Theories of Democratization and Democratic Reversals Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1900 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Government

¶ … causes of democratization it is necessary to understand what democracy means. In essence, democracy means 'government by the people' which is the institutionalization of power by the people and democratization is the process by which this happens. Through the history of man this institutionalization process has been difficult for most societies to accomplish. Most of history has witnessed a limited number of individuals possessing power, a group of elites. These elites have had a tendency to extend power beyond their group so that the elite maintain its status as the ruling class. Due to a variety of factors including poor communication technology, insufficient funds, and lack of access to the necessary weaponry the majority of society has been denied the opportunity of taking part in governmental affairs.

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The process of democratization has, therefore, been highly unlikely under normal conditions in most of history's various societies. The process operated successfully for a short period in Ancient Greece and in a different form in the glory days of the Roman Empire but until the United States was finally organized following the American Revolution it did not establish any permanency. The government in the United States was the first modern day example where the balance of power between the elite and masses was theoretically equalized and even the early U.S. government did not qualify as a true democratic state as universal suffrage was not available in the United States until the early 20th century. Participation in early America and other democracies that followed granted participation to only those who were propertied and true democracy demands that every citizen have the right to participate in the democratic process. Yet, the American experience was a step toward the process of democratization and has been, largely, successful.

Term Paper on Theories of Democratization and Democratic Reversals Assignment

Even though contrary arguments will be made democracy and democratization are about power. It originates where the conditions are ripe for the placing of the resources of power in the hands of a wide proportion of society. Those in authority cannot have access to the tools of power without the cooperation of the masses. Where those in power are not subject to the will of the masses and hold all the tools of power governments characterized as absolutism, despotism, or autocracy exist.

The world has recently undergone what most political scientists refer to as the third wave of democratization. (Actually some political scientists refer to the situation occurring in Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union as a fourth wave. For purposes of this paper, this issue is unimportant.) Since the collapse of the Soviet Union many former Communist nations had the opportunity choose to join the ranks of democracies but only eight, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, and Croatia have decided to do so. The remaining nations that had the opportunity to adopt democracy as a governmental form have chosen to either become dictatorships or some other form of undefined government. The question is why did some states abandon communism for democracy while others decided to go in another direction?

Prior to this third wave of democratization the prevailing thought was that how the transition occurred from one form of government to the other influenced how the new government was organized. It was theorized that democracies occurred where the balance of power between the elite class and the masses was relatively equal (Huntington). This situation was conducive to the formation of a democracy because neither side had the capacity to use force effectively against the other so that both sides had to negotiate the delegation of power. This resulted in both sides designing a government where there were checks and balances against the power base of the other side. Such governments were not based on any strong ideology or democratic beliefs. They were governments of convenience that accommodated the desires of two sides in avoiding further conflict.

In the governments that were organized after the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, this pattern did not develop. As the majority of nation states that had the opportunity to adopt a democratic form of government after such collapse did not do so, it is interesting to note that democracy developed in countries where democrats enjoyed a considerable power advantage. Therefore, unlike the traditional situation, the democracy that emerged was not the result of power sharing and neutralization, but rather, it was the result of the democrats holding a power advantage and, thereby, essentially forcing said concepts upon the masses. Conversely, in the nations where dictators held a power advantage some form of authoritarian government emerged. The old pattern of democracy developing out of a need to compromise and protect differing sides' interests was abandoned and the centuries old pattern of the elite deciding the form of government was followed.

Those who study the process of democratization recognize very few prerequisites for the formation of democracies. There are two, however, generally accepted paths. The first such path is democracy by imposition where the soft-liners from the prior regime set the agenda for transition to the new democratic form of government and the second such path is a pacted transition where the soft-liners and moderates compromise between themselves in an effort to reach a comfortable accommodation. Historically, democracy by imposition has been unsuccessful while the pacted approach has enjoyed better results (Fukuyama). With the limited exception of post-war Germany and Japan, the imposition of democracy upon a nation has met with very limited success. The success in Germany and Japan was dictated largely by the continued financial, economic, and structural support of the United States and its allies. The support of the United States was able to allow democratic institutions to develop inside both nations that smoothed the transition from autocratic to democratic rule (Steinmo). In other areas where democracy by imposition was attempted, however, such as South Korea, South Vietnam, Sudan, and various Latin and South American countries the process was presumptively unsuccessful. This lack of success was marked by an inability of the system to protect the economic interests of former members of the elite. The elite, who by nature are reluctant to share power and riches, viewed any attempt at economic or political reform as dangerous and destabilizing and, as a result, because democratization was imposed upon them, they were quick to abandon the process.

In a pacted democratization process, however, negotiations over contested issues such as wealth and power are likely to result in more lasting accommodations. Compromise reduces the power and influence of groups with special interests. Although neither side of the issue achieves its optimal outcome, all sides achieve relative gains and the role of radicals is minimized.

As indicated earlier, the establishment of durable and stable democracies in Germany and Japan were the result of a highly committed power in the form of the United States. The economic and military presence in both nations was strong and continuous which was able to overcome any internal pressures within both countries to abandon the democratic process. In time, democratization took hold in Germany and Japan and democratic institutions were allowed to develop and prosper. These two examples, however, are the exception to democracy by imposition.

The more successful form of democratization is the situation where it is indigenous, where it is the result of pacted agreements. In situations where democracy emerges through the efforts of democratic actors who are responding to political, social, economic, and demographic pressures the chances of a successful democratic government being formulated are much stronger. In such situations there is a philosophical basis for the movement toward democracy. This philosophical basis provides an ideological framework for the ultimate survival of the democracy and its survival is not based on imposition by some form of outside source. Democratization is internal and grassroots. It does not come from above.

Another factor that increases the possibility that democratization might work in any particular nation is the relative degree of ethnic diversity inside said nation. In the case of both Germany and Japan, there was essentially no ethnic diversity in either nation. Both countries were among the most homogenous countries in the world while in areas of Latin America, Africa, and South America where democracies have failed the cultures are far more diversified and the differences between the cultures present a significant impediment to a lasting democratic government. Diversity, however, is not always a serious impediment to democratization. Obviously the United States has one of the most diverse societies in the world as does Canada and India and all three have enjoyed long standing democracies. The difference is that all three of these nations have always enjoyed a long history of being exposed to democratic government and ideals. In the case of the United States the colonies from the country were created all had extensive with self rule where some measure of equality was enjoyed by the cases. Similarly Canada had virtually the same experience and India in its long period as a colony of Great Britain had the advantage… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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