Comment on Wolfgang Merkel, „Is capitalism compatible with democracy?“

Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft, Vol. 9 (2015), No. 1-2, 49-60

There is good news and bad news — and as sometimes, good news inside the bad. The bad news is that the crisis of Western-liberal democracy has apparently grown to a point where it can no longer be ignored by mainstream political science — while the good news is that it is now actually being noticed there. What is more, it is beginning to make its leading representatives to leave behind institutionalism pure and simple and move forward (or in fact back?) to a political economy perspective on democracy that deserves its name. Democracy and capitalism is now the subject, if not of choice then of necessity. Gone are the good times, or so it seems, when Glasperlen issues as harmless and comfortable as first-past-the-post vs. proportional representation, Westminster vs. veto point, consociational vs. majoritarian democracy, parliamentary vs. presidential rule, unitary vs. federal government, monocameralism vs. bicameralism etc. could rule supreme in the discipline’s official journals. Back to the basics! — so I read the message of Merkel’s remarkable essay (Merkel 2014) in which he challenges nothing less than the foundational assumption of postwar political science that capitalism and democracy are birds of a feather: that just as capitalism needs as well as supports democracy, democracy needs as well as supports capitalism, the two flocking together in ever-lasting pre-established harmony. (…)

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