Question: Why did you decide to write this book?
Leif Lewin: I decided to write 2119 – The Year Global Democracy Will Be Realized because I felt a growing unease with the doings of my fellow political scientists, who in their eagerness to fight the abuse of power in world politics in the short run seem to forget the long-range goal of global democracy. Main stream scholars in international politics warn us against “the domestic analogy”: according to them democracy is not possible on a global level, the immediate task should be to countercheck corruption. To me, however, this is a question of time horizon and I rather agree with Chou En-lai´s famous reply when asked about the impact of the French Revolution: “It is too early to say”. It took two hundreds years to implement democracy within the nation-state, from the emergence of democratic theories during the Enlightenment to the introduction of popular government after World War I. If we ignore the warnings for the domestic analogy and apply the same time perspective on global politics, taking the Treaty of Versailles as the baseline for the calculation, we would expect a democratic world order by 2119 – which is the title of the book.
This is of course an intellectual experience and a provocation: nobody knows what will happen in a hundred years to come, also my vision may end up on history´s scrap heap. But I would like to stress in the strongest possible way that the process of democratization, at both domestic and global levels, is a sluggish and protracted process.
Question: What do you hope your readers take away from your book?
Leif Lewin: The lesson, in the words of E. H. Carr, about “the impossibility for a political analyst of being a realist”. By that he meant, and I agree, that in order to grasp the essence of politics one must not disregard the utopian aspirations of citizens and politicians. Politics has a finite goal, an emotional appeal, a moral judgment as a ground for action. And the insight that there is a serious case of concept stretching in the suggestion of the realists (or pragmatists) who think that global democracy is impossible and therefore advocate other, “pragmatic” methods – such as pluralistic accountability, output-legitimization, external accountability, regulation, deliberation, exit and legal accountability. All these methods are valuable and functional in the present political system. But they are not the same as democracy. They do not show us how the citizens can hold their leaders to account and dismiss them, if they have lost their trust.
Question: What other research do you believe is needed on global democracy?
Leif Lewin: The democratization of the nation-states has been the main trend in the political development during the last hundred years. But it has in no way been accomplished in a problem-free fashion. On the contrary, there have been many countercurrents such as coups, dictatorships, wars. What is needed now is a systematic and critical examination of the corresponding development on the global level. How do the political, economic and legal institutions develop in the light of global democracy? Are we approaching the goal? Do we experience goal conflicts? Should certain phases in the process of global democratization be reconsidered?
Watch the interview with Professor Leif Lewin.
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