As indicated in my profile, my research is organised within two programmes. The first focuses on the past, present and future of democracy. The second focuses on the political history, historical sociology and political economy of New Zealand since 1935 (although my research in this programme occasionally goes back much earlier to Maori society prior to white settler colonisation). My planned NZ focused research will be described in a separate entry.
Within the democracy research programme, my most important publication is my recent book: The History of Democracy ISBN 978-0-7453-3189-8, published by Pluto Press (London) in 2013. Translated editions are forthcoming in China, Germany and Turkey.
Links to reviews of this book can be found on this blog at: http://briansroper.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/reviews-of-history-of-democracy.html
The next book within this programme, which I am currently working on, is entitled: The Future Socialist Society. The title is inspired by, and borrowed with permission from, an outstanding pamphlet by John Molyneux (available among other places in Arguments for Revolutionary Socialism, Second Edition, Bookmarks, London, 1991, pp. 82-109).
This book addresses four key questions: What makes socialism necessary? What makes socialism possible? What are likely to be the central features of socialism beyond capitalism? What makes socialism desirable?
In response to these questions, it argues that the scale of exploitation and inequality, recurring and increasingly global economic crises, inter-state geopolitical rivalry and military conflict, global warming, and the absence of substantive democracy within liberal democracies, underlines the necessity of socialism.
The capitalist development of the productive forces, historical progressiveness of liberal representative democracy, despite its obvious limitations, and increasing size of the working class on a global scale, makes socialism possible.
In order to identify what socialism beyond capitalism might be like the book then turns to a consideration of the historical antecedents of socialist participatory democracy, focusing on the aspects of democracy in a future socialist society that will to varying degrees draw upon some of the positive features of Athenian democracy, liberal representative democracy, and historical attempts to create socialism such as the Paris Commune and Russian Revolution.
Building upon the experience of previous attempts to create participatory forms of democracy, including some of those that have taken place more recently, the book describes the social, economic and political arrangements that will be necessary if a socialist society is to be qualitatively more egalitarian, libertarian, peaceful, democratic and environmentally sustainable than advanced capitalist civilisation.
One of the most common objections to socialism is the argument that all conceivable attempts to create socialism by revolutionary means will inevitably degenerate into some kind of authoritarianism, especially if the revolutionary government is forced to defend itself by military means. This leads Bobbio, Held, and others to argue that socialism can only be created within the institutional framework of representative democracy.
Against this view, I argue that there are likely to be a series of constitutional protections and institutional mechanisms at the core of a radically democratic workers’ state that will prevent the revolution from degenerating into authoritarianism. Ultimately the real threat of authoritarianism arises from the defenders of capitalism who support violent counter-revolution. The best way to defend and foster liberty is to focus, in theory and in practice, on the collective creation of a socialist society and democratic system of government that transcends both capitalism and liberal representative democracy.
Above all else, what makes socialism desirable is the creative imagining, and actual possibility of collectively building, a world that is more egalitarian, libertarian, democratic, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable.