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Memory and Democracy


Barbara A. Misztal American Behavioral Scientist 2005 48: 1320 DOI: 10.1177/0002764205277011 The online version of this article can be found at: http://abs.sagepub.com/content/48/10/1320

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Memory and Democracy


BARBARA A. MISZTAL
University of Leicester, United Kingdom

This article reconstructs and evaluates prevalent assumptions in the literature about links between collective memory and democracy. There are widespread assertions that memory is important for democratic community to achieve its potential, avoid dangers of past crimes, and secure its continuation. These assertions assume collective memory as a condition for freedom, justice, and the stability of democratic order. This article considers these assumptions with equally popular counterpropositions, arguing that memory presents a threat to democratic community because it can undermine cohesion, increase the costs of cooperation, and cause moral damage to civil society by conflating political and ethnic or cultural boundaries. The relationship between memory and democracy is discussed, along with the intermediate notions of identity, trauma, and ritual. The article concludes that what matters for democracys health is not social remembering per se but the way in which the past is called up and made present. Keywords: memory; democracy; past wrongdoings; forgetting

This article reconstructs and evaluates some prevalent assumptions about links between collective memory and democracy. Looking at various theories about the role of collective memory in the functioning of democratic systems, it appears there are widespread assertions that memory is important for democratic community for three reasons: to guarantee justice, to achieve its potential, and to secure its continuation. Equally popular are counterpropositions arguing that memory presents a threat to democratic community because it can undermine cohesion, increase the costs of cooperation, and cause moral damage to civil society by conflating political and ethnic or cultural boundaries. Social analysis is challenging, even more so when using slippery labels such as democracy and collective memory. Such indeterminism entails a fundamental pluralism of meanings as captured by Gallies (1955) notion of essential contestability. Freeden (1997) observed that the intension of any political concept contains more components than any particular instance can hold at a given time (p. 749). Collective memory is also a concept defined and interpreted in many different ways, so memory and democracy in one sentence may seem confusing, particularly when combined with discussions about identity, solidarity, guilt, trauma, freedom, justice, and stability.
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The proliferation of the debate about the relationships between memory and democracy reflects the growing popularity of the notion of memory in academic discourse. The significance of memories for historical and social inquiries has increased due in part to the cultural turns proposition that history, as another form of narration, does not have any particular claims to truth and by the interactionist approachs use of biography in understanding our lives. Consequently, from the end of the 1980s, we have witnessed the spread of studies of collective memory, seen as part of cultures meaning-making apparatus (Schwartz, 2000, p. 17). This extraordinary increase in the interest in memory as a subject for study in the humanities and social sciences has been fuelled by developments such as the revival of fierce debates concerning the Holocaust and the Vichy regime and the impressive number of civic anniversariesfrom the U.S. bicentennial to the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II (Ashplant, Dawson, & Roper, 2001; Kammen, 1995). Defining collective memory as a social fact has been challenging for social scientists not only because conceptualizations of collective memory have complex relations with myth and history but also because collective memory is seen as performing many functions, operating on many different levels, and is assigned multiple meanings. The difficulty of defining collective memory, or memory in other forms, is magnified further by the fact that things that we remember individually are of many different kinds and we remember them for different, individual, reasons. For example, we can talk about autobiographical memory, cognitive memory, habitual memory, and collective or social memory, which is our main concern here. Collective memory is social in origin and influenced by dominant discourses, but memory is also the faculty of individual minds. Although it is the individual who remembers, remembering is more than a personal act, as even the most personal memories are embedded in social context and shaped by social factors that make social remembering possible, such as language, rituals, and commemoration practices. This is the main assumption of the intersubjective sociology of memory, which sees the individual as the agent of remembering and argues the nature of what is remembered is profoundly shaped by a what has been shared with others so that what is remembered is always a memory of an intersubjective past of past time lived in relation to other people (Misztal, 2003, p. 6). So, although the act of remembering feels like a highly personal act, collective memory is a kind of socially accepted currency, which we have all learnt. In the mid-1990s, the focus on collective memory shifted; not just any memory but traumatic memory attracted the attention of a growing number of scholars. Assigning new value to traumatic memory, in a society without living memory (Nora, 1996) and in a society that encourages people to search for their authentic identities, resulted in an enhancement of the sacred status of memory or the sacralization of memory (Misztal, 2004). This shift raised concerns such as, Did the ethical burden prompted by viewing memory as the surrogate of the soul and the possible overrating of the role of identity politics result in the

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displacement of public concerns with private ones? And what kind of memory is compatible with just, pluralist, and cohesive democracies? The issue of the nature of relationships between memory and democracy entered public debates partly because of political apologies for past wrongdoings, for example, the Popes apologies to Jews and to Aboriginals; Japans prime minister apologizing for his countrys World War II crimes; an apology from the Canadian prime minister to Canadas indigenous population; an apology from the Polish prime minister to Ukrainians; the U.S. governments apology and compensation to American citizens of Japanese descent for their internment during World War II; and notably, Australian Prime Minister John Howards refusal to apologize to Australian Aboriginals, resulting in Australians establishing an annual Sorry Day. Hence, we witness the emergence of new political rituals, which are concerned with the stains of the past, with selfdisclosure, and with ways of re-remembering once taboo and traumatic events. Warner (2003) viewed apology as a secularized ritual and argued it grows out of identity politics and its particular aspect of victimhood (p. 11). Warner argued that apology has become a very powerful instrument of recognition and retention or refusal to give one withholds that recognition with new sharpness (p. 13). But is political apology a remedy, and do ritual and the confessional process enhance democratic values and institutions? Links between democracy and memory are not solely a theoretical problem. The end of the cold war brought many new democracies and new issues about how to define national past or how to define the role of collective memory in the institutionalization of democracy. The third wave of democratization as conceived by Huntington (1991) has brought an explosion of previously suppressed collective memories and adjoining dilemmas of how to address past wrongdoings. In postcommunist Eastern Europe, South Africa, and some newly democratized Latin American countries, debates about links between memory and democracy have been more than rhetorical battles because the debates have influenced what political policies are adopted (such as adopting decommunization policies). Political controversies concerning the use and significance of memory can resemble or reflect incoherencies in sociological and political theories. In what follows, I present arguments and counterarguments in the debate about the value of memory for democracy. While summarizing each exposition of the negative and positive consequences of the use of memory, I show the difficulties and complexities of the process of judging the act of putting the past in the service of the present. REMEMBERING AS A CONDITION OF JUSTICE The argument that collective memory is a condition for justice is based on the idea that healthy democratic nations do acknowledge and reconcile their past

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pathologies and crimes so as not to repeat them, censor history, or forget victims. According to Avishai Margalit (2002), the ideal answer to Hitlers question Who today remembers the Armenians? is We all do (p. 78). Acknowledging past crimes is an essential element in the process of a countrys transition to democracy because if democracy means the revival of the legal impulse in men, addressing wrongdoings is the first essential step in this direction (Weschler, 1990, p. 242). According to this perspective, truth about the past is a human right, underscored by the need for recognition of a countrys or corporations responsibility for injustices done in the past. Adorno (1986) argued that a culture of forgetting threatens democracy because real democracy requires a self-critical working through of the past. While analyzing Nazi history, Adorno observed, The effacement of memory is more the achievement of an all-too-wakeful consciousness than it is the result of its weakness in the face of the superiority of unconscious processes (p. 1117). Ricoeur (1999, pp. 9-12) argued that both memory and forgetting contribute in their respective ways to the continuation of societies. But there is no symmetry between a duty to remember and a duty to forget because it is only by remembering that we can construct the future, transmit the meaning of past events to the next generation, and become heirs of the past. The duty to forget is a duty to go beyond anger and hatred, whereas the duty to remember keeps alive the memory of suffering over against the general tendency of history to celebrate victors (Ricoeur, 1999, p. 9). Habermas (1997), aware of limits to what an ethics of forgetting can achieve, also emphasized community responsibility for a shared history and its moral accountability, although within the limits of the past of the constitutional order. According to Habermas, we must accept the presence of the past as a burden on moral accountability; the Holocaust must never be forgotten or normalized. He expressed his opposition to the process of normalization in a very direct way when he criticized Reagans participation in a wreath-laying ceremony at a German military cemetery at Bitburg in 1985. This action was interpreted by some as a proclamation that fallen German soldiers and murdered Jews were equal victims of Nazi oppression. Public exchanges between prominent German scholars arguing for and against normalizing the Nazi past, coined the Historians Debate, brought public attention to hidden meanings of Holocaust history and the relationship between memory and justice. As one of the main protagonists in this debate, Habermas opposed questioning the uniqueness of the Holocaust and forgetting it by advocating the importance of the relationship between the public role of memory and national responsibility or the obligation that we in Germany haveeven if no one else longer assumes itto keep alive the memory of suffering of those murdered by Germans hand and to keep it alive quite openly and not just in our mind (Habermas as quoted in LaCapra, 1997, p. 97). After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Habermas continued to argue that the issues of fairness and balance require wide, public debates on how to interpret a countrys past.

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Regardless of shortcomings and an unfavorable political climate for international cooperation, the Nuremberg Trials of 1945 to 1946 (Luban, 1987; Taylor, 1971) brought the issue of collective memory and justice to the attention of the world. But it had no imitators for almost 50 years; only since the 1980s, and especially after the end of the cold war, have nations and international organizations increasingly begun to seek justice for past violations. More than 15 truth commissions have investigated aspects of human rights violations under authoritarian rule, including the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is important that criminal law generates the by-product of new interpretations of global history, as illustrated by trials of the Nazi collaborators Laval, Touvier, Bousquet, Barbie, and Fauvisson in France and by the arrest of former U.S.-backed Chilean dictator Pinochet. The Hague International Tribunal, the Tribunal on Genocidal Civil War in Rwanda, and the permanent International Criminal Court, with its worldwide jurisdiction concerning atrocities and genocide, are also evidence of the growing power of international assemblages to address specific injustices. How to reconcile with a Communist past is part of the public agenda of almost all newly democratized Eastern European countries. These countries have implemented polices such as lustration (screening the pasts of candidates to determine if they worked for, or collaborated with, Communist security forces), de-communization (the policy of excluding former Communist party officials from high public positions), and restitution of property (recompensation and rehabilitation of victims). Retroactive justice refers to how and why democratic regimes settle wrongs committed during an authoritarian era by the state and its agents (Elster, 1998). Elster (1998) suggested that coming to terms with the past is the grand narrative of the present. A new relationship between memory and justice is emerging in the aftermath of the postcold war expansion of human rights language and the increased search for identities and authentic cultures. The new status of the remembrance of past injustices is partly due to a global spread of the language of human rights and valorization of memories of injustice as essential to healthy democratic justice. FORGETTING AS A CONDITION FOR JUSTICE The argument that justice provides a strong link between memory and democracy is also widely opposed. The linguistic affinity between amnesty and amnesia raises many issues connected to dealing with past wrongdoings on the way to democracy. An historical example is called forth: While restoring Athenian democracy after the oligarchic coup and civil war of 404 B.C., democrats ruled that to live together again as a political community and ensure reconciliation, individual citizens were forbidden to recall the past (Cohen, 2001; Elster,

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1998; Ricoeur, 1999). Hence, selective amnesia was law; remembering past injustice was seen as bridging that rule and was a punishable offence. Cohen (2001) analyzed this first case of transitional justice and concluded that although it perhaps was not the example of total amnesia or complete social harmony, supporters of the oligarchy remained immune from prosecution. Consequently, social efforts to reconstruct and restore Athenian democracy enjoyed a long period of political stability. For liberals such as Hobbes (1967) or Rawls (1993), social amnesia is considered a foundation of society because it allows society to start afresh without inherited resentments. To achieve political and legal equality, through contract or covenant, the individual has to forget past injustices and social categories that were formerly marks of inequality (Wolin, 1989, p. 38). Liberalism builds on the tacit assumption that nations are given and that emotional solidarity and cultural identity are essential (Freeden, 1997), therefore, forgetting a not-so-glorious past rather than dwelling on it is a productive option. Ernst Renan (1882/1990) argued that forgetting is an essential element in the creation and reproduction of a nation, because to remember everything could bring a threat to national cohesion and self-image. According to Renan, forgetting is a necessary component in the construction of memory just as the writing of a historical narrative necessarily involves the elimination of certain elements. He pointed out that to remember everything could bring a threat to national cohesion and self-image and, therefore, insisted that the creation of a nation requires creative use of past events. Although nations could be characterized by the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories, the essence of a nation is not only that its members have many things in common but also that they have forgotten some things (Renan, 1882/1990, p. 11). To ensure national cohesion, there is the need to forget about violence and unity-threatening events and to remember heroes and glory days. After World War II, a need to reintegrate societies restricted nations desires to expose their pasts. The political climate of the postwar period favored forgiving and forgetting. In many countries, after the initial punishment of leading figures, there was a long period of silence. In France and Italy, after initial attempts to account for past wrongdoings and the initial stigmatization of collaborators, myths were constructed to gloss over the extent and depth of collaboration with the Nazi regimes. In postwar France, complex readjustments designed to defuse political discord by denying ideological reasons for the Nazi collaboration ensured that for many years, the truth was censored for national security. After World War II, both Gaullists and Communists offered a heroic reworking of the war in which Vichy was presented as an aberration involving only a few Frenchmen. The myth of resistance and the need for reconciliation dictated the vision of this official remembered past (Bernstein, 1992; J. Gross, 2000; Rousso, 1991). Italian politicians in the immediate postwar decades were quick to define themselves against a defeated enemy against whom all Italians could unite. Annual national celebrations of the end of the war focus on the German

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atrocities and the unity of the Italian nation in the struggle leading to postwar democracy. According to Herf (1997), early postwar era West Germany did not foster either memory and justice or democracy (pp. 7-9). It was characterized by social amnesia and weakening of memory, as the Holocaust was a source of taboos and prohibition in its politics. The West German government was reluctant to embrace the example of the allied tribunals at Nuremberg. The policy and practice of defusing the past and putting the past behind was based on the assumption that for the transition of West Germany to a stable democracy, it was politically necessary to adopt silence about the crimes of the period. Memory and justice might produce, it was argued, a right-wing revolt that would undermine a still fragile democracy (Herf, 1997, p. 7). The argument that too much remembering of the past can undermine intergroup solidarity resurfaced in the 1990s. Preoccupation with memory of past injustices could easily lead to social conflicts because it enhances the collective narcissism of minor differences that forms the basis of feelings of strangers and hostility between people (Blok, 1998, p. 33). As the recent bloody conflicts between different groups across Europe attest, the use of memories to close boundaries of ethnic, national, or other identities, and which accepts some versions of the past to be the true version, could aggravate conflicts. Groups that turn toward their past to glorify specific aspects of it and demand a recognition of suffering risk allowing collective memory to be used as a political instrument that legitimizes myths and nationalist propaganda. Such fascination with a particular collective memory might become an obstacle to democracy because groups compete for recognition of suffering, undermining the democratic spirit of cooperation. Ironically, coming to terms with the past can sometimes awaken stubborn resistance and bring about the exact opposite of what is intended. Dwelling on injustices may tragically lead to banalization of the memory of the injustice (consider the repeated television coverage of the Los Angeles Police Departments beating of Rodney King). Shared memory can also be an expression of nostalgia, which tends to distort the past by idealizing it (Margalit, 2002, p. 62); such idealization can diminish the collective memory as a source of truth. MEMORY AND A NEED FOR BOTH SOLIDARITY AND COHESION The link between memory of the past injustice and democracy is not straightforward. There are limits to what an ethics of forgetting can achieve because it can be divisive, costly, prolonging, and not satisfying to everybody. If democracy means cooperative relations, peaceful coexistence, and stability, the politicization of memory and danger of intergroup conflict can be too high a price to pay for addressing injustices. But we cannot escape the truth about past injustices by simply using censorship; attempts to silence oppositional memory

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often have the opposite effect (as, for example, the reoccurrence of the Vichy syndrome illustrates). People tend to reject the vision of the past that is not congruent with their own recollection and sense of truth. Some past events can be of such importance to people that they feel compelled to give their own accounts of events that may undermine more official or media-generated accounts (Schudson, 1997, p. 5). Osiel (1997, p. 113) noted that if a central power denies the reality of any groups memory and experience, it runs the risk of discrediting itself. Obviously, retrospective justice cannot rely solely on memory to render perfect justice anymore than judicial outcomes can capture the complexity of history. Addressing the problematic nature of coming to terms with the past, Sebald (2002) described Germans denial about their countrys devastation after the war. Sebald argued that the Germans tried to destroy their memory not only of what they had done but also of what was done to them. Although Sebald called for truthfulness about the past, he warned us that a longing for truthfulness redeems nothing. In his recent book Crabwalk, Gunter Grass (2002) made a case for a more inclusive past. The book, part documentary, part fiction, recalls the Soviet torpedoing of a cruise ship (the Wilhelm Gustloff) ferrying refugees near the Bay of Danzing in the Baltic in 1945. Crabwalk spotlights this tragedy in a duty to remember the suffering of Germans in the war. Similarly, Ingmar Bergmans 1977 film The Serpents Egg (staring David Carradine and Liv Ulmann) presents a chilling, fairly historically accurate and horrifyingly overlooked view of what life was like for the German people (and some nonGermans) caught in postWorld War I, pre-Nazi Germany during the time of massive inflation and crushing ostracism of Germany by the world, which lead ultimatelyand perhaps understandablyto the desperate, popular adoption of Nazism. In understanding (but not condoning) the wounds suffered by abusers (or those they lead), one can sometimes gain a perspective or sense of meaning about the cruel actions of abusers, sadists, tyrants, and despots. Margalit (2002) argued that remembering is our moral duty to others simply because we are all humans. It is our responsibility to make sure that the Holocaust, the Gulags, and Hiroshima are remembered as warning signposts in human moral history. Margalit argued for adopting a policy of forgiveness based on disregarding the sin rather than forgetting it (p. 197) because what is needed for successful forgiveness is not forgetting the wrong done but rather overcoming the resentment that accompanies it (p. 208). Remembering crimes against humanity is essential for sustaining solidarity and nourishing mutual care. Returning to Adorno (1986), he stated, Essentially, it is a matter of the way in which the past is called up and made present; whether one stops at sheer reproach, or whether one endures the horror through a certain strength that comprehends even the incomprehensible (p. 126). Healthy democracy welcomes collective memory from narrators whose credibility always can be questioned, balanced with the critical, scientific, and objective distance achieved by check-

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ing documents and archives, which inform us of the facts of what happened (Ricoeur, 1999). We depend on a plurality of contending narratives and the civility of rules in the management of social strains. What happened can be discovered under conditions of diversity and discourse by relying not on a single narrator, but rather on a plurality of contending voices speaking to one another (Sennett, 1998, p. 14). This means simultaneously providing space for the truth of groups painful memories and facilitating intergroup cooperation. Understanding the development of cooperative perspective on the present depends on criticism that breaks up habitual ways of thinking and closurethinking in terms of openness and relevance of memory for the restoration and/or the continuation of intergroup cohesion and solidarity. Hence, balancing solidarity and cohesion sometimes requires the generosity of forgetfulness and sometimes demands the honesty of remembrance. REMEMBERING: ESSENTIAL TO REACH DEMOCRATIC POTENTIALS Is collective memory an essential condition for democratic community to achieve its potential? Karl Deutsch (as quoted in Hosking, 1989, p. 119) argued that social remembering is essential for any extended functioning of autonomy, and emphasized the role of memory in mastering democratic institutions and improving the conditions of freedom. Memory, understood as a set of complex practices, contributes to our self-awareness and allows us to assess our potentialities and limits. Without reflection on memory and the checking of past records of institutions and public activities, we would have no warnings against potential dangers to democratic structures and less awareness of the repertoire of remedies. Without memory, observed Deutsch, would-be self-steering organizations are apt to drift with their environment because they are unable to reassess and reformulate their rules and aims in the light of experience (as quoted in Hosking, 1989, p. 119). This observation is supported by empirical studies that show lack of interest in and knowledge of the past tends to be accompanied by authoritarianism and utopian thinking; or as Gunn Allen (1999) stated, The root of oppression is loss of memory (p. 589). If publics in totalitarian regimes are presented as being robbed of their collective memories and identities, is it assumed that in democratic systems collective memory is the essential condition of reflexive judgment? Is democracy seen as the core case for the establishment of conscience, which consists in the recognition of moral duties and constraints? Without memory, reflexivity is diminished because our ability to make sense of our present circumstances is connected with what we have learned from prior experiences, which we retain in our memory. Memory is tied to what it is to be a persona critical medium through which identities are constituted. Hence, it can be seen as the guardian of

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difference, as it allows for recollection and preservation of our different selves, which we acquire and accumulate through our unique lives (Wolin, 1989, p. 40). Todays society is sometimes conceptualized as being terminally ill with amnesia (Huyssen, 1995, p. 1); and yet the recent passion for memory (Nora, 1996, p. 3) has established the topic of memory as a main discourse to explain the past and transform it into a reliable identity source for the group present. Thus, the need for identities is absorbed by groups memories. When the past is used as a base for a groups identity, collective memories assume a crucial role in the group self- formation, its mobilization and participation in the public sphere. Collective memory in civil society provides a source of categories through which a group constructs its identity; a necessary step in the development of the groups ability to speak in one voice or be a political actor in the process of its mobilization. Because a society draws a coherent identity from its communal memory, communal memory is the essential element in the process of activization of civil society, without which a democratic system cannot achieve its full potential. Collective memory may be a source of alternative solutions to emerging problems and, therefore, enhance democracys ability to change and improve. Society does not proceed from one organizational structure to another by abandoning all of its old institutions and traditions, as Halbwachs (1941/1992) convincingly argued. Halbwachs wrote,
When society becomes too different from what it had been in the past and from the conditions in which these traditions had arisen, it will no longer find within itself the elements necessary to reconstruct, consolidate, and repair these traditions. (p. 160)

Shared memories of democratic past are useful for evaluating whether new developments fit past occurrences in a confirming way. When the fit is imperfect, the past is at once an idealization and critique of the present world (Schwartz, 2000, p. 253). Collective memory may inspire and mobilize if the fit is imperfect, leaving enough discrepancy to allow for evaluations of the present. Collective memory can enhance creativity and enrich democratic systems. Cultivating memory may help expand imaginative thinking and creative potentials. Memory can provide democracy with the magic of emotions, affective ties, and meaningful identities. Heller (2001) suggested that the need for cultural memory is very strong and a Weberian slogan about the disenchantment of the world could be one of many failed predictions (p. 112). Memory, emotions, and magic can enchant the world, in Webers sense of the term. Pure society (based only on market relations) can not deliver all good that are still kept in store by communities (Heller, 2001, p. 112). Margalit (2002) argued we live in an animated world where mythmakers and poets provide legitimacy for regimes whose entitlement to govern is anchored in events of the past (p. 11)

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Similarly, Ortega y Gasset (1960) claimed modern people are empty because they do not remember, which means they cannot understand the present and lack imagination and inner desire to excel. Research confirms the connection between national remembering, emotions, and values such as patriotism, devotion, and group allegiance, which are all perceived as contributing to the quality of the political life (Misztal, 2003). IRRELEVANCE OF REMEMBERING IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY The claims just discussed are undermined by the argument that collective memory can be molded into an ideological weapon that may threaten democratic ways of thinking. Since the 19th century, memory has seemed the mechanism by which ideology materializes itself (Terdiman, 1993, p. 33). Ideologies provide an interpretation of the present and a view of a desired future. Memory, employed as official ideology, can be seen as a broad and to some degree, invented tradition that explains and justifies the ends and means of organized social action, supplying ways of understanding the world and providing people with beliefs and opinions that guide their action. Ideology acts as a form of social cement, providing social groups or societies with a set of unifying beliefs and values from which objectives are derived for political programs and actions. According to the invention of tradition paradigm, the connection between hegemonic order and official remembering is challenged by the need for new methods of establishing bonds of loyalty in the process of democratization. Due to the expansion of the electorate and because people are not predictable, there is a perceived need for official management of the past and present through the invention of tradition to ensure the continuity of popular loyalty. Creating new monuments, the invention of new symbols, and the rewriting of history books are ways that the state reorients democratic measures to new insecurities (Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983). According to this standpoint, the connection between memory and democracy manifests itself in a deliberately established connection in which collective memory is used to legitimatize government or corporate agendas. But it is also argued that democratic regimes do not need to recruit memory to secure their legitimacy, because a democracy anchors its legitimacy in the election. Habermas (1997) even argued that democracy does not need the organic unity of nationalism. He rejected the principle of the popular sovereignty as the expression of a Volk. Habermas hoped that the Berlin Republic offered the chance of a different normality from the normalization he feared conservatives were after. He thought that referendum, not a call to the common past, should provide legitimization to the republic. Habermas rejected the past as a source of legitimization of government or corporate agendas while calling for moral

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accountability for the national past. This demonstrates the tension between the liberal/constitutional construction of identity and the role of collective memory (Booth, 1999). Regarding negative aspects of particularistic memories, it is useful to rethink memory in terms of whether people employ collective memory in an open or closed way. An open-ended, nonfixed, nonpoliticized collective memory is good for cooperative relationships. As debates concerning the Polish and German past illustrate, countries that successfully separate their history from myths and distance it from national propaganda are capable of constructing new trust relationships and building more collaborative relations (Misztal, 1996). When memory narrative is characterized by closure and permanent inscription, it does not easily accommodate viewpoints of others (Josipovici, 1998). The difference between open-ended and fixed memory positions is especially visible when memories about traumatic events enter into dialog about establishing collective rights and voicing collective demands. If fabricated or contrived collective memories are imposed on groups, members may, or may not, feel deprived of their own authentic voice. In the case of politicization of group identities, group members may suffer from lack of equal opportunities and discrimination because of systematic neglect of alternative causes of group disadvantage other than their distinctive memory (Barry, 2001, p. 305). Although identity politics cannot fairly be said to undermine a political distribution (Gutmann, 2003, p. 23), groups that appear to elevate their identities above democratic standards of equal freedom and opportunity for all may arise suspicion. The idea that collective memory enhances democratic potentials is challenged by the observation that civil society can function without collective memory. Both Heller (2001) and Markus (2001) asserted that civil society can perform its role guided only by utilitarian consideration. Heller claimed civil society can work without cultural memory: It can operate smoothly through the clashes of interest and cooperation, to limited and future-oriented activities, and to its own short-term memories, without archives and without utopia but guided simply by utilitarian consideration (p. 1034). Civil society, like the market, does not require memory, as it is future oriented and seeks purposively oriented cooperation and does not seek cohesion. According to Markus, democratic imperatives, such as toleration and openness, can be achieved through the discursive mechanism of civil society. But the concept of civility (based in the recognition of the other as a bearer of basic and inalienable rights) does not theoretically encompass a role for collective memory. DEMOCRACY AND A CRITICAL APPROACH TO THE PAST Collective memory can enhance or reduce the democratic potential, depending on the extent to which the community adopts a critical and open approach to its past. Whether social memory enhances conflict or cooperation depends on its

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content and its openness or closedness. Josipovici (1998) elaborated on this theme in describing memory as the mastering of reality and memory as the compulsive repetition of gestures and clichs, memory as the mastering of that which is painful, and memory as the masochistic turning of the screw of pain (p. 2). Cooperative and tolerant behavior is more likely if people can critically evaluate their past in a safe, open, critical, and reflective environment. The importance of openness of memory is illustrated by Lyn Spillmans (1997) comparative study of the celebrations of national centennials and bicentennials in Australia and the United States, which shows how the United States and Australia adapted to changes in their political situations. Spillmans analysis reveals that the American founding moment remained a robust element of national collective memory because it offered multiple interpretive possibilities in a variety of contexts. Showing that there are many possible alternatives for a version of the past, Spillman demonstrated that the openness of the past in collective memory to oppositional politics results in the persistence of memory and its relevance for the future. In short, when memories were open, they persisted and provided people with a vision of the future, which represented the nation and its unity. A closed or fixed memory of events locks in an official authorized version of the memory and as such, can hinder cooperation between groups that may or may not agree with the authorized collective memory. For example, Serbs central memory of the lost Battle of Kosovo in 1389 symbolizes the permanent Muslim intention to colonize them and, therefore, it is an obstacle to mutual relations. In summary, collective memory that is used to close boundaries of ethnic, national, or other identities and accepts particular versions of the past as true can aggravate conflict, whereas collective memory that is open ended can be a lubricant for social cooperation. COLLECTIVE REMEMBERING AND THE STABILITY OF DEMOCRACY A third assumption about democracy and memory is that people who have experienced democracy and remember that experience help sustain the stability of this political system. This is not so much a theoretical as an historical argument, because historical examples support claims that collective memory of the democratic experience helps continue the legitimization of democracy and respect for its institutions and cultivates values of moderation. It appears that collective memory of a lived democratic past experience enhances the stability of a democracy. It is also argued that collective memory of a lived democratic past actually functions as orchestrated cultural practices to guarantee reproduction of a political order (which may call itself democratic). Institutional memory is made

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formal in documents such as a constitution and acquires renewed legitimacy in regular elections (Margalit, 2002, p. 12). Conflicts and their legacies and problems and their solution experiences, even if not experienced in an individual sense, ultimately shape the functioning of institutions and national culture. In examining Watergate, Schudson (1997) found that although Watergate does not play an important role in popular American memory, its legacy influences the functioning of American democracy. His study illustrates how the memory of the Watergate experience imposed itself on Americansperception and understanding of other political scandals, such as Iran/Contra-gate. The media coverage of Watergate was so successful that it generated government and corporate constraints on coverage of later scandals; so information about undemocratic actions by the U.S. government, and their aftermath, enters into American lives, laws, and language in ways that people and political elites only marginally control. Schudson commented, The past seeps into the present whether or not its commemoration is institutionalized (p. 15). The nation-state can function as a mnemonic community that socializes its citizens to what should be remembered and what should be forgotten. Governments and corporations can influence the depth of collective memory and even regulate how much people remember, and which part of the past should be remembered. That is why people who have experienced healthy democracy and value it can use their collective memory of that experience to generate prodemocratic values and dispositions. Mnemonic communities (democratic or otherwise) ensure that new members attain a required social identity and a particular cognitive bias by introducing and familiarizing members with the groups past. A communitys traditions express its essential values and equip the community with an emotional tone and style of its remembering. Memory of past democratic experience is one option for making sense of the world and a feeling of belonging, as well as a way of rethinking the present and the past, for it is not true that the only emotions that fit the democratic spirit are those directed toward the future, such as manifest destiny. Democrats or so-called democrats can and should include backwardlooking emotions and attitudes as well, such as forgiveness and gratitude (Margalit, 2002, p. 12). Arguments like these contain historical evidence that new democracies are fragile. Latin American democracies sometimes relapse into authoritarian regimes due in part to a lack of democratic experience and collective memory of that experience (Misztal, 1992). Conversely, previous experience of democracy helps set the stage for further democratization, for both politicians and citizens learn from the successful resolution of some issues (Rustow, 1970, p. 360). In Europe, Czechoslovakia was the only Eastern European country with a preWorld War II democratic experience, so it was perceived as having a chance to become a stable democracy after the collapse of communism.

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IRRELEVANCE OF MEMORIES IN STABILITY OF DEMOCRACIES Opponents of the argument that the stability of democracy rests on the existence of memories of the democratic past, although agreeing that nations need to establish their representation in the past, have asserted that what shapes societal aspiration for a stable, shared democratic future is the rediscovery of memories of the golden age and a heroic past (Smith, 1986). Not memories of recent years but appeals to the good old days, to the song, sights and smellsand link[s] . . . to the idea of the historical continuity of people, its culture and land (Wrong, 1994, p. 237), all contribute significantly to national stability and cohesion. Creation of such a past is the task of nationalist movements, which propagate ideology-affirming identification with the nation-state by invoking shared memories (Gellner, 1993) that are based more in myth rather than the shared experience and memory of healthy democracy. Another challenge to the idea that there is a relationship between memories of the democratic past and healthy democracy comes from a different direction. Today, societies have such a diversity of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and traditions that they may witness a cosmopolitization of their national collective memory. If the significance of national memories are diluted or fragmented, they lose their significance, then democratic memories are also less important. The processes of globalization and the increasing diversification and fragmentation of social interests enhance the transformation of collective memory from the master narratives of a nation to the episodic narratives of various groups (Levy & Sznaider, 2002). Collective memories of a democratic past become less significant because there is a lack of democratically (as opposed to authoritarian) oriented unity among a population with so much sociopolitical diversity. Nora (1996) observed that history was holy because the nation was holy (p. 5) and that historians provide legitimacy to the national history. But once the state is divorced from a nation, the collective of that past nation-state memory vanishes and history gives way to the legitimization of a new society. In other words, today, scholars may live with the subject of memory constantly on their lips, whereas ironically, the collective (or fragmented) memories of refugees of no-longer-existing nation-states seem useless. Decoupling collective memory from national history exposes the process of fragmentation of collective memory. Emerging ethnic groups are unified by collective cultural memories that provide a sense of unity. Battles between groups may ensue, for minorities rights are increasingly organized around questions of cultural memory, its exclusions and taboo zones (Huyssen, 1995, p. 5). In the context of an absence of a comprehensive nation-state memory, it is difficult to sustain argument about the role of shared memory of the democratic or other political systems past. And the politicization of mnemonic groups could undermine the stability of an existing democracy.

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Some scholars have maintained that each generation has autonomy to remake history and that each new generation takes its inheritance from its predecessor and can react against it, creating a new environment that again is the object of reaction (Davis, 1989). Democratic developments could be results of inversions and rejections of the past rather than the extension of existing images of the past. Perhaps recent European integration may be rooted in a unified effort to forget this continents divisive past? Often, democracy prevails not because of peoples collective memories but because of the capitalist economic and political conditions that are tied to and can strangle American democracy. The economic crises in pre-1939 Europe (in Germany and Austria) and more recently in Latin American show the connection between political and economic instability. In contrast to the previous assumption, democracy in postcommunist Eastern European countries, regardless of their lack of democratic tradition, may be stable due to a growing economy (a helpful condition for democracy). The stabilization of democracy in these countries is enhanced by external reinforcement of the legitimacy of democracy, their negative experience of undemocratic politics in the past, and the seductive potential of consumerism, future capital accumulation, and free enterprise. DEMOCRACY AND WAYS OF INVOKING THE PAST Social memory is crucial for change and stability. It can be a source of mobilization for the reproduction and the modification of a political system. Memory is part of telling the story of the past and will become a condition of social harmonious coexistence, if social trust is not undermined. The extension of trust depends on the actors reinterpreting their collective past in such a way that trusting cooperation comes to seem a natural feature of their common heritage (Sabel, 1993, p. 107). To ensure trust and to avoid conflicts, there is a need for a critical evaluation of social memory, which can be achieved only if we understand the contested nature of the past. The present can be seen from an entirely new perspective by juxtaposing rather than integrating the past and the present (D. Gross, 1993-1994, p. 6). A self-conscious way of invoking the past and turning memory into a source of mobilization can be contrasted with shared memory as expressed in legacythat is, a memory of abstract things such as attitudes and principles (Margalit, 2002, p. 60). Social memory, as a stabilizing factor in social systems, is not something that brings back past events but rather, a control mechanism that we use to sort relevant from irrelevant information. According to Luhmann (2002), memorys true function consists not in remembering but forgetting. Only by forgetting can a people reorient itself toward the future. Collective memories of a political system may serve either to reject or to consolidate a sociopolitical structure.

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CONCLUSION In conclusion, this article discusses controversies, confusions, and the complexity of the relationship between memory and democracy. Collective memory can enhance or reduce democracy depending on the extent to which the community adopts a critical and open approach to its past. It appears that what matters for democracys health is not social remembering per se but the way in which the past is called up and used. Remembering is not a remedy for all problems, as certain matters require the generosity of forgetfulness; but open and reflexive public recollection can help make social life less alienated, autocratic, or dogmatic and more meaningful, decent, and creative. In short, memory is of value for democracy when it is conducive to democratic justice. REFERENCES
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