Coming to Terms with Public Interests: to Link Power, Wealth and Democracy

Purwo Santoso • Pratikno • Cornelis Lay
Working paper Power Conflict Democracy Publication • January 2010 Indonesia


Acceptance of democracy as global norm, retain debate on its essence, and disagreement of what democracy really means lead to even a wide range of debate on how democracy is institutionalized in real life. Bearing this in mind, imposition of a particular standard to measure the quality of democracy in a particular country—widely known as democracy audit or democracy assessment—is problematic. It invites challenges at two layers. First, challenge on the very idea of democracy, which certainly shapes the challenge at the second layer. In this regard, we witness that the imposed standard happened to derived from the mainstream theory, which heavily rely on liberal philosophy. On the name of preventing abusive power, the imposed standard resort to the centrality of political right of individuals and at the same time heavily criticized by those who are in favor of structuring wealth. In response to this controversy, this paper offers a breakthrough by examining how each side of the controversy deal with the notion publicness. Obviously, in this paper democracy is treated as a matter coming to terms with public issues or interests. By doing so, part of the controversy will be resolved, and hence provide a new basis for debating democracy audit and alike on new ground. Second, challenge lays on institutional expression of democracy. At issue here is that agreement on the theoretical understanding of democracy retain ample room for controversy. Deriving from understanding of power and wealth are at play in democracy and democratization, this second part of the paper will propose alternative way of setting up assessment scheme for a particular country, namely Indonesia.




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