Media, Politics and Governance in a Globalized Public Sphere
Chapter 2. Fifty shades of freedom: The democratic century
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FIFTY SHADES OF FREEDOM: THE DEMOCRATIC CENTURY
We are all democrats now. Or, if that sounds like an overly optimistic assertion of current geopolitical realities, let me suggest this: An unprecedentedly large proportion of the world’s population are, or claim to be, democrats.
Of the 165 United Nations member states recognized in 2014 (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015), containing within their borders the world’s approximately 9 billion people, the governments of the great majority—from the United States to North Korea and every shade of polity between—lay claim to the term ‘democracy’. The Chinese communists do it (the term minzhu, or ‘people-as-masters’, has been used there in different contexts), the post-Soviet Russians do it (and the Soviet-era states of the Warsaw Pact described themselves as ‘people’s democracies’), and yes, even the North Koreans do it—that is, they describe their system of governance as democratic and their country as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In doing so, they acknowledge the rhetorical and ideological value of the association, internally and externally, even as they dismiss the liberal pluralist forms of representative democracy which have evolved in the advanced capitalist world in the last century.
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