Contributions were received from Andrea Cecchi, Daniele Fattibene, Chiara Rosselli, Agnese Sollero and Irene Spaziani.
Can democracy be saved? Participation, deliberation and social movements / Donatella Della Porta. - Cambridge ; Malden : Polity Press, 2013. - xi, 224 p. - ISBN 978-0-7456-6459-0; 978-0-7456-6460-6 (pbk)
The current state of democracy is cause for concern around the globe. Widespread disillusionment with the state of the liberal democratic model and the failure of elected leaders to produce economic growth, ensure social justice and safeguard basic human dignity is challenging our most basic notions of democracy.
Professor of Sociology at the European University Institute, Donatella Della Porta raises an impossibly challenging question in her latest book, Can Democracy be Saved? Her endeavour offers a timely in-depth investigation into the challenges and opportunities that shape the way we think about democracy. Della Porta introduces the reader to the topic by mapping out the various approaches and conceptions of democracy that form the backbone of four distinct democratic models: our present model of traditional liberal democracy, radical participatory democracy, liberal deliberative democracy and participatory deliberative democracy.
The deteriorating trust of citizens in political parties and the declining ability of the latter to function as mediators between civil society and political institutions, growing electoral abstention and the widespread perception of politics as elitist, and the challenge of reconciling supranational and national levels of governance are all identified as factors contributing to undermining the credibility of our present model of democracy. Della Porta draws attention to these challenges by tracing the evolution of the latest trends towards more participatory and deliberative models of democracy and evaluating what alternative solutions these may be able to offer to deal with the shortcomings of liberal democracy.
The book provides an extensive review of existing literature on typologies of democracies and delves into the distinguishing characteristics of each, producing an important contribution to framing academic debate in the field. By exploring aspects such as inclusiveness, methods of consensus building, preference transformation and sources of legitimacy, the book presents the reader with a comprehensive overview of the theories of democracy. This exercise is complemented by a chapter devoted to innovative deliberative experiments in institutions, their perceived successes and the trials they have yet to overcome.
The theories researched by Della Porta are further contextualized through an analysis of worldwide phenomena and historical contingencies that have come to affect the way we conceptualize democracy. The role of social movements in bringing about democratic change, using the Arab Spring and the Indignados movements as case studies, is analysed together with the impact of new technologies on identity building, mobilization and access to communication power. An enquiry into the internationalization of power structures and its ambivalent consequences on the quality of democracy, as well as an interesting focus on the changing dynamics of protest policing, conclude what is a thorough and thought-provoking compendium of the endogenous and exogenous forces that are shaping democracy.
Della Porta offers a theory-dense account of the condition of contemporary democracies and how ongoing political crisis is forging a new path for the development of new democratic models. It is a valuable resource and a useful guide for any reader seeking an introduction to democratic theories and a comprehensive yet detailed overview of the challenges and future prospects of our conception of democracy.
As argued by the author, answering the question of if and how democracy can be saved requires a diligent analysis of the ever-changing meaning of democracy and the distinct democratic qualities of different democratic models. Della Porta's book does just that, providing a solid foundation for beginning to tackle some of the more far-reaching questions regarding democracy. Is there a critical difference between citizen satisfaction and the quality of democracy? Will participatory mechanisms suffice to save democracy or will efforts be futile in the face of the increasing complexity of global problems? What is the role of education in preparing citizens for political participation and deliberation? Ultimately, is it possible to transform the multifold challenges that Della Porta identifies into opportunities? While Della Porta accurately portrays the democratic scenario, these and other serious questions are mostly unanswered, leaving the reader with her/his qualms about the probable fate of democracy. (Chiara Rosselli)
The European Union as an actor in security sector reform : current practices and challenges of implementation / edited by Oya Dursun-Özkanca. - London and New York : Routledge, 2014. - ix, 177 p. - ISBN 978-0-415-71776-2
The book is a collection of articles written by scholars from both US and European universities and research institutes, published in the journal European Security. It aims to assess the impact of the European Union in security sector reform (SSR) in different scenarios. SSR is of a 'cross-cutting' nature, touching on many issues, from human rights to rule of law, from police sector reform to post-conflict reconstruction.
The book is divided into nine chapters, which present the EU's role in SSR in a number of conflict and post-conflict settings. All scholars claim that the EU today is the most important resource provider for SSR programs. It has developed a multilevel strategy, as opposed to the piecemeal approach favoured by other actors, such as NATO. In this sense, through a comparative analysis, the book investigates both the strengths and the weaknesses of EU SSR missions abroad. The authors argue that, thanks to its holistic approach, which involves many actors at many levels, the EU has managed to become both a "norm-taker" and "norm-maker".
Yet, internal constraints, such as frictions between the Council and the Commission, the lack of coordination with NATO and other international organisations and, finally, the resistance of national governments, constantly undermine the effectiveness of EU efforts in SSR. Many interventions are perceived as having been too internationally driven, especially those in Bosnia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and some failed to achieve the real empowerment of local actors while, instead, raising local resistance. Moreover, the fragility of domestic institutions, financial constraints and the lack of open dialogue between foreign donors and local recipients has sometimes led to the disenchantment of the local population (mainly in Georgia).
In other contexts, the EU has proved to be an effective security actor. The EULEX Mission in Kosovo succeeded in reforming the police sector on the basis of multiethnic principles. This reform inspired other institutions to pursue the same path in order to ensure peace and stability in the country. The EUPOL COPPS mission in Palestine, while operating in a complicated environment in the absence of a state, achieved significant results by rapidly deploying personnel. It thus had an immediate impact on the ground. Finally, EU monitoring mission in Aceh (AMM) provides an interesting example of successful intervention, which led to significant local empowerment at low cost. The EU chose a pragmatic approach instead of principled idealism, supporting traditional institutions rather than modern principles of democracy. It thus transferred norms of democratic security governance using endogenous material.
The volume carries out an extensive comparative analysis of various EU SSR activities in different scenarios: ongoing conflicts, frozen conflicts or post-conflict contexts. This focus makes its approach innovative and deeper than books concentrating only on one specific case-study. It also overcomes the previous paucity of comparative studies on EU SSR missions and is intended as a contribution to improving the EU's external performance. However, the differences between the various articles increase the risk of redundancy, especially in the introductions and make the reading less fluent.
In conclusion, the book is addressed to both students and scholars dealing with EU Common Security and Defence Policy. Its technical language, as well as the specificity of topics, makes it ideal for those who already have a good background and want to deepen their knowledge of the EU's role in SSR in a comparative way. (Daniele Fattibene)
Italian military operations abroad : just don't call it war / Piero Ignazi, Giampiero Giacomello and Fabrizio Coticchia. - New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. - xiv, 265 p. - ISBN 978-0-230-22891-7
In this book, Piero Ignazi, Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bologna; Giampiero Giacomello, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Bologna; and Fabrizio Coticchia, Research Fellow at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, provide an analysis of Italian Military Operations Abroad (MOA). More importantly, they focus on how MOA have been conceived by the nation's political class on the basis of the national political culture on foreign and defence policies, and the predominant view of what the country's role in the world should be.
In the first chapter, the authors carefully explain how the process of nation- and state-building in the country which started in 1861 led it to develop a blurred national identity and little trust in state institutions. They show how these sentiments came up against the universal aspirations inherited from the Roman Empire. Together with the strong role of the Catholic Church, this created an imbalance between grandiosity and the country's particularistic traditions, an imbalance that has caused problems for decision makers in working out what the authors call a "unidirectional logic of appropriateness" (16). Indeed, these contradictions are reflected in various features of Italian foreign policymaking: the absence of direction, the lack of a clear definition of national interest, the unconnectedness of goals and the anxious search for an adequate position in the international system.
The authors describe how a pacifist framework emerged in the Italian political elite and the general public, marginalising the culture of defence in the country. Indeed, the disastrous experience of fascist military policy and the growing role of the socialist-communist "anti-imperialist" left in the postwar years shifted political discourse to the values of peace and multilateral cooperation. However, in the 1980s, as illustrated in chapters 2 and 3, the Italian army started to participate in numerous military missions abroad. In fact, Italy is one of the Western countries that has participated in the most peacekeeping missions. But what motivated this change in foreign policy? The authors argue that, starting in the 1970s, the Italian domestic context changed due to the closing of the gap between the Atlanticism of the right and the Europeanism of the left which, accompanied by the end of the Cold War, allowed the country to seek a greater role in the international arena.
However, the main point of Ignazi, Giacomello and Coticchia, developed after careful content analysis of parliamentary debates and interviews with decision-makers, is that political leaders have always had a misperception of the conditions in which soldiers in peacekeeping missions actually operate. One of the main assets of this study is the analysis of the language that members of Parliament and of the Cabinet used in parliamentary debates on missions from 1991 and 2006. Indeed, the greatest innovation of this book is presented in the conclusion, which points out the persistent inconsistency between the dominant frame of reference of political leaders, marked by words like "multilateralism", "peace" and "humanitarian intervention", and the actual structural characteristics of the military forces employed in the missions, namely equipment, rules of engagement, and military codes.
The authors successfully convey the message that political consensus is possible only if discussions on MOA are stripped of their military component. In other words, the research illustrates that consensus works only if everyone agrees on "not calling" war-fighting, or any other war-related term, by its name, that is "war", despite the fact that peacekeeping operations, seen from the field, could look very much like war.
This book is interesting for those who, having already acquired familiarity with the details of Italy's military operations abroad, would like to expand their knowledge on the gap between the political culture of MPs and top decision-makers in foreign and defence policy and the actual conditions of military deployment on the field. (Irene Spaziani)
L'atomica di Kim : il regime nordcoreano e la sicurezza internazionale / Claudia Astarita, Stefano Felician Beccari, Nunziante Mastrolia. - Soveria Mannelli : Rubbettino, 2013. - 171 p. - (Problemi aperti ; 183). - ISBN 978-88-498-2817-7
According to numerous actors in the international arena, North Korea with its nuclear programme is one of the greatest threats to international security. Recent escalation of rhetoric as well as recurrent acts of hostility stand as proof of its unpredictability and dangerousness. Moreover, the country's censorship and isolation, and the air of mystery around the North Korean leadership makes it difficult for the international community to understand the real motivations behind Korean conduct and to assess its actual nuclear capabilities, thus increasing the perception of threat.
The authors of L'atomica di Kim address these questions by combining historical and political analysis and conducting research into the intimate nature of the Korean regime. The chapters are structured to deal with different aspects of the North Korean enigma and to highlight the key factors that drive its nuclear policy. The book does not completely explore the issue; it does, however, provide a good background and a balanced analysis of the North Korean threat.
Through an overview of the history of the Korean peninsula, the book lists a number of similar situations throughout its diplomatic history. Since its birth, the Korean state has had to fight for its independence and face several foreign aggressions. Today, the authors point out that the North Korean regime uses threats and aggressive rhetoric in the same way to obtain economic advantages and increase its bargaining power: in fact, the Kim dynasty sees its nuclear programme as an important instrument for defence.
The book also provides an analysis of the ideological framework that shapes the Korean state, represented by the particular version of Korean communism that is a combination of personality cult and military posture which permeates everyday life and foreign policy.
The authors underline that the internal and external dimensions of Korean politics are closely linked. For example, domestic considerations play a crucial role in the nuclear programme which is, at the same time, the result of North Korean militarism and a tool for promoting internal consensus. For the North Korean domestic audience, nuclear capabilities are one of the most significant achievements of the Kim regime and a sure path to international status.
After having analyzed the internal dynamics of the North Korean nuclear programme, the authors examine the international setting. In fact, the book also provides insight into the efforts of the international community to cope with the nuclear issue and promote the peaceful denuclearisation of North Korea.
Since North Korea's decision to challenge the nuclear non-proliferation regime, crisis, stalemate and little progress have followed. Diplomatic efforts have not succeeded in limiting North Korean ambitions and its leadership continues to break its promises. With regard to the Six-Party Talks, the most recent diplomatic initiative, the book argues that they have already come to a serious impasse. North Korea tends to take advantage of the lack of a shared long-term vision among the other states involved in the negotiations.
Finally, the authors try to predict the future trajectory of Korean foreign policy, particularly in the light of the recent succession to power of Kim Jong-un. The new dictator, despite his background and experience in Western countries, has already demonstrated his strict control over Korean society and institutions. It is still too early, however, to know whether this is a smart manoeuvre to consolidate his internal position or just a taste of his rule.
Overall, the book is clear and well-structured. Dealing with a variety of issues, it provides a solid basic knowledge of the North Korean issue, analysing the rationale behind Kim's regime and the most important factors that prevent a de-escalation of tensions in the Korean area. The book should be recommended to students interested in international security and wishing to approach the North Korean enigma. (Agnese Sollero)
Le rivoluzioni della dignità : 18 mesi di proteste, di repressione e di rivoluzioni che hanno cambiato il mondo arabo / a cura di Stefano Rizzo. - Roma : Ediesse, 2012. - 217 p. : ill. - (Saggi Ediesse). - ISBN 978-88-230-1712-2
Still a debated topic, the Arab revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests has had one common denominator which, according to the contributors to this volume, is the rediscovery of the primary intangible asset called "dignity". To the dictatorial regimes that had been in power for decades, it seemed like a virus that infected the people. This edited volume, resulting from a conference held at the University 'La Sapienza' in Rome in 2012, opens with a comparison between Spartacus and the Arab people: like him, after decades of persecution and injustice, they rebelled one day and fought - either dignity or death. The Arab people are ready to die rather than continue living in fear of a police state. That is why the action of the young Tunisian Bouazizi, who set himself aflame on 17 December 2010 in reaction to just another abuse by the regime, became the symbol of the Arab Spring.
According to Antonio Cantaro, the author of the first chapter, Bouazizi's extreme courage represents a foundation for the legitimacy of the primary right to not live in fear. After his death, the streets began to be populated by men and women who told each other their stories and, incredibly, discovered that they no longer were afraid. Tahrir Square is, in fact, one of the most powerful symbols of the renewed Arab sense of dignity. Cantaro points out how only a collective place - a square - can eradicate the misery of a population and unify them into a people. He emphasizes the Islamic identity of the Arab uprisings and how it was possible that the Islamists, although not having promoted the protests, were the main electoral beneficiaries almost everywhere. As a result, many observers warn of the danger of the revolution being betrayed.
On the other hand, Cantaro underlines the strong roots of Islamic identity in Arab societies and cultures. Those who participated in the uprisings were mostly citizens who identify with that religion. They felt that the political forces of Islamic inspiration were the most representative of their culture: this is why we cannot say that an "Islamic Winter" is replacing the Arab Spring, as there was always a strong Islamic identity rooted in the Arab revolutions. According to Cantaro, it is an error to measure the modernity and democratic nature of the Arab revolution by taking Islamisation as a parameter. Unfortunately there is a widespread ingrained prejudice that Islam and democracy are not compatible. So, if in the past there was Islam without democracy, now there has to be democracy without Islam. Cantaro, instead, does not understand why an Islamic democracy, a democracy in which parties are of religious inspiration (in this case Islamic), should not be seen as a democracy. The author considers creating a bridge between Islam and democracy as one of the most important historical tasks of these revolutions.
In his contribution to the volume, Stefano Rizzo, the editor of the book, states that the Arab Spring has required a rapid reorientation of Western states' policies toward the Arab world. In any case, the loss of hegemony and even influence of Western countries once dominant in the Arab region is now evident. Currently there are three new regional hegemonic actors entering the scene: Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The thesis of Rizzo's chapter is that the Arab Spring is the prelude to a process of reunification between the southern and northern sides of the Mediterranean, overcoming a centuries-old rift between their peoples and cultures.
According to Maurizio Massari, the author of the final chapter, the Arab revolts have been positive - for example with reference to the end of the dictatorial regimes in some countries - although their outcomes remain uncertain. The main matter to understand, Massari explains, is whether the transition will be towards convergence with the liberal-democratic values of the West or toward divergence in the name of an accentuation of the Islamic identity. The book addresses not only experts in the field of political science, international relations and the Middle East, but also all readers keen on delving deeper into the Arab Spring. (Andrea Cecchi)