A Third Democratic Transformation

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AThird Democratic Transformation

RobertDahl provides new insights about the subject and future of democracy.Dahl traces up the development in three stages of transformation. The third transformation is a detailed view of an ideal form ofdemocracy. The third transformation would introduce new features intothe body politic of nation-states and at international level (Dahl55). Dahl portends that the third transformation will involve changesthat will introduce the international political order withsupranational democracies. Supranational democracies will havelarge-scale representative democracies. Dahl exempts the WesternEuropean community from such a transformation because they were inthe process of surrendering many of state roles to the Europeancommunity before they finally formed the European Union. Theemergence of supranational entities during the third transformationwill not happen in the immediate future. During the thirdtransformation, democratic states will infuse their democratic idealsto the international community (71). Thus, supranational democracieswill lead to the establishment of transnational institutions thatwould spearhead the spread of democracy on the international stage.Organizations that enhance international opinion on issues ofgovernance such as Amnesty International would increase. However,Dahl considers an international democratic order as an aspect that iscontingent upon full democratization of nation-states.

Evencountries whose independence is limited by their position on theinternational stage can have vigorous democratic entities at thedomestic level. Dahl gives Denmark and Netherlands as examples ofsuch countries due to their size and nature of political systems. Thepolitical systems The Netherlands and Denmark are slightly differentfrom the rest of Europe in terms of political agitation andrepresentative jurisdictions. Nation-states are also the source ofchallenges to achieving the third transformation. The mostsignificant challenge at the national level is the extent ofpolitical inequalities in some sections of the population. When thesociety is vastly unequal in terms of the citizenry’s access topolitical rights, the benefits of democratization are likely toremain in the hands of the elite and alienate ordinary citizens.Political inequalities in nation-states potentially make it difficultfor countries to realize the third transformation. According to Dahl,the main sources of political inequalities at nation-states areunequal resource endowment and access to opportunities. They createconditions for violent coercion, differences in the economicpositions, and difference in the level of knowledge acquisition andlimited cognitive skills to absorb new information.

Athird transformation would also involve more participation ofordinary citizens in the military. Demonopolizing the military fromthe elite members of the society in nation-states would increasedemocracy. Examples of places where increased civilian involvement inthe military improved democracy is: ancient Greece and early modernEurope (Johansson5). Greece introduced armed infantry to defend the state as areplacement of war chariots that were mainly composed of members fromnoble class. Early modern Europe increased enrolments in muskets andenlisted more ordinary citizens as armed infantries to defend statesduring the many wars they fought later (Darl 87). Dahl contends thatthe political control of the modern military reduces the danger ofautocracy or military states. In fact it promotes democracyhastening the process of the third transformation. For moderndemocracies to survive, they will have to appreciate an internationalorder that enforces rules on disarmament. Improved militarytechnology is likely to make some sections of the society literallyimmune to democratic control. For example, countries possessing themight of nuclear technology create a military hegemony over countrieswithout such technology. Consequently, it becomes difficult to havea fully democratized international order especially when some of suchcountries do not have a democratic culture in their local politicsand governance.

Athird transformation would be characterized by the democratization ofeconomic institutions. Currently, economic institutions such ascorporations have a hegemony that causes economic despotism. Theyare organized as guardians of the economy that the population dependson. They are also not democratic because they concentrate on theproduction of goods and services at the expense of enhancingdemocratic ideals through hegemonic policies that do not incorporatefare compensation practices. Huge corporations also pollute theenvironment without initiating proper safeguards that are vulnerableto the effects of their activities. In Dahl’s perspective a thirdtransformation will introduce an economic order that transcends themere act of producing goods and service. The new economic order wouldbe one that uses its societal influence to advance democratic valuessuch as serving all human beings and not just consumers of the goodsand services produced by business units.

What,when, where, how power will shift from nation state to supranational

Supranationalrefers to the globalization of political power as a result of a shiftof governing authority from nation-states to a new establishedinternational order. A supranational condition occurs whennation-states agree to transfer some of their politicaldecision-making authority to an international organization. Whatwould cause such a shift of power is an increase in the complexity ofinternational challenges that require streamlined internationalresponses sanctioned by nation-states. Furthermore, globalizationhas produced global economic competition that requires themagnanimous global policies that nation-state may not afford toovercome on its own (Pitkin56). The supranational condition of the world’s political ordercould be far from full realization, but the world is in the processof achieving it. There are operational international institutionsthat make decisions on behalf of nation-states in some cases. Forexample, the European Union makes economic bargains on behalf of itsmember nation-states. The EU as a political federation also dealswith governance-related issues on the global stage within the scopeof the powers transferred by nation-states. The United Nationsthrough its agencies such as the World Trade Organization also makesgovernance-related policies on behalf of nation-states as agreedthrough conventions and protocols.

Inconclusion, the transition from world order of nation-states tosupranational organizations is underway. Robert Dahl’s predictedthat a third transformation may occur in the long-run, but theimpediments he mentioned are real. Supranational organizations canalso establish strong and lasting relationships with sub-nationalactors. However, a lasting supranational order requires that theentities exercising authority on behalf of nation-states are asunitary as envisioned during their establishment. It is also worthnoting that a supranational world order does not eliminate thepossibility of forming another higher and equally sovereigninstitution with a wider mandate than a regional union ofnation-states.


Dahl,Robert Alan. Democracyand its Critics.Yale University Press, 1991.

Johansson,Olof. &quotDemocraticlegitimacy beyond the nation state.&quot,2014.

Pitkin,Hanna Fenichel. Theconcept of representation.Univ of California Press, 1967.

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