Democratization

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Democratization is the transition from an authoritarian or a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic political system.

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[edit] Factors affecting democratization

There is considerable debate about the factors which affect or ultimately limit democratization. A great many things, including economics, culture, and history, have been cited as impacting on the process. Some of the more frequently mentioned factors are:

  • Wealth. A higher GDP/capita correlates with democracy. There is also the general observation that democracy was very rare before the industrial revolution and that most stable democracies are wealthy. There is debate about whether democracy is a consequence of this wealth, a cause of it, or completely unrelated to it. Some campaigners for democracy believe that as economic development progresses, democratization will become inevitable. Even if there are free elections in poor nations, a poorly educated and illiterate population may elect populist politicians who soon abandon democracy and become dictators.
  • The resource curse theory suggests that states whose sole source of wealth derives from abundant natural resources, such as oil, often fail to democratize since such wealth does not change the political-economic structure.
  • Capitalism. Some claim that democracy and capitalism are intrinsically linked. This belief generally centers on the idea that democracy and capitalism are simply two different aspects of freedom. A widespread capitalist market culture may encourage norms such as individualism, negotiations, compromise, respect for the law, and equality before the law. These are seen as supportive for democratization. By contrast, many Marxists would claim that capitalism is inherently undemocratic, and that true democracy can only be achieved if the economy is controlled by the people as a whole rather than by private individuals.
  • A large middle class. According to some, the existence of a substantial body of citizens who are of intermediate wealth can exert a stabilizing influence, allowing democracy to flourish. This is usually explained by saying that while the upper classes may want political power to preserve their position, and the lower classes may want it to lift themselves up, the middle class simply has less use for power, and is therefore unlikely to pursue non-democratic means of achieving it.
  • Civil society. A healthy civil society (NGOs, unions, academia, human rights organizations) are considered by some theorists to be important for democratization, as they give people a unity and a common purpose, and a social network through which to organize and challenge the power of the state hierarchy.
  • Homogeneous population. Some believe that a country which is deeply divided, whether by ethnic group, religion, or language, cannot establish a working democracy. The basis of this theory is that the different components of the country will be more interested in advancing their own position than in sharing power with each other.
  • Culture. It is claimed by some that certain cultures are simply more conductive to democratic values than others. This view is likely to be ethnocentric. Typically, it is Western culture which is cited as "best suited" to democracy, with other cultures portrayed as containing values which make democracy difficult or undesirable. This argument is sometimes used by undemocratic regimes to justify their failure to implement democratic reforms. Today, however, there are many non-Western democracies. Examples include India, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, Namibia, Botswana, Taiwan, and South Korea.
  • Previous experience with democracy. According to some theorists, the presence or absence of democracy in a country's past can have a significant effect on its later dealings with democracy. Some argue, for example, that it is very difficult (or even impossible) for democracy to be implemented immediately in a country that has no prior experience with it. Instead, they say, democracy must evolve gradually. Others, however, say that past experiences with democracy can actually be bad for democratization — a country, such as Pakistan, in which democracy has previously failed may be less willing or able to go down the same path again.
  • Foreign intervention. Some believe that foreign involvement in a democratization is a crucial factor in its success or failure. For some, foreign involvement is advantageous for democracy—these people believe that democracy should be actively promoted and fostered by those countries which have already established it, and that democracy may not otherwise take hold. Others, however, take the opposite stance, and say that democratization must come "from the bottom up", and that attempts to impose democracy from the outside are often doomed to failure. The most extreme form is military intervention to create democracy, with advocates pointing to the creation of stable democracies in Japan and Germany after WWII, while critics point out, for example, the failures of colonialism and decolonization to create stable democracies in most developing nations, where dictators often quickly took power after a brief democratic period following independence.

[edit] Other works related to democratization

A considerable amount of empirical research has been conducted on democratization, with scholars looking for patterns in the establishment of democracies around the world. The results have been varied, with different researchers coming to different conclusions.

In The Civic Culture and The Civic Culture Revisited, Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba (editors) conducted a comprehensive study of civic cultures. The main findings is that a certain civic culture is necessary for the survival of democracy. This study truly challenged the common thought that cultures can preserve their uniqueness and practices and still remain democratic.

Francis Fukuyama wrote another classic in democratization studies entitled The End of History and the Last Man which spoke of the rise of liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

Samuel P. Huntington wrote The Third Wave, partly as response to Fukuyama, defining a global democratization trend in the world post WWII. Huntington defined three waves of democratization that have taken place in history, with the latest wave marking its period through the present. It is considered by the Journal of Democracy, a periodical journal, as one of the most empirical approaches to democratization. Samuel Huntington also examined the cultural aspect in international interactions in his rather non-empirical writing the Clash of civilizations. He identified six civilizations of the world and elaborated the concept of a cultural clash between the "East" and the "West" marked by democratic and freedom values of the West.

One influential survey in democratization is that of Freedom House, which arose during the Cold War. The Freedom House, today an institution and a think tank, stands as one of the most comprehensive "freedom measures" nationally and internationally and by extension a measure of democratization. Freedom House categorizes all countries of the world according to a seven point value system with over 200 questions on the survey and multiple survey representatives in various parts of every nation. The total raw points of every country places the country in one of three categories: Free, Partly Free, or not Free.

One study simultaneously examining the relationship between capitalism (measured with one Index of Economic Freedom), economic development (measured with GDP/capita), and political freedom (measured with the Freedom House index) found that high economic freedom increases GDP/capita and a high GDP/capita increases economic freedom. A high GDP/capita also increases political freedom but political freedom did not increase GDP/capita. There was no direct relationship either way between economic freedom and political freedom if keeping GDP/capita constant.[1]

Other research suggest that economic development itself does not increase the chance for democracy. But if a nation becomes democratic, then nations with a higher economic development are more likely to remain democratic. Poor and democratic nations have a high chances of returning to dictatorship if they experience a period of declining growth.[2]

The probability for a civil war is increased by political change, regardless whether toward greater democracy or greater autocracy. Intermediate regimes continue to be the most prone to civil war, regardless of the time since the political change. In the long run, since intermediate regimes are less stable than autocracies, which in turn are less stable than democracies, durable democracy is the most probable end-point of the process of democratization.[3]

[edit] Democratization in other contexts

Although democratization is most often thought of in the context of national or regional politics, the term can also be applied to:

[edit] International bodies

[edit] Corporations

It can also be applied in corporations where the traditional power structure was top-down direction and the boss-knows-best (even a "Pointy-Haired Boss"); This is quite different from consultation, empowerment (of lower levels) and a diffusion of decision making (power) throughout the firm, as advocated by workplace democracy movements.

[edit] The Internet

The loose anarchistic structure of the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet itself have inspired some groups to call for more democratization of how domain names are held, upheld, and lost. They note that the Domain Name System under ICANN is the least democratic and most centralized part of the Internet, using a simple model of first-come-first-served to the names of things. Ralph Nader called this "corporatization of the dictionary."

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

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[edit] Further reading

For Democratization articles on the Middle East specifically see democracy in the Middle East

  • Thomas Carothers. Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve. 1999. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Josep M. Colomer. Strategic Transitions. 2000. Baltimore, Md: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Daniele Conversi. ‘Demo-skepticism and genocide’, Political Science Review, September 2006, Vol 4, issue 3, pp. 247-262
  • Frederic C. Schaffer. Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture. 1998. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Fareed Zakaria. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. 2003. New York: W.W. Norton.

[edit] External links

ja:民主化 pl:Demokratyzacja

Democratization

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