PAST EXAM PREP
Q1) "Modernization theory" would not expect sub-Saharan Africa (the poorest region in the world)
to have many democratic states. According to Diamond (in Chapter 11), what characteristics does
the region possess that make it difficult for democracy to succeed? What is "neopatrimonialism"
and how does it undermine democracy? According to Cheeseman, why are term limits good for
democracy & why do ruling parties in sub-Saharan Africa struggle in elections without an
incumbent? Despite these obstacles, democracy has taken hold in Sub-Saharan Africa to a much
greater extent than modernization theory predicts. What do you believe accounts for this?
A)In terms of democracy & rule of law, Africa is a desert, remaining as 1 of the most corrupt & badly
governed regions of the world. Africa does poorly on all measures of assessment of a country's quality of
governance developed by Daniel Kaufmann (& colleagues) at the World Bank Institute. It fares a little
better on the political measures of accountability & stability, but slightly worse on the measures of rule of
law, corruption control, regulatory quality & government effectiveness.
Oil and aid are 2 elements that make it difficult for democracy to succeed in Africa. Oil & aid function in
a similar fashion, both providing external rents that ruling elites can easily capture for themselves
(personal uses). Oil & aid both enable economic irrationality & waste. Both fund the state vehicle of
repression & patronage that sustains corrupt & unpopular governments. Both cut bonds of accountability
b/w rulers & the ruled. Finally, both feed the African monster of politics - corrupt, lawless personal rule.
Post-colonial African states have been neopatrimonial. Neopatrimonialism is a system of social hierarchy
where patrons use state resources in order to secure the loyalty of clients in the general population.
African states thus combine the formal architecture of a modern bureaucratic state w/ the informal reality
of personalized, unaccountable power & pervasive patron-client ties. These ties radiate down from the
biggest "big man" - the autocratic president - to his lieutenants & allies, who in turn serve as patrons to
lower level power brokers & down to the broken mass of ordinary citizens. These ordinary citizens are
trapped in relations of dependence on & support for their local political patrons.
In such systems, informal norms always trump formals rules & restraints. An office doesn't hold the right
to rule but an individual person does. Subordinates pay loyalty to their personal patrons rather to laws and
institutions. Reports state that in 2006, Nigeria's civilian & military officials stole or wasted some $380
billion of the country's oil wealth during its 1st four decades of independence. Richard Joseph calls
entrenched corruption → Prebendalism. Thus, corruption, clientelism & personal rule seep into the
culture, making the system more sturdy. Also, presidents of countries in Africa decides his ethnic kin as
the most reliable loyalists & decides to support them in the struggle for power. This makes the system
unstable, as identity, power & resource conflicts mix in a volatile(erratic) brew, prone to explosion. The
fundamental purpose of neopatrimonialism and prebendal govts is not to produce public goods but to
produce private goods for those who hold or have access to political power. Contracts are not given based
on the quality of deliverance but who can pay the biggest bribe. Budgets are steered to projects that can
readily generate bribes.
Neopatrimonial rule eventually collapses under economic irrationality: it is a system of consumption, not
investment & production. Foreign aid simply delays the day of accountability of patrons & corrupt rulers.
According to Cheeseman, term limits are good for a democracy for the following purposes:
1) Transfers of power help remove entrenched, corrupt, authoritarian parties from power.
2) Turnover is a sign that key actors have a genuine commitment to democracy
3) Seeing a ruling party gracefully accept defeat sets a good precedent (ex) for following the rules & it
Page 1 of 4 Also, ruling parties struggle w/o an incumbent (existing holder of a pol office) b/c of following
1) New candidates can't point to a record of accomplishments & have trouble raising money.
2) There may be distance b/w the incumbent & his party's new candidate
3) African voters identify more w/ a particular individual than a party.
It is a known fact that many elections in African countries such as Nigeria & Uganda. However, Posner
and Young report that since 1990, Africa's politics have grown less violent & more institutionalized.
Although elections continue to be manipulated & rigged, they have become increasingly regular &
frequent. However, electoral alternation has significant positive effects on public support for democracy.
Even if they have not been free & fair, it appears that the repeated holding of competitive elections has
produced gradual improvements in civil liberties by enhancing the democratic consciousness of citizens,
strengthening civic orgs & mass media.
Posner & Young also offer 2 explanations as to why democracy has taken hold to a much greater extent.
1) African presidents feel more international pressure. More foreign aid is given to countries where
presidents don't attempt to secure 3 terms of office. 2) Other factor is public opinion. African publics are
as awakened, attentive & active now as they have never been before. W/ higher expectations their
readiness & organizational abilities to challenge abuse of power are greater.
Moreover, NGOs & civic groups are teaching people their rights & obligations as citizens, making them
demand accountability from their rulers, monitoring elections & lobbying for legal reforms & to improve
the quality & transparency of governance. They draw strength from funding & intern. donors but also
from strong interactions w/ one another.
2) The "Arab Spring" represents a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests across the
Middle East and North Africa, with an aim to transform authoritarian regimes to democratic ones.
What are some of the motivations of Arab Spring protesters? According to Diamond in Chapter 12,
who are Islamists? According to Way, why might democracy not spread quickly or last in the Arab
world? Do you believe that Islamism and liberal democracy can co-exist within the same
The Arab Spring is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction w/ the rule of local
governments. Numerous other factors such as wide gaps in income levels, human rights violations,
dictatorship, political corruption, economic decline, unemployment have also led to the protests. Arab
Spring Protesters have a variety of demands :
1) Democracy: Arabs want a say in how their own governments create policy as opposed to the
dictatorships in the Arab World that disguise as republics when there are no elections. 2)Economic self-
sufficiency: many Arabs see the current gov as having inadequately built up their economies both in terms
of the govts' failure to create jobs & build internal infrastructure as well the govt's failure to make sure
that bare necessities such as food remain affordable for the average citizen.3) Arab Spring Protesters want
a gov that is accountable to its people & that functions based on meritocracy.
According to Diamond, political Islamists believe that gov should be based on Islamic law & the Quran
(Islamic fundamentalism). Some Islamists see democracy as a Western concept, which is not appropriate
for Muslims. Islamists resist foreign influence in the region & oppose compromise with Israel. They also
represent the main alternative to oppressive regimes, which is why they are popular. Muslims have voted
for Islamists in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Bahrain & Kuwait. Autocrats have refused to accept most of these
results. Some Arab states have brutally cracked down on Islamists.
Page 2 of 4 According t