The paradox of democratic regimes: Fragility and transformability

Sociological Theory 16 (3):211-238 (1998)
Abstract
In most of the vast scholarly literature on constitutional-democratic regimes, the major emphasis has been on the broader social, economic, or cultural conditions conductive to their development, breakdown, or consolidation and continuity (Diamond 1993b; Diamond, Linz, and Lipset 1989, 1990). The major thesis of this essay is that fragility and instability are inherent in the very constitution of modern constitutional-democratic regimes, and are rooted in (1) the tensions between the different conceptions of democracy (especially between constitutional and participatory democracy) and (2) the central aspects of the political and cultural program of modernity. The common core of these premises is the openness of the political process (particularly with regard to protest) and the concomitant tendency toward continual redefinition of the political realm. Openness is an important contributor to the fragility of modern democratic regimes; paradoxically, it also allows for their continuity. The key question, then, is how and under what conditions non-zero-sum conceptions of the "game" of politics develop. The second part of this essay takes up this question, with special emphasis on the development and reproduction of trust among different sectors of society, the relationships between such sectors and the centers of society, and the construction of different types of collective identity
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