Whither the World: The Political Economy of the Future, Volume 2
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On the contrary, whatever else modern democracy means, it certainly means a dispersal of power and a constant circulation of power holders. What emerges here is a conception of democracy not as a fixed power but as an open-ended and experimental process—open-ended precisely also toward the discourse of religion. As indicated before, there is a second way to insist on the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. Whereas in the first formulation, Islam and democracy are incompatible, with the result that democracy has to be jettisoned, the second formulation draws the conclusion that, for the sake of democracy, Islam has to be jettisoned—or at least be pushed into a completely inner realm of belief.
This strategy tends to be privileged by radical secularists and agnostics, but curiously also by some forms of mysticism or illuminationism. In fairness, I should add that Addi does not completely banish religion from social life. If this path is pursued, he is moderately hopeful that Islam and democracy may be able to coexist and hence to become compatible.
This shift of focus is a prominent ingredient in recent Western political thought which, in this respect, has derived significant lessons from Eastern European experiences particularly the atrophy of society under totalitarian state bureaucracies.
The shift brings into view a possible co-existence or symbiosis of religion and democracy without fusion or identification. Such a symbiosis would be able both to re-energize democracy by elevating its moral and spiritual fiber its commitment to the public good and to enliven and purify religion by rescuing it from conformism and the embroilment in public power. In order to perform this role, religious discourse has to broaden its range and accommodate a more general humanistic vocabulary: especially the vocabulary of human rights, individual freedoms, and social justice.
In our time, engagement or confrontation with these issues is indeed a requisite for the relevance and viability of religion Islamic or otherwise. Discussion of human rights, one might say, belongs today to the domain of philosophical theology kalam and philosophy in general.
Although not directly or not always nurtured by religious motives at least in the modern era , human rights discourse is today religiously unavoidable, and a religious faith oblivious to human rights—as well as to human freedom and justice—is no longer tenable in the modern world. In a religiously nurtured or inspired democracy—no less so than in a secular regime—rulers including religious rulers cannot be self-appointed but need to be approved through democratic methods or at least function within a democratically transparent structure.
What emerges from these arguments is a highly mediated conception of the relation between politics and religion, a conception which is at odds with both their radical separation and their fusion. As he notes, separating Islam and the state while maintaining the connection between religion and social life is liable to generate respect for, and widespread observance of, Islamic teachings—an observance which today requires certain democratic safeguards.
Precisely in a democracy, popular will-formation must take into account the beliefs and aspirations of ordinary citizens. Countering the reduction of politics to an economic calculus, the text in fact intimates the notion of an ethically and religiously sustained democratic life—a vision not far removed from the political thought of Alexis de Tocqueville, John Dewey, and many other Western thinkers.
As a result of this challenge, human beings have been potentially liberated both as citizens and as believers, that is, enabled to perform political agency as well as cultivate freely their faith. With this statement, Soroush intimates a democratic regime which is attentive and not indifferent toward ethics and religious beliefs—although the latter are no longer imposed by coercive power but freely nurtured in civil society.
Given the fact that democratic life is nurtured by the motivations and aspirations of ordinary citizens, and that these aspirations in turn reflect the religious beliefs and cultural customs of people, it follows that democracies cannot be the same everywhere but are bound to vary in accordance with beliefs and customs prevalent in different societies or regions. Among these benchmarks are the absence of coercive autocratic structures, the freedom of association and religious practices, and the respect for the plurality of beliefs and disbeliefs.
By way of conclusion, I may be allowed to venture a proposal designed to exemplify both the limit and the broad range of possible variations in a democracy.
The proposal concerns specifically the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hence, there is a structure juxtaposing democracy and theocracy in an unmediated fashion.
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The radical difference between these two components is liable to pull the country in opposite directions, with potential harm to its welfare and stability. Britain is recognized as a leading example of modern Western democracy; and yet, its House of Lords is not an elected body and includes, next to hereditary peers, leading figures of the Anglican Church.
If this model were adopted in Iran, the Council as an upper chamber could be given equal legislative powers with the Majlis; or else it could be given a merely delaying and advisory power as is the case in the House of Lords today.source
Whither the World: The Political Economy of the Future: Volume 2
Whichever power would be allocated, the Council reconstituted as an upper chamber would greatly contribute to the visibility and transparency of the governmental process. The restructuring would help to reconcile the presently opposed components of the constitution, and would thereby strengthen the legitimacy of the entire government. This, in turn, would lead to a more open and peaceful development of the country—something which both Iranians and friends of Iran can only welcome and applaud. My intent here is simply to trigger some discussion, leaving it to the wisdom and discretion of competent authorities and specialists to determine its concrete fate.
I do believe, however, that the proposal is not outside of the line of political prudence as cultivated by both Western and Islamic traditions. Regarding Qutb, see also the discussion in Roxanne L. See, e. Esposito and John O. Plattner, and Daniel Brumberg, ed. Muqtedar Khan, ed. Gaonkar, ed. Plattner, eds.
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Chatterjee, ed. Finance Ministers and Central Banks make key decisions on the financial system, but they see the world through the eyes of the financial community. That may be important, he argued, but only a part of what makes a successful economy grow.
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This leads to a global governance structure that creates more inequality and an economic system unable to cope with drastic cyclical changes. Professor Svejnar concluded the panel remarks by stating that we are witnessing one of the most rapid changes of economic rebalancing the world has ever seen, within such a short time period.
Despite all the shortcomings that had been identified by the panelists, Professor Svejnar suggested that the capitalist system is still a system that has created incredible flexibility and flow of innovation.
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In closing, Professor Kolodko stated that the global economy must be managed, but questions remain on how to do it. In the decades to come, he argues that the biggest question will be how to manage the synergy between the power of governments and the market. But if you are imbalanced, you will not be happy.
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