Before question of whether physics have an influence

Before approaching the issue of authoritarianism, and
thus the relationship between oppressors and oppressed, one should, first of
all, clarify some things that might otherwise be taken for granted, but are so
rarely mentioned in theoretical discourse that they easily drown in the very
specific scope of the field of comparative politics. First and foremost: that
authoritarianism is primarily authoritarian.
Violence against dissenters is its central characteristic and the violence of
the authoritarian state is executed mainly by political actors and their state
apparatus. Structural conditions can at best provide more ideal or less ideal
preconditions for the movement of these actors in the social space. “Guns
do not kill people,” says the weapon-affine American, “people
do”. And while the general availability of weapons may, under certain
circumstances, lead to a higher homicide rate, there is a great deal of truth
in this saying that must never be lost in the eager debate about the
structures.

 

Although they all seem to be related to democracy, our
research topics in the social sciences are not primarily money, nor natural
resources or the geographical arrangement of the land masses, but our object of
investigation is primarily that of human
beings. In this context, I was always surprised by how frequently the
question was being asked in recent discussion whether and to what extent culture had an influence on democracy.
This is, in general terms, a question just as meaningful as the question of
whether physics have an influence on a football flying though the air after a
good kick: the whole procedure is in its very definition already a physical
process – just as well as democracy in itself is, by the whole definition of
culture, a cultural process. And so,
of course, in trying to explain democratization, we must always be vigilant
that we do not give in to the temptation to end up describing democracy in alternate terms. Due to all respect towards
the empirical political sciences, the crucial question, in democratization
theory, must still be what we can do
for freedom and democracy – where the levers
are which we can tackle. The question, to once use a quite striking, but marginally
little scholarly formulation, is: ‘how do we get the damn ball into the goal!?’

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