Democratic Change: Normative Guidance to Political Actors on the Use of Violence Open Access

Raghuveera, Nikhil (2014)

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Recent cases such as those in Egypt, Libya and Syria demonstrate moments when citizens turn to political violence to overthrow an oppressive regime and institute democratic change. The problem, however, is that very little literature exists on how violence should be used for achieving democratic aims. A plethora of literature exists on nonviolent principles, but guidance on well-used violence has largely been left out even though political actors continue to resort to violent means for political change. This thesis offers normative guidance to political actors on how they can use violence to foster conditions for the emergence of democracy.

The thesis first considers the arguments of John Schwarzmantel, Sheldon Wolin, and Niccolò Machiavelli. Schwarzmantel takes an institutional approach to argue that political violence undermines an existing liberal democracy, and that democratization is promoted through inclusion of citizens into institutions. Wolin, on the other hand, explains that true democracy as total political equality emerges only in the eruptive nature of revolution with the transgression of laws and institutions. Both theorists provide valuable insight into democracy and political violence, but fail to explain how violence can be used to create a sustainable democracy. Furthermore, political and social cleavages present difficulties going forward in the wake of violence. Machiavelli proposes executing political opponents as a solution, but this method undermines democracy. Therefore, an approach for reconciliation is needed after the use of violence in order to maintain the new state.

This thesis provides a middle way that serves as a direct response to the problems presented by Wolin, Schwarzmantel, and Machiavelli. The proposed solution is an organized and inclusive violence that creates conditions for democracy, and a reconciliation process driven by consociationalism and truth and reconciliation commissions. This solution gives democratic-aiming political actors on the ground principles for violence that can successfully realize political change.

Table of Contents

Introduction - Guidance on the Use of Political Violence...1
Chapter 1 - Schwarzmantel, Wolin, and Machiavelli: An Assessment and the Need for Another Way...14
Chapter 2 - Organized and Inclusive Democratic Violence...42
Chapter 3 - Sustaining Democracy...69
Conclusion - Theory in Practice...108

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