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Carothers reading notes.doc

7 Pages

Political Science
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Dominique Arel

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The End The Transition ParadigmThomas Carothers simultaneousmovement in at least several countries in each region away from dictatorialrule toward more liberal and often more democratic governanceAnd though differing in many ways these trends influenced and to someextent built on one another As a result they were considered by manyobservers especially in the West as component parts of a larger wholea global democratic trend that thanks to Samuel Huntington has widelycome to be known as the third wave of democracy As the third wave spread to Eastern Europe the Soviet Union subSaharan Africa and elsewhere in the 1990s democracy promotersextended this model as a universal paradigm for understanding democratizationIt became ubiquitous in US policy circles as a way of talkingabout thinking about and designing interventions in processes ofpolitical change around the world And it stayed remarkably constantdespite many variations in those patterns of political change and a streamof increasingly diverse scholarly views about the course and nature ofdemocratic transitions The transition paradigm has been somewhat useful during a time ofmomentous and often surprising political upheaval in the world But itis increasingly clear that reality is no longer conforming to the modelMany countries that policy makers and aid practitioners persist in callingtransitional are not in transition to democracy and of the democratictransitions that are under way more than a few are not following themodel Sticking with the paradigm beyond its useful life is retardingevolution in the field of democratic assistance and is leading policymakers astray in other ways It is time to recognize that the transitionparadigm has outlived its usefulness and to look for a better lens Five core assumptions define the transition paradigm The first whichis an umbrella for all the others is that any country moving away fromdictatorial rule can be considered a country in transition towardDemocracy Especially in the first half of the 1990s when political changeaccelerated in many regions numerous policy makers and aid practitionersreflexively labeled any formerly authoritarian country that wasattempting some political liberalization as a transitional country The second assumption is that democratization tends to unfold in aset sequence of stages First there occurs the opening a period ofdemocratic ferment and political liberalization in which cracks appearin the ruling dictatorial regime with the most prominent fault line being
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