Democracy, citizenship and elections

From Baripedia

We will focus on the spatial aspects and on the way in which citizenship and elections are distributed in space and reveal inequalities.

The spread of liberal democracy[edit | edit source]

Waves of democratization[edit | edit source]

Géopo vagues de démocratisation 1.jpg

We are in an era where liberal democracies are in the majority, but this is not the case everywhere and was not always the case. In The third wave: democratization in the late twentieth century published in 1991, Huntington distinguished three waves of democratization:

  • 1828 -1926: suffrage for the majority of white men ;
  • 1943 - 1964: Following the Allied victory in 1945 and which also included much of the decolonisation with a sharp increase in democratic systems and democratisation processes. Alongside the idea of the state as a complex concept with a wide variety of perspectives, researchers have begun to take an interest in the democratization process;
  • 1974 - 1991: Portuguese Revolution, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe.
Freedom house 2013.png

Some observers speak of a fourth wave of democratization following the Arab Spring, but in view of more recent developments, other researchers prefer to remain cautious.

This is not a linear process. Among partially free democracies there has been a reversal of the trend since 1992.

Democracy: the end of history?[edit | edit source]

The observation of stagnation raises the question of whether democratization and the trend towards a political system called "liberal democracy" is the end of history. In The End of History and the Last Man published in 1989, Fukuyama posits that: "What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the endpoint of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government".

Many critics like Jacques Derrida in Spectres de Marx published in 1993 postulate that in the history of humanity, there has been more and more democracy, but that there has never been as much violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and economic oppression as today. If liberal democracy is matched with peace and prosperity, it is not the end of history today. Perry Anderson and some Marxists postulate that this is the end of "yes" history, of "yes" democracy, but not the end of capitalism.

A democracy is a political system, but history has alternative fluctuations that will transform it again. The global transformations that we see in the field of security and in the economic field reflect the current transformations.

Procedural approaches, substantive approaches[edit | edit source]

A procedural approach focuses on institutions, rules and standards that facilitate access to democratic law, such as electoral competition or press freedom.

A substantial approach focuses on results. It was pointed out that there should be more equality, fairness and justice. There may be democratic bodies, but to what extent.

There is uneven democratization in space, globally, as well as at the state level.

From national to global: cosmopolitanism[edit | edit source]

There is a shift from "democratic deficit" to "cosmopolitical citizenship". For Mary Kaldor in Global civil society: an answer to war published in 2003, "In the context of globalization, democracy in its substantial sense is compromised, however perfect formal institutions may be, simply because so many important decisions that affect people's daily lives are no longer made at the state level.

The idea of cosmopolitical democracy is to make world politics more transparent, more accountable, more participatory and more respectful of the rule of law is not new. A framework that can bring together multiple proposals and campaigns, not a single approach.

Cosmopolitical democracy: actors and measures[edit | edit source]

Géopo parlement du monde 1.jpg

In Cosmopolitan democracy published in 2012, Archibugi and Held propose possible methods:

  • the State: reducing differences between nationals and foreigners, protecting minorities, putting foreign policy at the service of democratization.
  • international organisations: make them more independent of national governments.
  • judicial authorities: making non-compliance with international standards more costly.
  • citizen participation: create a World Parliamentary Assembly along the lines of the European Parliament.
  • political communities without borders.

Who benefits? The dispossessed, foreigners, cosmopolitan groups, global civil society, global political parties, trade unions and labour movements, large multinational corporations.

Citizenship[edit | edit source]

The modern concept of citizenship emerges with the modern state. Marshall published in 1950 Citizenship and Social Class, in Class, citizenship and social development and distinguished three aspects of citizenship:

  • civil rights: property, speech, constraint ;
  • political rights: participation in governance;
  • social rights: quality of life (work, education, health, etc.).

The concept of citizenship has become increasingly broad. Political geography is concerned with the distribution within the space of citizenship and the different forms of citizenship.

Citizenship: a (geo)political instrument?[edit | edit source]

Citizenship is often an instrumentalized discourse that is part of production and use in political struggles and strategies. The designation of citizen and non-citizen can be found in :

  • the State: citizenship is equal and universal; opposition: the benefits of citizenship are denied to certain groups.

Citizenship is a contested concept and practice.

Formal and informal limits of citizenship[edit | edit source]

There are different perspectives on citizenship:

  • formal boundaries: de jure citizenship;
  • informal boundaries: de facto citizenship.
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For example, people have de facto citizenship, but in law they do not have citizenship. Conversely, people have de jure citizenship, but de facto do not have the opportunity to enjoy all the rights that citizens have. Feminist literature questions the fact that in the evolution of history, women have often been found to have neither de jure nor de facto rights.

Insurgent Citizenship[edit | edit source]

In contexts where people do not have de facto or de jure citizenship, people begin to appropriate citizenship rights, but outside formal institutions. From the exercise of citizenship rights outside formal spaces and institutions to forced opposition against legal authority in seeking disruption of the functioning of the state.


It is possible to question the representativeness of certain groups. In Insurgency and spaces of active citizenship: the story of Western Cape Anti-eviction Campaign in South Africa published in 2005 in Journal of Planning Education and Research, Miraftab and Wills propose a case study on Cape Town, South Africa studying neoliberal transformation of the state and mobilization against forced evictions with the establishment of "guest spaces" and "invented spaces".

Aihwa Ong (2010[2006]) : Changes of citizenship[edit | edit source]

Aihwa Ong published Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty in 2006 with the starting point that global flows of goods, technology and people produce changes in citizenship that lead to contested citizenship through a transformation of democracy. Global neoliberalization is leading states to divide the national terrain into "hyper-growth spaces" connected to transnational networks.

The strict distinctions between citizens and foreigners are abandoned to the profits of the quest for human capital. Who is a citizen is no longer necessarily or exclusively one who has citizenship rights, but one who can mobilize opportunities. The rights and benefits of citizenship are now dependent on neoliberal criteria.

Changes in citizenship[edit | edit source]

Mobile or excluded populations claim rights under universalizing principles that are neoliberal criteria or human rights. Aihwa Ong notes the emergence of different forms of citizenship that are partial or postnational. According to surveys, 15% of the world's population considers that their postnational identity is one that goes beyond national borders. For example, in Europe, citizenship is partial ("post-national"), in Asia some countries reform immigration laws to attract investors.

The common point is that citizens' security becomes dependent on their ability to cope with globalized insecurities. The result being new forms of claim, new spaces of citizenship :

  • postnational: requirements according to the ethics of culture and religion as in Indonesia, or Malaysia ;
  • technological: the cyberspace of social networks as in China ;
  • biological: from basic survival to health language with the case of Chernobyl.

Electoral geography[edit | edit source]

Electoral geography is a sub-discipline that explores the practice, organization and spatial impact of electoral competition. André Siegfried analysed correlations between right and left and elements of physical, economic and cultural geography. Siegfried will propose a critique of environmental determinism:

  • Empirical movement of the 1950s and 1960s: rejection of the "great theories", but very descriptive with theorization through constructivist notions of place and space that make it possible to highlight the historical specificity of voting orientations or the links between party support and economic and social transformations;
  • Geography of representation: the construction of constituencies and electoral bias, such as gerrymandering.

The « gerrymandering »[edit | edit source]


A province has three electoral districts of equal size of 15 electors: 9 blue, 6 orange. In principle, there is a majority for blue. By redefining electoral districts, it is possible to achieve very different results:

(a) 3-0 for blue ; (b) 2-1 for blue ; (c) 2-1 for orange.

It is an effective practice in political systems is especially effective in non-proportional systems. Two strategies can lead to results:

  • "packing": concentrating constituents of a party in one constituency in order to reduce their influence in others;
  • "cracking": distributing voters of a party in several constituencies in order to refuse the formation of large blocs.

During the Civil Rights movement, cities like Boston practiced gerrymandering.

Case Study: The Electoral Geography of Senraz[edit | edit source]

In Political Participation and National Origins: An analysis of electoral mobilization in a popular Swiss city published in 2014, Boughaba proposes a study with a strong empirical and conceptual dimension. The context is as follows with a demobilization from institutional politics.

One approach highlights the determinants of participation and abstention at the individual level such as:

  • diploma level, social class, age identified as determining electoral factors ; interests for elections, partisan membership, political knowledge, cantonal particularities.
  • One approach highlights the determinants of participation and abstention at the contextual level, such as family environments.

Boughaba's research question is: how do migration trajectories and social positions, family and national networks and places of life enable us to understand (de)mobilization? The author seeks to combine individual and contextual data.

The population of Senraz[edit | edit source]

The population is mostly foreign and there is a sharp decrease in the proportion of workers.

Source : Boughaba (2014), p. 6

It is a context where the argument of finding a relationship between social class and electoral behaviour is not as important as if the study had been produced in the 1970s.

Participation in elections: individual level[edit | edit source]

Source : Boughaba (2014), p. 7

Boughaba will highlight inequality by place of birth and inequality by naturalization. The explanation has to do with the seniority of the foreign population. Arrivals from the former Yugoslavia who do not live as long in Sanraz as Spaniards have a lower participation rate. The naturalization process leads to a certain socialization to democratic behavior.

Participation in elections: contextual scale[edit | edit source]

Source : Boughaba (2014)

Political participation is due to the importance of the militant work of leaders. Participation is higher in the streets where there is a high concentration of their compatriot, so there is an importance of the residential environment.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Although waves of democratization can be identified and liberal democracies are now the dominant political system, this is neither a linear evolution nor a sign that there is no more economic violence, inequality, exclusion, famine and oppression. Attempts at cosmopolitical democracy are manifested in various practices and campaigns, but without significant effects.

Neoliberal developments have had a strong influence on the functioning of democracy and the construction of citizenship. Flexible" or "partial" citizenship will emerge as well as new spaces for mobilization for citizenship rights. Electoral geography, despite its criticism, continues to offer insights into the link between politics and space, particularly in democratization contexts.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]