POLI 212 Lecture Notes - Mikhail Gorbachev
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APRIL 16, 2012:
Change began within the elite, society is politicized. Once civil society is politicized you
move into a phase of democratic transition, and the question becomes whether those
who have initiated change will be able to control the changes they introduced. Then you
see polarization within the elite- depending on politics of this situation (hardliners vs.
Will democratic transition become politically consolidated?
This is a process initiated by individuals interested in reform to the soviet party state,
not fundamental change.
The opening (stage one): not a commitment or interest in democratization, but a
commitment to liberalization. The elite wanted to place limits on the power of the
soviet state, they want increased civil liberties. It included expanding the freedom of
political expression and association for individuals. It included easing restriction on
travel outside the soviet union and made emigration easier. This liberal opening also
involved increased tolerance for religious diversity. Even as these changes are
introduced, they are reforms controlled from above and are subject to rollback/changes
at any time. Liberalization is different from democratization. Possibility of replacement
w/ competitive elections, etc. this is what Siaroff calls minimal democracy or what
Kesselman and Kreiger call procedural democracy.
They are willing to entertain liberalization. A split in the regime occurs between
reformists and conservatives, and once that slit is confirmed in the elite there are
incentives for reforms to seek support outside of the ruling elite. When appeals for
support outside of the elite become visible/direct/public, you move into a different
phase of political change- democratization. What actors are doing is politicizing civil
society in order to improve their competitive condition in the elite.
“You keep up the pressure, we will press from the top, and you keep pressing from the
bottom. Only in this way will change proceed.” –Gorbachev
this will harden the position between hard liners and soft liners, b/c reforms are
signalling their willingness to polarize the political centre to win the battle within the
Then the question becomes whether or not the political centre will hold. In the early
stages of reform, soft liners have an advantage because opposition to them is not yet
well organized. But over time, it becomes more possible to think about direct changes
to the political regime:
Reform can go wrong at this point
1) if hardliners are successful in their pushback and can roll back the reform (they are
interested in change if it is only cosmetic).
2) if associations are empowered by the politicization of society, and it become much
more difficult to control the reform. The reforming elite now has a state in change
Eventually, the reform faction loses its ability to credibly threaten domestic opposition
organized in civil society.
The pushback from hardliners occurs in 1991 (Read K&K)
Carothers: a criticism of Bova’s piece.
Distinction between transition and consolidation of democracy: consolidation is
achieved when political actors are willing to play by the rules of the game.
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