This exploration into what MacPherson (1966) termed “the real world of democracy” undertaken in the previous chapters suggests two possible generalizations. One is that democracy, especially substantive as opposed to merely showcase democracy, poses a challenge to the conservative nature of most socioeconomic regimes. This is the radical and revolutionary character of democracy. If democracy is not a fetish used to justify the status quo, the very equalitarian traits of “popular rule” would have a levelling effect on systems of socioeconomic inequity. In this sense, democracy as a social practice may contribute to the creation of a deliberative level playing field, chipping away at authoritarianism and arbitrary rule, leading to social and economic justice. Of course, the socioeconomic impact of democracy is dialectically conditioned by the multiplicity of circumstances we outlined in Chapter 1: (a)One is the existence of an adequate economic surplus to be distributed on the margin, vis-à-vis the aggregate level of social expectations.(b)Another is the historical and structural brokered pattern of mass—elite relations, permitting (or impeding) a sustained degree of accommodation and compromise between “haves” and “have-nots.” Cultural factors such as an acquired proclivity for consensus and legitimation also play a role.(c)Last, but not least, is the issue of sovereignty versus subordination. Distribution of surplus is possible to the extent that the ruling elites have some control over those resources that can be distributed. This sovereignty, in turn, re-enforces legitimacy, facilitating the consensual compliance of rules.
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