Patrick Holden, 'Developing Polyarchy? The European Union and Its Structural Policies for Middle Eastern Neighbours' (2010) 15 European Foreign Affairs Review, Issue 5, pp. 589–609
European Union (EU) pursues a long-term structural approach to political development and modernization, in which ethical considerations blend with security and economic objectives. The concept of polyarchy offers a plausible model of the EU’s vision. It is used by liberal political scientists to denote an open, pluralist political, and socio-economic system. More critical political economy theorists emphasize the constraining and insulated features of capitalist polyarchy (which is understood as a sophisticated but anti-democratic system). The EU’s strategy and impact can be critiqued in regard to both concepts: the liberal vision of polyarchy and the radical interpretation of this as a relatively diffuse but hegemonic system. In regard to its policies for Egypt, one notes an effort to develop social democracy, participatory development, small businesses, and general pluralism. However, the bulk of its policies continue to support pre-existing elites and the transnational sector of the economy, with a limited role for civil society. Thus, the EU’s activity lends itself to the more hegemonic interpretation of polyarchic development. This does not mean that this is how Egypt will actually develop. EU policies are refracted through Egyptian institutions and have complex, multifaceted, impacts on socio-economic and political structures.
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