Economic Crises and Democratic Accountability
Philippe C. Schmitter (European University Institute) “Economic Crises and Democratic Accountability”
In his paper, “Economic Crises and Democratic Accountability”, Philippe C. Schmitter explores the twin crises of economy and democracy that are currently taking place in western liberal democracies. There has been an increasing gap between the idealised form of liberal democracy that is expected by citizens and the de facto situation found in ‘real existing democracies’. Increases in the scope and power of the executive vis à vis the legislature and the increased proliferation of technocratic ‘guardian institutions’ have reduced the accountability of governments to the electorate and hence increased dissatisfaction with the current democratic processes. The increase in influence of large firms, especially in the financial sector, the dissolution of the traditional left-right class cleavage as a result of the changes in modes of production and fiscal debt and currency crises have deepened concerns regarding the ability of democracies to ensure fair distribution of resources. Consequently, a crisis of democracy is said to be taking place. However, taking a transitologist view of the democratic crisis, Schmitter argues that this will not lead to the abandonment of the democratic tradition – not least because of a lack of viable alternatives – but to an evolution of democracy - sometimes called ‘post-liberal democracy’ – based upon a new social contract and novel mechanisms for democratic participation and accountability of governments to citizens.