POLI 227 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Democratic Consolidation, Liberal Democracy, Sub-Saharan Africa
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III. The state, politics and social forces
3.1. Political development
Howard Handelman, The Challenge of Third World Development, chapter 2 “The Explosion of Third
World Democracy” pp. 32 – 67
Usually defined procedurally. Democracy = the transparency and fairness of the essential procedures
governing the elections and behavior of government officials. That is the least demanding definition,
it’s solely focused on elections and allows questionable governments to be labeled “democratic”.
However, many governments with open elections still manipulate the media and violate the citizen’s
civil liberties. They are referred to as “semidemocracies”.
A “full” democracy, aka a liberal democracy, involves more than just competitive elections. It is a
political system that conforms to the following conditions and is thus accountable to its citizens in a way
an authoritarian regime is not:
- Most of the countries’ leading government officials are elected
- There is universal or near universal suffrage
- Elections = free of fraud or outside manipulation
- Opposition-party candidates have realistic chances to win against national offices
- Civil liberties, including minority rights, are respected (this includes free speech, free assembly,
free pass (media), freedom of religion)
- Rule of law, civilian command over the armed forces, and vigorous civil society
Other scholars also believe a substantive democracy is required, which means fair and just government
policy outcomes, but also equal access to public schooling and healthcare, regardless of social class or
ethnicity. Thus, according to some scholars, any procedural democracy accepting ethnic inequalities is
not truly democratic.
PROCEDURAL DEMOCRACY DOES NOT NECESSARILY EQUATE A JUST SOCIETY.
However, this chapter is only concerned with procedural democracy, NOT substantive democracy (as
in the eradication of sexism, racism and the like).
Democratic transition and consolidation
Democratic transition = the process of moving from an authoritarian to a democratic regime. It begins
when an authoritarian regime shows its first signs of collapse or negotiating its departure from power. It
ends when the first freely elected government takes office.
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When democratic institutions, practices and values are engrained in a society, thus begins the
Democratic consolidation = a process through which democratic norms become accepted by all
politically influential groups in society + when no important political actor seeks a return to a
dictatorship. Since 1960, less than 50% or democratic transitions have led to democratic consolidation.
Two possible reasons for this:
- Ethnic division
- Failure to build strong political institutions, including institutional checks on the presidents’
In successfully consolidated democracies, democratic values predominate among political and individual
groups. Consolidated democracies are secured for the foreseeable future.
Justifying authoritarian rule
Modernization theory = the newly emerging African and Asian states were insufficiently economically or
socially developed to sustain democracy.
Dependency theory = democracy was unlikely to emerge because powerful industrialized nations and
multinational corporations had allied the Third World elites to bolster unrepresentative governments.
Mass political participation in democratic or semidemocratic states were often exceeding their
governments’ capacity to accommodate all the new political demands. Authoritarian regimes considered as
necessary stopgaps, because in order to have a democratic regimes, you need to have economic and social
But if socioeconomic modernization was necessary to establish democracy, what type of gov’t could initiate
economic and social development? Some experts believed that only a strong and stable authoritarian regime
(usually a dictatorship or military rule) could jump-start economic modernization and growth. They
attracted multinational and domestic private-sector investment. In countries at early stages of economic
development, democracy is considered to be a “luxury”.
The third wave and its effect on the Third World
Developing countries have played a notable role in history’s most sweeping transition from
authoritarianism to democracy. There is a palpable global trend towards democracy since the 1970s.
Huntington noted that it’s the third such wave there has been in history.
The Third Wave: from 1974 until at least 2011. It has pervasive and seemingly lasting reverberations in the
Third World. It’s different from the two first waves because it has not been affected by a “reverse wave”,
or at least not yet.
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