Traditional theories of what constitutes a democracy must make way for multiple new approaches to the concept around the world, SUNY Oswego political science professor Dr. Stephen J. Rosow and Australian colleague Dr. Jim George contend in a new book.

In “Globalization and Democracy” published by Rowman & Littlefield, the authors present case studies to show how the current phase of free-market globalization is destabilizing the dominance of Western democracy promotion, as resisters around the world challenge common understandings and forms of democracy.

“There are alternative ways to think about deepening democracy in the current world,” Rosow said. “Current trends toward neoliberal capitalism actually are having the effect of weakening democracy if not destroying it altogether,” he said. “Alternatives are coming from a variety of places—they’re not just coming from the Western tradition. Alternatives are coming from the everyday plight of people all over the world.”

The 219-page “Globalization and Democracy” is part of a series on the impacts of globalization co-edited by political theorist Manfred Steger of the University of Hawaii-Manoa, formerly of RMIT in Melbourne, Australia, and Terrell Carver of the University of Bristol in England.

“Manfred Steger has been trying to get me to do this book for a long time. And I’ve been thinking about doing this book for a long time,” Rosow said explaining how it came about.
While Rosow was in Australia as a distinguished visiting scholar at Australian National University in Canberra, Steger—not altogether tongue-in-cheek—said Rosow could accept an invitation to lecture at RMIT if he wrote the book. Rosow later asked Australian political theorist Jim George to co-author.

“As we were talking, it became clear that Jim would have a lot to add to what I was doing,” Rosow said. “I just asked Jim if he wanted to work on it with me. It worked out really well. We have worked together as part of a group through the International Studies Association for almost 15 years now.”

‘Stimulating work’

The result is a book that reviewer Anthony F. Lang Jr. of the University of St. Andrews calls “rigorous and historically grounded” and “an outstanding introduction to one of the most important concepts in modern political life.”

Another reviewer, Daniel Warner of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, wrote, “This challenging and stimulating work forcefully critiques the assumptions of post-Cold War democratic political theory and neoliberal economic ideology. Stephen J. Rosow and Jim George present imaginative new ways of rethinking democracy and its relationship to globalization through historical and current examples.”

One of the book’s cover photos shows a Greek demonstration over the repressive nature of loan guarantees coming from European lenders. Elsewhere around the world, there are calls for basic human rights, a living wage and other moral, ethical and political concerns.

“Democracy is about people making their voices heard, about trying to make the world a more hospitable place through political activity,” Rosow said. “And there are a lot of ways to do that. . . . A lot of it’s got to be local, rooted in the way people understand and organize their everyday lives.”