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智障为自由民主政治招魂

已有 124 次阅读2022-11-18 14:54 |个人分类:政治 法律

自由民主正在消亡吗?

Spencer Bokat-Lindell  

上周末,意大利选民将政权交给一个贝尼托·墨索里尼法西斯独裁政权嫡系政党领导的联盟,这是“二战”后欧洲极右势力最大的胜利之一。“今天对意大利来说是悲伤的一天,”意大利中左翼民主党领导人说道,在竞选期间,他视这场权力争夺为拯救国家民主的斗争

这种说辞对美国人来说耳熟能详,因为包括美国在内,全世界都出现了专家们所称的全球民主倒退浪潮。根据瑞典监测机构V-Dem——碰巧在瑞典,一个根植于新纳粹主义的极右翼政党也在两周前的选举中表现强势——在2021年,越来越多的民主国家正在退化,甚至滑向专制,程度比以往50年来更加严重。


如何解释专制政治的全球复兴,这又预示了民主怎样的未来?以下是关于此问题的一些观点。

自由民主正在后退

在过去几个世纪,民主的传播很少呈线性,而是随着专制势力的斗争起起落落。一些政治学家将民主制度的发展分为三阶段:第一波始于19世纪;第二波在“二战”后开始;第三波则始于上世纪70年代中期,在2012年到达顶峰时,全球共有创纪录的42个自由民主政体。根据V-Dem的数据,如今只有34个自由民主政体,与1995年时相等。(生活在自由民主国家的全球人口比例在过去十年也有所下降,从18%降至13%。)

正如时报的阿曼达·陶布解释的那样,近年的民主衰落——一些学者认为这构成“第三波专制化浪潮”,第一波始于上世纪20年代,第二波在上世纪60年代——主要并不是由政变或革命推动,而是通过合法当选官员的行为:“一旦掌权,不择手段的领导人有时会为自身利益操纵政治环境,使他们更可能在未来的竞争中获胜。通过赢得这些选举,他们获得了民主合法性的盖章认定——哪怕他们的行为最终破坏了民主规范。”

在欧洲,这种通过选举实现的“软独裁”最著名的践行者就是匈牙利总理欧尔班·维克托。在2010年被选上台以后,他通过侵蚀公民自由媒体自由打压司法重塑国家选举制度,建立了他所谓的“非自由民主体制”。在此过程中,他成了包括美国在内全世界极右翼分子的榜样。

虽然程度不同,几乎所有地方都可以看到自由民主规范和制度的衰落。

·在印度,2014年当选的总理莫迪推动了印度民族主义的急剧抬头——令国内穆斯林少数民族遭受暴力,且往往致命——并制造了极为压抑的言论环境

·在菲律宾,选民最近选出一位前独裁者之子来接替罗德里戈·杜特地,后者担任总统的六年里打击了新闻媒体,并发动了一场导致成千上万人被杀禁毒战争

·在萨尔瓦多,2019年当选的总统纳伊布·布克莱在国会部署军队向议员施压,无视最高法院要限制他军权的做法,在因帮派暴力而启动的紧急状态下,几乎没有正当程序就监禁了数以千计民众。

当然还有美国:政治学家警告称,共和党对自由民主规范的承诺已经减弱,如今其理念已经类似于欧尔班的威权主义政党,这种趋势在特朗普之前就已出现,但在他担任总统期间加速了。

不过,与其他许多倒退的民主国家的执政党不同,共和党在没有得到多数民众支持的情况下照样赢得了对政府的控制。正如时报的戴维·莱昂哈特最近所写,由于选区划分趋势和国会及选举人团制度偏向于小州的综合作用,如今美国政府的各个部门都倾向于一党(共和党)而非另一党(民主党),这种局面在美国历史大部分时间里没有出现过。

“我们无疑是世界上最反多数的民主国家,”哈佛大学政府学教授史蒂文·列维茨基对莱昂哈特表示

是什么驱使民主走向专制?

民主制度出现倒退的原因各不相同,但政治学家和各种人都提出了一些共同的主题。其一是对大多数人的民族认同感遭受威胁做出了强烈反应,不论这种感觉真实与否。

“首先,社会两极分化,通常是由于对社会变革、人口结构变化、种族民族或宗教少数群体政治权利加强、以及社会不信任加剧的强烈反应,”在时报广泛报道全球民主衰退问题的麦克斯·费舍尔最近解释道。“这导致了一种自下而上的渴望,希望秉持民粹主义的政界圈外人能够对抗所谓的内部威胁,这意味着压制社会上、政党中或是种族分歧里的另一方,主张一种赋予‘我方’特权的民主愿景,并粉碎阻止我方获得其主张的正当支配地位的民主制度或规范。”

阶级在其中发挥了怎样的作用?一些学者提出了民主倒退与“经济大衰退”——或者说全球自由市场资本主义本身的衰退——相关的理论。拿印度来说,蒂巴斯·罗伊·乔杜里上个月在时报上,“新自由主义政策加剧了不平等问题,国家在卫生和教育等问题上逃避基本责任。”他还表示:“这让无数民众过上了毫无尊严且无能为力的生活,只能在群体身份认同中寻求庇护,被承诺保护他们不受其他群体侵害的强人领袖所吸引,并容易沉迷于宗教仇恨这样的大规模精神鸦片,这种仇恨如今已将世俗的印度重新定义为一个印度教国家。”

纽约大学法学院的宪法学者理查德·皮尔兹持另一种实际利益角度的观点,他将非自由主义势力的崛起归因于政治权力在越来越多的政党之间的分散,认为这限制了民主政府有效运作的能力。“当民主政府似乎无法兑现承诺时,这种失败可能导致许多公民的疏远、听天由命、不信任和回避,”他去年在《纽约时报》上写道。“这还可能引发人们渴求威权领导人,这些人会承诺立即收拾肮脏政治。在更极端的情况下,它会导致人们质疑民主本身,并对反民主的政府制度持开放态度。”

民主的倒退能被制止吗?

历史表明,人类文明的轨迹并非必然倾向于自由民主。不过,它的专制倾向也是高度偶然性的。米格尔·安赫尔·拉拉·奥陶拉今年在《华盛顿邮报》上指出,自2000年以来,尽管民主倒退成为全球主要趋势,但也有九个国家在经历了一段威权主义时期后成功回归民主。

“这些国家向我们展示了民主的韧性,国家能够而且确实会回归民主,”他写道
奥陶拉所在的国际民主与选举援助协会提出了许多阻止和扭转民主倒退的想法,包括投资公民教育、改革竞选财务法,以及加强联合国、欧盟和非洲联盟等国际组织在维和行动方面的协调。还有一些专家则主张废除两党制,加强对科技巨头的监管,并对倒行逆施的政府施加经济惩罚

然而,也有人认为,技术官僚式的解决方案于事无补,无法解决问题。在2016年的一篇文章中,印度作家潘卡杰·米什拉认为,世界各地民主健康状况的恶化,是现代基于市场的自由主义意识形态自身的危机:一种对“技术、GDP以及19世纪赤裸裸的自我利益算计”的信仰,它既不能解释、也不能回答那些觉得自己被全球化资本主义造成的破坏和不平等甩在后面的人的愤怒

米什拉认为,为了开辟前进的道路,那些相信自由民主理想的人“首先需要一幅比经济人这个普遍形象更丰富、更多样化的人类经验和需求的图景”,他说。“否则,在我们对理性动机和结果的无谓迷恋中,我们可能会像那些无助的航海家一样——正如德·托克维尔所写,‘固执地盯着我们离开的海岸上依稀可见的废墟,即使水流正在前后拉扯中将我们带向深渊。’”

Is Liberal Democracy Dying?
Voters around the world are electing leaders with authoritarian tendencies.

 By Spencer Bokat-Lindell  staff editor.

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Wednesdays.

Last weekend, voters in Italy handed the reins of government to a coalition led by a party directly descended from Benito Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship, delivering one of the biggest victories to the far right in Europe since World War II. “Today is a sad day for Italy,” said the leader of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party, who during the campaign had cast the contest as nothing less than a fight to save the country’s democracy.

If such language sounds familiar to American ears, it’s because countries around the world, including the United States, are confronting what experts say is a worldwide wave of democratic backsliding. According to data from V-Dem, a monitoring institute based in Sweden — where, as it happens, a far-right party with roots in neo-Nazism made a strong electoral showing two weeks ago — more democracies were deteriorating, and even slipping into autocracy, in 2021 than at any point in the past 50 years.

What explains the global resurgence of authoritarian politics, and what does it portend for the future of democracy? Here’s what people are saying.

Democracy’s spread over the past few centuries has rarely been linear, instead ebbing and flowing with the competing forces of autocracy. Some political scientists divide democracy’s progression into three waves: the first beginning in the 19th century; the second beginning in the aftermath of World War II; and the third beginning in the mid-1970s, which crested with 42 liberal democracies, a record high, in 2012. Today, only 34 liberal democracies exist, down to the same number as in 1995, according to V-Dem. (The share of the world population living in liberal democracies also fell in the last decade, to 13 percent from 18 percent.)

In Europe, the most prominent practitioner of this kind of “soft autocracy” by election is Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary. After being voted into power in 2010, he has worked to build what he calls an “illiberal democracy” by eroding civil liberties and media freedomsubjugating the judiciary, and restructuring his country’s electoral system. In the process, he has become a model to the far right around the world, including in the United States.

To varying degrees, the decline of liberal democratic norms and institutions is visible in almost every region:

And then, of course, there is the United States: Political scientists have warned that, in a trend that predated Donald Trump but accelerated under his presidency, the Republican Party’s commitment to liberal democratic norms has diminished, its messaging now resembling that of authoritarian parties like Orban’s.

Unlike ruling parties in many other backsliding democracies, though, the Republican Party has been able to win control of government without commanding popular majorities. As The Times’s David Leonhardt wrote recently, because of a confluence of geographic sorting trends and the small-state bias of Congress and the Electoral College, every branch of American government now favors one party (Republican) over another (Democratic) in a way they did not for much of the country’s history.

“We are far and away the most countermajoritarian democracy in the world,” Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard, told Leonhardt.

No two democracies backslide for identical reasons, but political scientists and others have posited some common themes. One is backlash to threats, real or perceived, to the majority’s sense of national identity.

“First, society polarizes, often over a backlash to social change, to demographic change, to strengthening political power by racial, ethnic or religious minorities, and generally amid rising social distrust,” The Times’s Max Fisher, who has reported widely on global democratic decline, recently explained. “This leads to a bottom-up desire for populist outsiders who will promise to confront the supposed threat within, which means suppressing the other side of that social or partisan or racial divide, asserting a vision of democracy that grants special status for ‘my’ side, and smashing the democratic institutions or norms that prevent that side from asserting what is perceived to be its rightful dominance.”

How does class come into the picture? Some scholars have theorized a link between democratic backsliding and the Great Recession, if not global free-market capitalism itself. In India, for example, Debasish Roy Chowdhury argued last month in The Times that “neoliberal policies have compounded inequality, with the state retreating from fundamental responsibilities such as health and education.” He continued: “This breeds a life of indignity and powerlessness for millions who take refuge in group identity, gravitate toward strong leaders promising to defend them against other groups and easily become hooked on the mass opioid of religious hatred now being used to redefine secular India as a Hindu state.”

Taking another materialist view, Richard Pildes, a constitutional law scholar at New York University School of Law, attributes the rise of illiberal forces to the dispersal of political power among a growing number of political parties, which he argues limits the ability of democratic governments to function effectively. “When democratic governments seem incapable of delivering on their promises, this failure can lead to alienation, resignation, distrust and withdrawal among many citizens,” he wrote in The Times last year. “It can also trigger demands for authoritarian leaders who promise to cut through messy politics. At an even greater extreme, it can lead people to question democracy itself and become open to anti-democratic systems of government.”

History has shown that the arc of human civilization does not inevitably bend toward liberal democracy. But its tendency toward autocracy is also highly contingent. In The Washington Post, Miguel Angel Lara Otaola noted this year that since 2000, even as democratic backsliding became the predominant global trend, nine countries managed to transition back to democracy after a period of authoritarianism. “These countries show us that democracy is resilient and that countries can and do return to democracy,” he wrote.

The organization Otaola works for, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, has proposed numerous ideas for halting and reversing democratic backsliding, including investing in civic education, reforming campaign finance laws, and strengthening coordination between international organizations with peacekeeping initiatives like the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union. Other experts have argued for abolishing two-party systems, more heavily regulating tech giants and imposing financial penalties on backsliding governments.

Yet there are also those who believe technocratic fixes are unequal to the problem. In a 2016 essay, the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra presented the declining health of democracy around the world as a crisis for the ideology of modern market-based liberalism itself: A “religion of technology and G.D.P. and the crude 19th-century calculus of self-interest,” it can neither account for nor provide an answer to the anger of those who feel left behind by the disruptions and inequalities wrought by globalized capitalism.

To chart a path forward, those who believe in the ideals of liberal democracy will “require, above all, a richer and more varied picture of human experience and needs than the prevailing image of Homo economicus,” Mishra argued. “Otherwise, in our sterile infatuation with rational motivations and outcomes, we risk resembling those helpless navigators who, De Tocqueville wrote, ‘stare obstinately at some ruins that can still be seen on the shore we have left, even as the current pulls us along and drags us backward toward the abyss.’”

Do you have a point of view we missed? Email us at debatable@nytimes.com. Please note your name, age and location in your response, which may be included in the next newsletter.


“Is There Something Wrong With Democracy?” [The New York Times]

“Can’t We Come Up with Something Better Than Liberal Democracy?” [The New Yorker]

“What Does the ‘Post-Liberal Right’ Actually Want?” [The New York Times]

“The Republican Party Is Succeeding Because We Are Not a True Democracy” [The New York Times]

“Giorgia Meloni Is Extreme, but She’s No Tyrant” [The New York Times]


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