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د عدلي الهواري

للمساهمة في التراكم المعرفي وتعزيز التفكير النقدي

  للمساهمة في التراكم المعرفي وتعزيز التفكير النقدي
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Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan

Theories of Democracy

Dr. Adli Hawwari


د. عدلي الهواري

This chapter outlines various democratic theories to outline the debates about the definitions of democracy and to identify the theories that inform this book.

‘A theory,’ as defined by Brewer (2000, p. 192), ‘is a set of interrelated abstract propositions about human affairs and the social world that explain their regularities and properties’. He also explains that theories are not ‘descriptive statements’ (p. 192). Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 18) note that the role of the theoretical framework is to explain ‘the main things to be studied—the key factors, constructs or variables—and the presumed relationship among them’.

Dahl (1956) has observed that ‘there is no democratic theory but democratic theories’ (p. 1). They must have multiplied several decades later. The first challenge to face a researcher is the definition of democracy, one that goes beyond the denotation of the Greek term which means the rule of people.

Before that, however, I shall outline arguments about democracy, beginning with the one that contests the notion itself, then different arguments that contest models, conceptualisations, cultural compatibility, and prerequisites for democracy. After that, I shall refer to the arguments that define democracy.

Democracy: Contesting the Concept

Haynes (2001) states ‘defining democracy is a tricky task’ (p. 8). Keane (1991) acknowledges that ‘the concept of democracy is currently dogged by confusion’ (p. 168). Hoffman (1988, p. 131) emphatically states: ‘Democracy is without doubt the most contested and controversial concept in political theory’. Similarly, Saikal (2003, p. 167) suggests that ‘democracy is an overloaded concept. Historically, it meant different things to different people’. He further explains that ‘there is no consensus [in Western countries] as to precisely what the concept means and how best to express the idea’.

Saikal also points out that there is no ‘widespread agreement among theorists and practitioners as to whether democracy is a form of government, a method of choosing a government, or a term applied to a whole society’ (p. 111). One finds that scholars approach the definition of democracy with some hesitation. Reference is often made to Gallie ([1956] 1968) who argued that democracy is an ‘essentially contested concept’. Therefore, the logical start for this discussion is Gallie’s argument.

According to Gallie (1968), some concepts are essentially contested, such as religion, art, science, democracy and social justice (p. 168; my emphasis). To fit the classification, a concept must meet five conditions (pp. 161-168):

(I) The concept in question must be appraisive in the sense that it signifies or accredits some kind of valued achievement. [Emphasis in original].

(II) This achievement must be of an internally complex character, for all that its worth is attributed to it as a whole.

(III) Any explanation of its worth must therefore include reference to the prescriptive contributions of its various parts or features [...] the accredited achievement is initially variously describable. [Emphasis in original].

(IV) The accredited achievement must be of a kind that admits of considerable modification in the light of changing circumstances; any such modification cannot be prescribed or predicted in advance […] any such achievement [is] ‘open’ in character.

(V) [E]ach party recognises the fact that its own use of it is contested by those of other parties.

To distinguish an essentially contested concept from those which are ‘radically confused’, Gallie has two more conditions (p. 168):

(VI) [T]he derivation of any such concept from an original exemplar whose authority is acknowledged by all the contestant users of the concept.

(VII) [T]he probability or plausibility, in appropriate senses of these terms, of the claim that the continuous competition for acknowledgment as between the contestant users of the concept enables the original exemplar’s achievement to be sustained or developed in optimum fashion.

Gallie characterises democracy as a term which is ‘complicated, highly emotionally charged and confusing’. He rejects the temptation to clarify the confusion. He proceeds to explain how the term, democracy, meets those seven conditions, and therefore validates the argument that democracy is an essentially contested concept (p. 178).

Gray (1977) speculates that such concepts ‘occur characteristically in social contexts which are recognizably those of an ideological dispute’ (p. 333). Gray is sceptical about Gallie’s characterisation of essentially contested concepts, and considers Gallie’s to be essentially contested itself (p. 339). Birch (1993), however, points out that concepts and their contestability change, and what might have been contested before may eventually cease to be (pp. 8-9).

Contesting the notion of democracy and what it means takes different forms. One way is to argue that there is more than one model of democracy. Scholars have referred to models of democracy in broad and limited senses of the term. According to Macpherson (1977), a ‘model’ means ‘a theoretical construction intended to exhibit and explain the real relations, underlying the appearances, between or within the phenomenon under study’ (pp. 2-3). Held (1995, p. 5), on the other hand, is more specific in his use of the term ‘model’. He identifies three models for democracy: (1) direct or participatory democracy; (2) liberal or representative democracy; and (3) one-party democracy.

Macpherson’s definition of a model is theoretical and seems close to the next argument to be outlined below, namely, different conceptualisations of democracy. Held’s use of the term, model, is more descriptive of how democracy is practised. He also indicates that as regards the third model, ‘some may doubt whether it is a form of democracy at all’ (p. 5). The two uses of model suggest that the talk about ‘models of democracy’ is vague, and it can be understood only when the individuals using it explain what they mean by it.

Connolly (1995) notes that ‘Macpherson’s explorations of the democratic ideal occurred in the context of several debates’, such as the ‘pluralist-elitist debate, [...] the clash between participatory and representationist ideals of democracy, the relation between economic equality and democratic citizenship, [and] the comparative superiority of capitalism or socialism’. However, Connolly concedes that these debates ‘have now been displaced’ (p. 76).

In the discussion above, Held identified ‘liberal or representative democracy’ as a model, but there are two elements in need of clarification: representative democracy and the link between democracy and liberalism.

‘Is direct democracy preferable? Is it still possible?’ Asks Sartori (1962, p. 253). If it was possible for the people of a Greek city-state to meet in one place, it is no longer possible to accommodate the people of a nation-state in one venue. Consequently, direct democracy is usually seen in smaller bodies, clubs for instance, or on certain occasions, such as referenda.

The more practical form of democracy is representative democracy, where voters choose people to represent them in parliament or similar bodies empowered to enact laws and hold the executive branch of government accountable. Sartori points out that all modern democracies are indirect, namely, people are governed by the representatives they elect (p. 252).

The relationship between liberalism and democracy is a more complex issue, and arouses debate between the supporters of both, especially with regard to the right balance between the two. As Bobbio (1990, p. 25) correctly points out: ‘As a theory of state […] liberalism is modern, whereas democracy as a form of government is ancient’. Gray (1995) explains that ‘liberalism is no older than the seventeenth century’. He notes that the first use of the term ‘liberal’ to describe ‘a political movement’ occurred in 1812 by a Spanish party, the Liberales. Before that, it was used by ‘Adam Smith when he referred to “the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice”.’ (p. xi).

As Dworkin (1983) explains, one aspect of liberalism is concerned with government and the individual. In this respect, liberalism requires that the ‘government must be neutral on matters of personal morality, [and] that it must leave people free to live as they think best so long as they do not harm others’.

The other aspect of liberalism, according to Dworkin, is concerned with economics. In this regard, liberalism requires the government ‘to reduce economic inequality, both through the management of the economy and through the welfare programmes that redistribute wealth to soften the impact of poverty’.

Zakaria (2004, p. 20) notes that most of the European countries by 1940 ‘adopted important aspects of constitutional liberalism—the rule of law, private property rights, and increasingly, separated powers and free speech and assembly’. He further notes that before the twentieth century, ‘most countries in Western Europe were liberal autocracies or, at best, semi-democracies. The franchise was tightly restricted, and elected legislatures had little power’ (p. 20).

In view of the above, one often finds the adjective illiberal added to democracy to suggest that it is an inadequate form of democracy, which lacks the personal freedoms and elements of the capitalist system—primarily the market economy. For instance, although Iran holds regular elections, and its people have elected several presidents since the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran in 1979, Iran is referred to as illiberal democracy (Zakaria 2004).

Liberalism nonetheless is preferred by some to democracy. Sartori (1962) refers to Kant’s ‘blunt rejection of democracy as being a form of tyranny rule’ (p. 262). Sartori also indicates that Madison and Hamilton, two of the Founding Fathers of the United States, ‘did not think different from Kant on the subject’ (p. 288). Such a view is not extinct. As Held points out, Hayek distinguishes ‘between liberalism and democracy,’ and that Hayek has stated that ‘if democracy means “the unrestricted will of the majority” he is “not a democrat’’.’ (Hayek 1982, p. 39 in Held 1987, p. 248).

The idea that democracy is an unrestricted, irrational rule of the majority is out-dated. Sartori (1962, pp. 460-461) has argued that ‘without liberty, democracy has no meaning’. Fifty years later, Beetham (2004, pp. 61-75) echoes the same argument: democracy and freedom are inseparable. ‘Without freedom,’ Beetham asserts, ‘there can be no democracy’ (p. 61).

Bobbio (1990, p. 37) summarises the debate about liberalism and democracy by saying that ‘democracy can be seen as the natural development of liberalism’. This conclusion, however, is not contradictory because it does not imply that democracy has continued since the Greek city-state. It specifically applies to the re-emergence of democracy in modern times, and the debates that surrounded liberalism and democracy.

I subscribe to the views of Sartori, Beetham, and Bobbio. This, however, does not conclude the discussion about democracy.

Another way of contesting the notion of democracy is to suggest that there are other conceptualisations in non-Western cultures which reconcile democracy with cultural identities. Esposito and Voll (1996) accept Gallie’s argument that democracy is a contested concept, and go on to say that other cultures have something to offer. To engage with this view, I shall refer to Philip Hitti (1948, p. 15) who suggests that the Arab clan is run along democratic lines:

In judicial, military and other affairs of common concern the sheikh is not an absolute authority; he must consult with the tribal council composed of the heads of component families. His tenure of office lasts during the good-will of his constituency.

To avoid giving the impression that the above interpretation stretches the comparison with democracy, it is necessary to show that Hitti refers to the Arab as democrat (p. 15):

The Arabian in general and the Bedouin in particular is a born democrat. He meets his sheikh on an equal footing. The society in which he lives levels everything down. The Arabian almost never uses the title malik (king) except in referring to foreign rulers.

Esposito and Voll (1996, p. 23) also suggest that al-Mawdudi has developed an Islamic concept of democracy. I shall discuss their suggestion and the concept in the chapters about democracy and Islam/ism.

I will limit myself here to pointing out that in making the argument that other cultures have different conceptualisations of democracy, Esposito and Voll disagree with the next argument in this discussion, namely, that democracy cannot take root in all cultures.

Democracy and Cultures

The idea that democracy can only prosper in specific cultural or religious settings belongs to Max Weber who has argued that capitalism and democracy required Christian Protestant ethics.

As regards Islam, Weber compared it to Judaism and concluded that it ‘lacked the requirement of a comprehensive knowledge of the law and lacked the intellectual training in casuistry which nurtured the rationalism of Judaism’ (in Hunter and Malik 2005, pp. 11-12). Weber was not an orientalist who had immersed himself in studying Arabic and Islam. Therefore, his conclusion should be met with scepticism.

Rodinson (1977, p. 91) contradicts Weber and reaches the conclusion that ‘the Koran accords a much larger place to reason than the sacred books of Judaism and Christianity’. In addition, Francis Fukuyama (1992, pp. 220-221) disagrees with Weber:

Weber’s account of democracy is, as usual, historically rich and insightful. But he portrays democracy as something that could only have arisen in the specific cultural and social milieu of a small corner of the Western civilization.

Fukuyama is dismissive of the arguments that there are ‘cultural “prerequisites” for democracy’ and calls for treating them ‘with some scepticism,’ because ‘cultures are not static phenomena like the laws of nature; they are human creations that undergo continuous process of evolution’ (p. 222). However, as shall be seen in another chapter, Fukuyama contradicts himself when it comes to Islam and democracy.

Prerequisites for Democracy

There is a variety of other prerequisites which scholars argue should be satisfied before democracy can work as a system of government. Huntington (1991) summarises factors that are supposed to ‘explain democratization’ (pp. 37-38). The list includes factors such as being ‘a British colony’ and ‘occupation by a prodemocratic foreign power’. If the latter factor was true, it would have produced democratic states in the Arab world, whose regions were occupied by Britain and France.

Lipset (1959) identifies a relationship between democracy and development by looking at indices related to ‘industrialization, urbanization, wealth, and education’. However, he warns against concluding that ‘an increase in wealth, in the size of the middle class, in education, and other related factors will necessarily mean the spread of democracy or the stabilizing of democracy’ (p. 103).

His warning is sound as the wealth acquired by the oil-producing countries in the Arab world did not lead to democracy, despite the fact that the wealth also led to an increase in education, industrialisation, and urbanisation.

In Przeworski’s studies of the link between democracy, dictatorship, and per capita income, he points out that ‘democracies survive in wealthy countries’ because ‘the potential increase in income that would result from establishing their dictatorship is not worth the sacrifice of freedom’ (2005, p. 8).

Furthermore, Przeworski notes: ‘Democracy can survive in poor countries but only under special conditions, namely, when the distribution of income is very egalitarian’ (p. 9).

Rustow (1967, p. 228) identifies four ‘antecedents of democracy’. They are:

(1) A history anywhere from 40 to 130 years of administrative and educational modernization.

(2) A stable geographic context for the political system throughout the same period.

(3) A tradition, dating back at least one, two or three generations of parties […] that provided some organic link between rulers and subjects, and that were able to involve progressively larger groups in the political process.

(4) [T]enacious and bitter conflicts between major social or political groups over issues of profound concern to them (pp. 228-229).

I shall first clarify the difference between modernisation and modernity. The former, as explained by Charlton and Andras (2003), is a ‘process’ not a ‘state’, and it ‘can be seen as the general mechanism by which the social transformation from agricultural dominance to domination by trade and industry takes place and the permanent continuation of this process’ (p. 5). They further explain that ‘almost all societies are at least partially modernized’ [...] and that ‘no society is “completely” modernized’ (p. 5).

In contrast, modernity, as defined by Berger (1979, p. 101), is ‘the transformation of the world brought about by the technological innovations of the last few centuries, first in Europe and then with increasing rapidity all over the world’. As defined by Giddens (1991, p. 1), modernity is based on ‘modes of social life or organisation which emerged in Europe from about the seventeenth century onwards and which subsequently became more or less worldwide in their influence’.

Modernity, however, is not limited to technology. As Berger notes, it had ‘economic, social and political dimensions, all immense in scope’. One of its consequences on ‘consciousness’ was ‘fundamentally uprooting beliefs, values, and even emotional texture of life’ (p. 101). ‘Modernity,’ Giddens (1991) argues, ‘is universalising’. He asks whether modernity is ‘distinctively Western’. His answer is yes, because modernity rests on ‘the nation-state and systematic capitalist production’, which, according to Giddens, ‘have their roots in specific characteristics of European history’ (p. 174; italics in original).

It is interesting to note that states in Europe, even those which are members of the EU, do not agree that there is a pan-European identity, and each state insists on its own national identity. Even in some states, such as the UK and Belgium, there are national identities that make a British and Belgian identity more of an official construct. However, all this is ignored in the discussion of notions such as democracy and modernity. The West and Europe become something specific, which Giddens uses to make generalisations in order to contrast the West with the East.

Other scholars are less interested in whether modernity is European or not. They have concerns about the impact of modernity where it has prevailed in the West. For instance, Berger (1979, pp. 102-110) identifies five dilemmas brought about by modernity: (a) abstraction (e.g. capitalist markets, bureaucratised state, and large cities); (b) futurity (the future is the primary orientation); (c) individuation (separation of individual from collective entities); (d) liberation (not determined by fate); and (e) secularization (a threat to the plausibility of religious beliefs). However, I suggest that the religious revival movements of the 1970s and 1980s undermined the assumptions regarding religious beliefs and secularization.(1)

Of the people who theorised about modernity, I find Rustow (1967) to be the most satisfactory. He suggests that modernisation ‘transforms both man and society, but most of all man’s mind,’(2) and ‘implies an intellectual, a technological and social revolution’ (p. 3). I suggest that this provides a better approach to looking at modernity and its impact on non-Western, non-European peoples.

Muslims generally have no problem with the technological aspect of modernity: whether it is cars, TVs, telephones, computers or other technological equipment. Only a tiny minority would oppose the technological aspects. In Saudi Arabia, some people opposed TV broadcasting; so did Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the rejection of technology is selective, as these people may oppose TV broadcasting, but do not mind radios or cars.

The social impact of modernisation is a more complex issue. People take time to adjust. For example, the education of women was considered unnecessary because a woman would most likely get married, and thus stay at home. This attitude however has changed. Parents care about the education of their daughters and sons.

Moreover, the social transformation does not necessarily follow the Western route. People have adopted and adapted selectively. This, in my view, undermines the unwarranted concern about modernity being Westernisation. However, the process of modernisation does bring with it some aspects that cause concern even in the West, such as the abstraction and individuation.

The third transformation, the intellectual, is the hardest, and the slowest. When one is brought up to believe that Islam has all the answers, it is hard to accept that there are answers in other notions, such as democracy. I suggest that the intellectual transformation in the Muslim and Arab world not only has begun, but has taken root.

A final point made by Rustow which needs to be brought into this discussion is that modernisation is ‘a continuing process, […] and no society can claim to be completely or definitively modern’ (p. 16). This, in my view, is a valid conclusion. It deprives Giddens and others of the basis on which to say that modernity is Western or European. ‘Modernization,’ Rustow suggests, ‘as an analytical concept has the advantage of being ethically neutral’ (p. 8).

Having examined other analytical concepts (in this and other chapters), I am inclined to agree with him, even though a completely ‘ethically neutral’ position is impossible. However, to endeavour to be ethically neutral is necessary.

Moreover, it is a better approach than using analytical concepts that are laden with ideological, religious, and cultural prejudices, not in terms of being a personal preference, but in terms of validity of conclusions reached when a particular analytical concept is used.

Before I conclude my discussion of modernity and Rustow’s modernisation theory, I propose to elaborate on why I have found it preferable to other theories in relation to Jordan, despite being considered evolutionary and deterministic.

Strauss and Corbin (1998, pp. 10-11) argue that ‘the nature of the research problem’ influences the selection of method. The same applies to choice of theory. The modernisation theory is not dead. It can be found in different forms in many studies, such as those by Przeworski who argues that there is a link between democracy and per capita incomes. Therefore, choosing the modernisation theory is objectively justified.

Moreover, although I find Rustow’s reasoning more convincing, I do not uncritically adopt his theory. He is wrong to consider modernisation ‘tantamount to Westernization’ in the cases of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire (p. 11). He is also wrong to have considered Lebanon a democracy and its ‘religious denominations’ a substitute for political parties in his four antecedents (p. 228).

The Lebanese Civil War, which erupted in the 1970s and continued to the 1990s, demonstrated that Lebanon was not a democracy, and that some members of the various ‘religious denominations’ were capable of committing unspeakable crimes against members of other communities. The Lebanese example negates the argument that religious denominations can be a suitable substitute for political parties.

The different theories about what democracy means, its models, and conceptualisations lead some scholars, such as Mouffe (2000), to note that there is no agreement on how to characterise the ‘type of democracy established in the West in the course of the last two centuries’ (p. 1). Amongst the names used in this regard: ‘modern democracy, pluralist democracy, constitutional democracies [and] liberal democracy’.

Mouffe, however, has contributed to the confusion by theorising about ‘radical democracy’ which she describes as ‘the only alternative’ and urges ‘the Left’ to ‘adopt a different attitude towards liberal democracy’ (1995, p. 1). This makes it clear that the confusion is not real.

Whitehead (2000) acknowledges the diverse connotations of democracy in different cultures, and that it is not possible to ‘assume some underlying continuity of meaning for the term’ since the Greek city-state (p. 8). However, he pleads for some agreement on the meaning (p. 8):

Even those who regard ‘democracy’ as an inherently normative label may have good reason to favour clear and impartial procedures for evaluating the status of claimants to the title. And even those who regard a ‘minimalist’ or ‘procedural’ definition as incomplete or culturally biased must consider what may be lost if this consensual language is replaced not by universal commitment to a more ambitious definition but by an inability to agree on a standard meaning, with the resulting licence for subjectivity and arbitrariness.

Moreover, as Ottaway (2007) suggests: ‘There is no reason to challenge at the theoretical level the idea that democracy is a political system superior to all others’ (p. 604). I agree with the second part of her statement. Theoretical challenges are numerous. However, unless and until a better system of government emerges and proves itself to be superior to democracy, liberal democracy is the best model available, despite its defects and the arguments that it is a Eurocentric notion.

That democracy is not a ‘perfect’ notion and system of government is not in dispute. Lefort (1988) acknowledges that ‘democratic institutions have constantly been used to restrict means of access to power, knowledge and the enjoyments of rights to a minority’ (p. 19). However, he stresses that ‘democracy is instituted and sustained by the dissolution of the makers of certainty. It inaugurates a history of which people experience a fundamental indeterminacy as to the basis of power, law and knowledge’ (p. 19; italics in original). He goes further and suggests that ‘philosophy owes [a great deal] to the democratic experience’ (p. 20).

Evolution of Definitions of Democracy

Lipset (1959) defines democracy as ‘a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials’ (p. 71). In Finer’s definition (1970) ‘democracy is government which is derived from public opinion and is accountable to it’. He further explains that the public opinion’ should be ‘overtly and freely expressed’. The third pillar of the Finer’s definition of democracy is that the will of the ‘majority prevails’ (p. 63).

There is a problematic element in Finer’s definition: the ‘public opinion’. One reason is that he uses it as a substitute for the ‘people’ when they are different. Another reason is that there is a need to measure public opinion.(3) This is usually done in polls, whose accuracy and reliability are not certain. In a democracy, however, the tangible public opinion (of the majority) is known only after the results of the elections are declared.

Rustow (1967) also offers a definition in which he characterises democracy as ‘a modern political system and an egalitarian device,’ and ‘a method of popular government; it presupposes the existence of a government and of a people’ (p. 230-231).

Schumpeter ([1942] 1976, p. 269) explains that what he calls the ‘classical’ theory of democracy envisages a ‘common good’, which is achieved by the people through electing individuals who represent them. The classical theory assumes that people have ‘a definite and rational opinion about every individual question,’ and, on that basis, they elect the individuals who will represent them and ‘who will see to it that that opinion is carried out’. However, the decisions that can be made through democracy must not be contrary to some values and ideals. For instance, it will not be acceptable through democratic means to allow ‘the persecution of Christians, the burning of witches and the slaughtering of the Jews’ (p. 242).

Democracy, Schumpeter argues, is ‘a political method,’ and ‘an institutional arrangement,’ whose aim is to reach decisions, ‘legislative and administrative’ (p. 242). He challenges the basic assumptions of the classical theory of democracy. His definition of the ‘the democratic method’ is the ‘institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote’ (p. 269).

In relation to democracy in South Africa, Deegan (1999) adopted the Schumpeterian ‘general model of the competitive theory’ because ‘Schumpeter defined democracy not as a utopian concept concerned with ideal societies, but rather as a descriptive, realistic and empirically accurate process (p. 3). She points out that ‘pluralism is identified with liberalism and the acceptance of certain values’, such as ‘freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly, which a government would be unable to violate’ (p. 3).

Brynen, Korany, and Noble (1995) warn against ‘the ethnocentric dangers of reading processes derived from one set of historical and political circumstances into other, very different, contexts’. However, they also warn against considering democracy to be dependent on ‘the eye of the beholder’. Therefore, they argue convincingly that ‘some conceptual rigour is necessary if the notion of democracy is not debased to mean all things to all people’ (p. 4). Moreover, O’Donnell (2007) contends that ‘there is agreement in most of the contemporary world that, whatever it means, democracy is a normatively preferable type of rule’(p. 3). Sadiki (2004) seems to agree partly with O’Donnell, but argues that ‘a normative standpoint should not mean overlooking, for instance, cultural specificity’ (p. 54).

As Huntington (1991) explains, there have been three approaches to democracy since the middle of last century. As a form of government, Huntington writes, ‘democracy has been defined in terms of authority of government, purposes served by the government, and procedures for constituting a government’. The debate continued from the 1940s until the 1970s, when Schumpeter won the argument. Huntington notes that there are issues of ‘ambiguity and imprecision when democracy is defined in terms of either source or authority and purposes’. Consequently, he adopts the procedural definition of democracy advanced by Schumpeter (p. 6). The advantage of the procedural definition of democracy, Huntington (1991) explains, is that ‘it provides a number of bench-marks […] that make it possible to judge to what extent political systems are democratic, to compare systems, and to analyse whether systems are becoming more or less democratic’ (p. 7).

Dahl (1989) has developed some benchmarks. He also uses the term ‘polyarchy’ and considers it the highest level of democracy. According to Dahl, polyarchy has two main characteristics: (a) citizenship is extended to a relatively high proportion of adults, and (b) the rights of citizenship include the opportunity to oppose and vote out the highest officials in government. Furthermore, seven institutions are required to attain polyarchy: (1) elected officials; (2) free and fair elections; (3) inclusive suffrage; (4) right to run for office; (5) freedom of expression; (6) alternative information; (7) and associational autonomy (p. 220).

‘Democracy,’ as succinctly stated by Keane (1991), ‘is best understood as a system of procedural rules with normative implications’ (p. 168). The rules are about making decisions, and ‘through which procedures such decisions are made’. The normative implications, according to Keane, must include:‘equal and universal adult suffrage; majority rule and guarantees of minority rights […]; the rule of law; and constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly and expression and other liberties’ (pp. 168-169; italics are in original).

Interestingly, al-Ghannouchi’s (1993) view of democracy is similar to Keane’s. He argues that democracy has shakl wa madmūn (a form and content/implication). The madmūn recognises the value of the human and gives him rights such as equality. He emphasises that a system which is based on the recognition of the dignity of the human being is the best (1993, p. 77).

Keane’s definition of democracy is the one adopted in this book.(4) Nonetheless, the principle of rule of law requires a cautionary note. It is a very important principle. However, even dictators use the law as a tool of oppression. Therefore, it is necessary to have transparent mechanisms of enacting laws, and a supreme court should be the final arbiter as to whether a law is constitutional or not.

Democracy in this book means liberal, representative democracy (Sartori 1962) and is a system of procedural rules with normative implications (Keane 1991). It will be an absurdity to discuss the in/compatibility between democracy and Islam/ism, or assess the states of democracy in Jordan on the basis that it is a meaningless concept.

= = =

(1) In 1999, Berger acknowledged that he and others who wrote on ‘secularisation theory’ were wrong: ‘The world today, with some exceptions […], is as furiously religious as ever was and in some places even more’ (p. 2).

(2) Throughout the book, Rustow uses man. This will make him liable to a feminist critique. Modernisation affects men and women.

(3) Even the public is hard to define, and there are multiple publics in a state. Also, the broadest possible public hold more than one opinion at a time, and can change opinion overnight.

(4) In 2009, Keane published a new book: The Life and Death of Democracy. He stresses that the book ‘most certainly stands on the side of democracy, with new arguments’ (p. xxxiii).


Adli Hawwari (2020). Controlled Democratisation: Democracy and Islam in Jordan, 1989-2019 : A Critical Reexamination of the Incompatibility Paradigm. London: Ud Al-Nad.

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