Democracy is not an end state but a process, and if there is no longer belief in its value then it may not endureby Andrew Gamble / March 13, 2019 / Leave a comment
Democracy is in trouble. The number of states considered democracies rose after the collapse of communism in Europe and continued rising in the 2000s, but in the decade since the financial crash it has been falling again. All democracies are under strain, afflicted by the growing gap between members of the political class and the people they are supposed to represent. The crisis of representation takes several forms. The rise of populist nationalism is one manifestation. Another is the impact of digital media on democratic culture and institutions, which has helped fuel a demand for direct rather than indirect forms of democracy, popular sovereignty against parliamentary sovereignty.
It was not supposed to be like this. 2018 marked the centenary in the UK of universal suffrage for all male citizens over 21 and all female citizens over 30. Women had to wait another ten years until 1928 for that anomaly to be corrected, but the fundamental principle of universal suffrage for all citizens had been conceded. This reform marked a decisive stage in the emergence of a full representative democracy in Britain. Those who had campaigned for it hoped that it would lead not just to a liberal democracy, the extension of civil and political rights to all, but also the creation of a social democracy based on universal social rights.
The record has been mixed. Democracy was added on to a liberal constitutional and economic order in which there were huge inequalities of power, wealth, gender and race. The struggle to achieve gender equality in work and in households has made advances, but painfully slowly. There has still not been a single parliament or cabinet in which women have been in the majority and the discrimination against women in so many different aspects of life persists. The same is true for black citizens and many other minorities. The struggle to secure basic equality of treatment for all is far from complete, even though real advances have been made. Britain in 2018 is a vastly different place than it was in 1918 or even 1968.
In seeking to achieve a full social democracy in Britain there has been less progress. Inequalities of power and wealth were reduced for a time through the rise of the Labour Party and the substantial shift in the balance between…