72.1 Democratization or liberalization? Understanding the politics of inequality

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 10:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Alex AFOUXENIDIS , Institute of Political Sociology, National Centre for Social Research, Athens, Greece

The liberalization of the global economic system run in opposition to democratic forms of inclusion, empowerment and social justice and substantially thwarted demands by civic groups which were related to generating effective policies for marginalized and discriminated groups. And, in turn, liberalization further fragmented the public sphere and compartmentalized civic groups and organizations, rendering them weak in dealing with domestic actors (such as states), international institutions (such as the EU, or IMF) and global markets. The rhetoric of enlarged democracy and civil society participation was never really translated into political practice.

For the past decades, the Western states and the international institutions that provide financial assistance to the developing countries promote solutions to political inequality which are based on two ideas. The first is related to the notion of economic liberalization, which would unfold the potentials of the market and minimize the role of the state in the economic sphere. The second is that Western support to the embryonic civil societies of the developing world would give voice to the populations of these countries and would change the nature of the authoritative political regimes that govern for years many countries. These ideas continue to inform the debate about the development of the North African countries after the Arab Spring.

This paper will present and analyse how regimes of North Africa (specifically Morocco and Egypt) used to exploit the new global economic situation and how they have benefited from the openness of the markets. At the same time, these regimes offered some political freedoms to the people of their countries, but they were not democratized.

Therefore, the paper attempts to critically examine and distinguish the notion of (economic) liberalization from the idea of democratization by exploring the ways regimes use to handle fundamental notions of political equality.