Human And Ethnic Rights In Democratic Transition, Vol. 7 - 2000, No. 1
The article argues that the theoretical discourses concerning democracy underestimated the relevance of the relationship between nationalism and democratic citizenship and are thus largely responsible for leaving these two crucial concepts up in the air. Understanding of citizenship in democratic theory was never limited to the legal or formal status of a person(s) or his/her (their) full membership in a particular community. Citizenship contains a dimension of wider cultural identity along with the political one. The early classical theory of citizenship, unfortunately and for obvious reasons, did not pay much attention to the cultural dimension of citizenship. Most common critiques of the classical approach already pointed out that the passive acceptance of citizenship should be replaced by an active role, which would include civic responsibilities and civic virtues. This article elaborates the broader understanding of the concept of citizenship, which also includes the complex notion of cultural pluralism which is at the disposal of modern societies. Further effort is directed toward identifying different historically conditioned constructs of democratic citizenship and nationality, in particular, in Europe and their implications for the potential unfolding of global and European citizenship, respectively. The argumentation that follows rests on contemporary liberal arguments focused on the view that citizens in a democratic society share culturally defined responsibilities toward other citizens and that a consistent concept of democratic citizenship will have to accommodate this relevant fact.
In his famous essay, "On Perpetual Peace" (1795/1987), Kant argued that peace, freedom, and human progress were dependent on the existence of a plurality of politically competing units of independent states. In his 5th "preliminary article" he wrote: "No state may intervene violently in the constitution and the government of another state." The concept of Human Rights applies, however -- taking it literally according to our common understanding today -- to all human beings irrespective of their national or cultural belonging, or their position in the hierarchical setting of the political world system. As social scientists we must investigate the different meanings and functions this complex idea assumes under the condition of a unipolar world order, dominated militarily and politically by one single hyperpower. This contribution investigates the universalist approach to Human Rights in political reality. It argues that the inherent universalism of Human Rights is used to instrumentalise them for strengthening the hegemonic relations of modernising strata within states and their populations in western and non-western societies. That argument is by no means to be confounded with the apologetic arguments of some states (e.g., the PRC) that Human Rights are Western ideas and not applicable to non-western societies. Nevertheless, it asks for the roots of those purposeful misunderstandings. By its instrumentalisation, the concept of Human Rights may be damaged also for those suffering under its absence. Finally, this essay pleads for a policy of strict non-intervention in military terms to re-evaluate Human Rights and return their dignity as the fundamental charter of humankind. Democratic transition needs to be protected against the very denial of democracy, which is forcing on other political units the prejudices of the more powerful states.
The article explores the theory and practice of constitutional engineering in the context of ethnically fragmented societies. By looking at the way electoral engineering fits into broader concepts of democratic rights and democratisation processes, the tension between representation and stability is presented as an issue of how to combine democratic legitimacy with efficiency in dealing with post-war situations. Historical and cognitive institutionalism might provide a better understanding of how an ethnic community might evolve into a political community than a rational-choice oriented, positive institutionalism prevalent in conflict management studies. The author suggests three criteria for assessing efforts of constitutional engineering in terms of democratic legitimacy without having to solve the dilemma of whether democratic institutions or democratic culture must come first. By closing with a brief analysis of discussions of the electoral system in Bosnia, the article raises practical questions about the rhetoric of institutionalism and democratic theory in a post-war context.
The political culture appears to be instrumental for understanding regime changes and consolidation processes in post-socialist countries. In a situation of rapid disintegration of most traditional Soviet values and habits, the current Russian political culture cannot but disintegrate and become contradictory. That is why the search for reliable criteria for its evaluation proves to be the cornerstone for the analysis. The author argues that public attitudes toward human rights fully reflect a complicated combination of individualistic and collectivist, self-dependent and paternalistic principles. Human rights also represent a specific arena of ethnopolitical competition. The asymmetrical and multi-ethnic Russian federation is an arena of inefficient ethnic policy and sharp inter-ethnic conflicts. Within this context, attitudes towards the political status of diaspora and ethnic minorities help distinguish between civic and hegemonist patterns of political culture. In its empirical part, the paper presents data from fifteen public opinion polls recently conducted by Russian, Western, or joint teams. The results enable the author to detect some current shifts in attitudes, to trace some long-term tendencies and to draw several general conclusions. The young generation of Russian citizens has been chosen as the subject of a case study as one of the potentially most influential social groups that could predetermine the outcome of the current ideological and political struggles.
The political protest movements of the transformation period in Hungary have been institutionalised as political parties or in other organisational forms. They have become organised and formalised actors in the new democracy, while new social movements emerged with new forms of protest activities oriented to address new socio-political conflicts. Approaches to institutionalisation processes of social movements, "movementism," specific political cultures, and forms of action and organisation of socio-political movements were pushed back during the transformation into political organisations. The "established" civil society of former Communist countries strives for resources and experiences of Western democracies. However, Western support is also based on a scarcity of resources, a fact nor realised at the time of Communist constraints, when receiving Western aid was a risky activity undertaken only by few groups and individuals. A competitive market for low-risk support by Western agencies is being established. Civil society activists have to prove accountability, organisational skills, and social and media impact to be supported by Western donors. Intellectual capital and organisational infrastructure must be provided with managerial skills required by Western agencies as distributors of goods and organisers of programmes. A shift from informal social movements to differentiated types of NGOs takes place, as targets of Western aid and a competitive market of Eastern NGOs will be established for the external help.
The legitimisation of the intervention of the west in Kosovo by references to human rights has brought to the surface an inherent problem of universal human rights: the tension between the intention to reduce violence and the claim to universality. This legitimisation of violence on the basis of a universalistic ethical code meant that there was no space from which an effective opposition to the intervention could be argued. The Kosovo war has therefore strengthened the view that violence is in some cases "inevitable," while the disappearance of the opposition has created a new type of "total war." This could mean that human rights are losing their power of de-legitimising violence, and are being transformed into a coinage of power politics. The paper discusses how human rights could be re-thought in such a way that they can de-legitimise violence even when a new strong and "universal" foundation is no longer possible. Referring to the work of Gianni Vattimo, the paper discusses the problem of violence as a manifestation of the metaphysical tradition of western thinking and its quest for secure foundations. It argues that human rights as a reduction of violence must be thought post-metaphysically and proposes an understanding and practice of human rights located between the nihilistic hermeneutics of Gianni Vattimo and the neo-pragmatism of Richard Rorty. This understanding of human rights could de-legitimise the new type of organised violence born during the Kosovo war, and allow an understanding of democratic transition beyond the model of a "catching-up process."
Direct and open external economic and diplomatic interference in domestic politics in the context of development co-operation is a rather new phenomenon, which started in the early 1990s. Its roots can be traced back to economic conditionality, generally known as structural adjustment on the one side and to the "velvet revolution" in Central and Eastern Europe on the other. Political conditionality constitutes a radical break with one of the central pillars of the post war international order: the rule of non-interference. On a normative level, it therefore demands a very careful weighing of state sovereignty against the defence of human rights and democracy. A reasonable case can be made in favour of intervention, however considering the results of political as well as economic conditionality in the past, we must also admit that we find very limited success. In the case of political conditionality it can even be argued that promoters of democracy have to consider carefully whether in some countries less interference is not more fruitful.
The article first investigates the origins of the right to privacy, its principles and scope as well as limitations, focusing on the issue of public officials. In the case of public officials the invasion of the right to privacy is virtually unlimited if exercised by the mass media (i.e. the public), yet is somewhat curtailed if exercised by the government. Underneath the reasoning seems to lie the functional test of the right of the public to know and the rationality and reasonableness of the government to prescribe. There seems to be no time limitation to this rule. As to the issue of who is a public official the definition seems to be rather broad and enshrines practically all individuals in public service, in other words those paid by the taxpayers. Less known are however certain limitations of the right to invade privacy of public officials. The government always has to have narrow, reasonable and rational grounds to invade privacy, well provided for by statutes. Protected seems to be also something that comes close to a property right or if basic moral values are jeopardised. However, moral standards change in time. It is always the wisdom of the courts to determine the scope of the right to privacy of public officials, weighing the issue with the paramount right of the public to be informed. The dicta and the holdings of US courts are certainly of relevance for European legislatures, especially in CEECs.