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The normative challenge of interaction: Justice conflicts in democracy promotion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2013

Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Baseler Str. 27–31, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Baseler Str. 27–31, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany


In the global ‘North-West’, liberal democracy is regarded as the universally valid model of political rule that is to be promoted globally via foreign and development policies. Democracy promotion, however, is frequently challenged by justice-related claims. Whereas external democracy promoters claim to help enforce universal individual rights, those resisting democracy promotion point to the collective entitlement to a self-determined political evolution. ‘North-Western’ governments see liberal democracy as the only embodiment of a just political order, but in those countries that are the targets of democracy promotion different understandings of appropriate norms and institutions may exist. Contestation of democracy promotion has, therefore, a crucial normative dimension that can be conceptualized as a series of conflicts over justice. If we conceive of external democracy promotion as a process of interaction instead of unidirectional export or socialization, such justice conflicts constitute a major normative challenge to democracy promoters. The paper argues for an alternative perspective on ‘democracy promotion as interaction’ and presents a typology of justice conflicts that will, in future research, enable us to empirically analyse the normative challenges brought about by the interactive nature of democracy promotion.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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