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Global Protests Won’t Power New Democratic Wave

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- This year has been one of vibrant and daring social protest, closing with the tumult in Ukraine and Thailand. Disturbances have taken place even in ultra-stable Singapore. Protests have rumbled on intermittently in several austerity-afflicted European countries, and during the summer mass demonstrations in Turkey and Brazil filled the media. Citizens across the world, it seems, are bravely taking up W.H. Auden’s famous injunction “to undo the folded lie ... the lie of Authority/Whose buildings grope the sky.”

The occurrence of so many protests within such a short space of time invites the thought that a new international wave of citizen-led democracy is upon us. Analysts have long talked about the incipient emergence of a cosmopolitan civil society. Many academics and activists see global civic mobilization as the social counterpart to economic globalization: An internationalization of protest and citizen power can, they insist, mitigate the disenfranchising effects of financial globalism. The protests seem to counter-balance notions of cultural relativism, as pictures capture Brazilians, Turks, Ukrainians, Italians, Russians, Egyptians and Thais engaged in similar street battles. No wonder hopes are high for what might be termed a new “democratic cosmopolitanism.”