian democratic activists challenged their government’s status quo, and their hard work paid off when Mubarak fell from power on January 25, 2011. Democracy has not looked so powerful in many decades. After this first anniversary, the question becomes ’what are the conditions of democratic governance at the one-year mark?‘


If we measure democracy in terms of elections, many commentators have noted that the rapid move to elections guaranteed the already well-organized Muslim Brotherhood an advantage at the early, formative stage of the transition to an electoral system. And the election results announced this past Sunday show why. The young activists whose organizing overthrew Mubarak gained only 7 seats in the People’s Assembly, while a new tech mogul billionaire’s party won over 7% and long-established Islamist and liberal parties won the rest of the seats.