Promoting democratic norms? Social constructivism and the "subjective" limits to liberalism

Chandler, David C. (2013) Promoting democratic norms? Social constructivism and the "subjective" limits to liberalism. Democratization, 20 (2). pp. 215-239. ISSN 1351-0347

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This article argues that, since the end of the Cold War, the understanding of democratic norm promotion has shifted through three conceptually distinct and chronologically distinguishable stages: the early 1990s view that democratic norms would be universalized with the Cold War victory of liberal ideals and the spread of new global norms of good governance; the mid- to late-1990s view that barriers to the promotion of democratic norms could be understood as the product of state or elite self-interests; and the perspective dominant since the 2000s, that the promotion of democratic norms necessarily involves much deeper and more extensive external intervention in order to transform social institutions and societal practices. Through charting the shifts in the understanding of democratic norm promotion, this article seeks to highlight the problems inherent in norm promotion discourses that emphasize the importance of subjective agency, normative choices, and cultural and ideational frameworks of understanding. A key problem being that, in the downplaying of social and economic context, agency-based understandings tend to degrade the rational capacities of – and to exoticize and problematize – the non-Western subject. The social constructivist approach, which presupposes a closed or endogenous framework of societal reproduction, has thereby been a crucial paradigm through which Western democracy promotion discourses have shifted to emphasizing the subjective policy barrier posed by the allegedly ‘non-liberal’ mindset of the non-Western subject.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Social Sciences and Humanities
Depositing User: Miss Nina Watts
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2014 12:06
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2014 12:06

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