How Social Media is Changing Government and Governance around the World

If one was to count its more than one billion users, Facebook could be considered the third largest nation in the world. Twitter’s more than 200 million monthly active global users can communicate instantly with one another about any subject at any time. In this era of social media dominance, citizens, businesses, journalists and government officials use social media in a variety of ways: to praise or voice concern about their governments, to spread news, to engender action and to make government work smarter and better.

During this time of unprecedented social media use, how are social media innovations changing political communication, interaction between governments and citizens, and modern-day governance both domestically and abroad?

On November 25, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings will host an event to discuss how social media is impacting governance around the world. What effect is social media having on the public sector? How is it affecting the relationship between governments and citizens?

After the program, panelists will take audience questions.

Monday, November 25, 2013, 10:00 – 11:30 am

The Brookings Institution, Falk Auditorium, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC.

Welcome and Introduction

Darrell West, Vice President and Director, Governance Studies, Founding Director, Center for Technology Innovation.

Panelists

Faruk Eczacibasi, Chairman, Turkish Informatics Foundation.

Zeynep Tufekci, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Fellow, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University. 

To RSVP for this event, please call the Office of Communications at 202.797.6105 or click here.

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Francis Fukuyama on ‘Democracy and the Quality of the State’

Why is it that some countries have been able to develop high-quality state administrations that deliver services to their populations with relative efficiency, while others are plagued by corruption, bloated or red-tape-ridden bureaucracies, and incompetence? And what is the relationship between the effectiveness of a state and democracy? Are the two mutually supportive, or is there a tension between good public administration and broad political participation?

In the latest episode of Democracy Ideas, Christopher Walker, director of the NED’s international Forum for Democratic Studies asks Stanford University’s Francis Fukuyama to explain and elaborate on “Democracy and the Quality of the State,” his article in the latest issue of the Journal of Democracy.

Democracy is of course an intrinsic good that would be valued regardless of its effects on policy outcomes. But legitimacy (or its absence) can also spring from state performance. Thus if we care about the health of democracies around the world, we must also care about the performance of their governments—that is, the quality of their state bureaucracies.

Modernization: Theory and Reality

The experiences of the United States, Greece, and Italy suggest that the process of political development democratic expansion of the franchise, when it takes place in advance of state modernization, can lead to widespread clientelism. Conversely, authoritarian states that develop modern bureaucracies early on are often in a happier position once they democratize, since their states tend to be inoculated from the dangers of political colonization.

In looking across these cases, one is led to ask why middle-class reform coalitions appeared in Britain and the United States, but not in Greece and Italy. There would seem to be at least three reasons.

The first has to do with the nature of economic development. Britain and the United States experienced classic industrialization, with newly organized industries drawing huge numbers of workers out of agriculture and putting them into urban environments where social life and the division of labor were completely transformed. Greece and southern Italy, by contrast, experienced what is sometimes called “modernization without development”—that is, urbanization not based on the growth of a vigorous industrial market economy. Under these conditions, the old rural order gets transplanted to cities, and there is no mobilization of broad new groups like a middle class or proletariat. Instead of Gemeinschaft (community) being transformed into Gesellschaft (society), Gemeinschaft is simply transferred wholesale to the city, complete with its rural mores and habits of patronage.

A second reason for the difference is cultural. The rising middle classes in Britain, the United States, the Netherlands, and Prussia/Germany were largely Protestant, and often had highly moralistic views about personal integrity. … The Progressive movement in the United States was fueled by old-line Protestants resentful of the way that machine politicians were organizing newly arrived Catholic, Jewish, and Orthodox immigrants in rapidly growing U.S. cities.

Finally, factors of leadership probably had important effects. In the years following the end of the Cold War, Italy had a tremendous opportunity to create a clean, modern state. The Tangentopoli prosecutions in the early to mid-1990s of corrupt Christian Democratic and Socialist politicians and of the Mafia itself could take place only after the end of Cold War polarizations. Instead of getting a Roosevelt or a Wilson, however, Italy produced Silvio Berlusconi and Umberto Bossi. The electoral base of both Berlusconi’s center-right party (Forza Italia, today part of Popolo della Libertà) and Bossi’s Northern League included precisely those middle-class groups that were fed up with the corruption of the old system and wanted change. But instead of providing a path toward state modernization and structural reform of the Italian economy, both leaders pandered to populist causes and protected their own personal interests. Berlusconi in particular legitimated a new form of media-based corruption that will weigh on Italian politics for years to come.

The experiences of the United States, Greece, and Italy further suggest that in the process of political development all good things do not necessarily go together. Democratic expansion of the franchise, when it takes place in advance of state modernization, can lead to widespread clientelism. Conversely, authoritarian states that develop modern bureaucracies early on are often in a happier position once they democratize, since their states tend to be inoculated from the dangers of political colonization. Whether it is worth paying the cost of authoritarian tutelage and military conflict that this route to state modernization often entails is a different question.

Finally, we need to ask whether Weberian states, once achieved, are permanently self-sustaining or whether they are subject to political decay. The state bureaucracies in China, Germany, Japan, and other countries have been remarkably durable over long periods of time. All modern states, however, are subject to recapture by powerful groups in society.

It would appear that political development is not a one-way ratchet that keeps turning in a progressive direction. Political decay remains an ever-present possibility.

Francis Fukuyama is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. This essay draws on themes in his forthcoming book, Political Order and Political Decay: From the French Revolution to the Present , to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2014.

 

This extract is taken from the latest issue of the Journal of Democracy. RTWT

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