John Gray: Not every country in the world can be a democracy

From a speech by the LSE Professor of European Thought, given at the Royal Society of Arts, London

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Why doesn't globalisation suit itself to the spread of a single regime? In my view political legitimacy today is what it always was: states are legitimate if they protect their citizens from violence and threats, from organised crime, from terrorism, from invasion; they're legitimate if they provide some level of economic decency and aspiration to the population; and they're legitimate if they seen to be embodying the cultural identities (which are often plural) and the values (which can be religious) of their citizens.

Why doesn't globalisation suit itself to the spread of a single regime? In my view political legitimacy today is what it always was: states are legitimate if they protect their citizens from violence and threats, from organised crime, from terrorism, from invasion; they're legitimate if they provide some level of economic decency and aspiration to the population; and they're legitimate if they seen to be embodying the cultural identities (which are often plural) and the values (which can be religious) of their citizens.

That's what political legitimacy has always meant, it's what it means today and whether that is embodied in a liberal democratic regime, some kind of popular theocracy of the kind that emerged in Iran, or some kind of guided democracy or intelligent authoritarianism of the kind some people see as having emerged in Russia, all these issues are secondary. There has not been and there will not be a global triumph for liberal democracy.

One reason, by the way, why there won't be is that much of the world consists of broken states, fragmented or corroded states, failed states or semi-failed states, and you can't have democracy in a semi-failed state.

This is the one of the reasons why I think there won't be lasting democracy in Iraq, which was turned from being a Western-style despotism, essentially modelled partly on the former Soviet Union and partly on Nationalist Socialist Germany, into being a failed state, as it now is.

You can't have functioning democracy without a functioning modern state, and much of the world (parts of Africa, parts of Asia and parts of Europe, parts of the Balkans for example) consist of failed or semi-failed states, and will so consist for the foreseeable future.

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