The recent election of Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) in Indonesia symbolizes a tentative transformation from military authoritarianism to democratic rule that has occurred in recent years in other countries: South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Nigeria, and some Latin American states. [others to be named] Several questions arise that may be answered by making relevant comparisons, and the answers may be helpful for other dictatorships where such transitions could also occur in the near future. They could provide constructive information for the countries, like Indonesia, that have already embraced the road to democracy. During the years ahead, will the pressures generated by globalization strengthen the forces that can enable these regimes to improve their capacity to suistain democracy? Alternatively, will they undermine these efforts and contribute to relapses into authoritarianism? How can individuals and groups interested in promoting democratization understand these processes and make useful contributions?
There is, of course, a vast literature on democracy that can be used by anyone working on these problems -- a very selective bibliography compiled by the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine, is available at: References. The National Endowment for Democracy provides extensive links, and sponsors the influential Journal of Democracy . The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs offers many good links and extensive documentation. The British journal, Democratization is also an excellent resource. I have also compiled a site list for sources of data about problems of governance and democracy around the world. An important essay on the significant meanings of democracy can be found in David Collier and Steven Levitsky, "Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative Research," World Politics, 49 (April 1997), pp. 430-51.
My own thoughts about how external change agends can influence
democratization can be found in a presentaton for Aladin on "Exporting
Governments?" that takes up some of the problems mentioned in this note.
There is also, of course, an increasingly vast literature on globalization
but, rather than mention specific sources, let me just refer to my Home Page.
Among the questions to be posed are:
1. What are the factors that
undermine authoritarianism and lead dictators to consent
to popular elections and their own replacement? To what extent are these
purely internal, determined by the inherent weaknesses of such regimes, or
historical accidents, and to what extent can and do external factors,
especially those attributable to globalization, contribute to these cases
2. At the practical level, how can elected presidents
and legislators, judges, political parties, the media, civic
organizations, religious groups, corporations, and external benefactors
contribute to the institutionalization of democracy in such regimes?
See the COVICO workshop papers.
3. At a more theoretical
level, what do we have in mind when we talk about
democracy or democratization? Are there minimum
conditions that distinguish democratic from un-democratic regimes. How
should we address regimes where rulers accept the forms of democracy while,
behind a democratic facade, they maintain their autocratic grip on power?
4. Are the consequences of
democratization always beneficial -- or are there reasons why a
country might be better off under authoritarian rule? Administrative
weaknesses and corruption may well worsen with democratic rule. Economic
growth has occurred in dictatorships. Moreover, a population suffering
from deeply entrenched inequalities and from beliefs that rationalize
poverty and ignorance as the inescapable result of extra-human forces may
not, in fact, be able to exercise democratic rights and govern themselves
5. In a global context,
how do we evaluate the positive and negative forces exerted by outside
agencies, including multi-national corporations, humanitarian NGO's,
regulatory and funding organizations, friendly governments, and the mass
media. Is it possible and desirable to intervene in a country's domestic
affairs to encourage the collapse of authoritarianism and the rise of new
democracies? To reverse the paradigm, can democracies more effectively
than authoritarian regimes utilize the resources and opportunities
generated by globalization, and resist its untoward effects? See Riggs "Can Democracies do Better", and Teune "Globalization
and Local Democratic Governance"
Processes of democratization are integral:
no single institution or practice can, by itself, explain or determine the
success or failure of democratic experiments. Any part of a system may
function perfectly, yet disaster can still strike the whole. Free
elections can be held under military dictatorships, universal voting
occurs under single-party domination, and disciplined bureaucracies can be
found in authoritarian states. Can we better understand how all these
parts fit together and determine where the strategic levers of change are
To find answers to such questions and to take advantage of experiences
so far, we propose a series of conferences, seminars, and roundtables at
which experienced individuals from newly democratizing countries meet with
academic experts to exchange information and formulate concrete proposals
or guide-lines that help those seeking to promote democratic reforms and
facilitate the transformations required to replace authoritarian rule with
We propose several projects that could help achieve these goals:
1. A series of roundtables or workshops held in
conjunction with established groups like the International Studies
Association -- e.g., at its forthcoming conferences in Chicago and Hong
2. Special seminars to be held at centers in different countries where participants can confer in a
leisurely environment that encourages creative, long-term thinking.
3. One or more listservs on the INTERNET to facilitate not only the planning and follow-up of such face-to-face meetings, but also the continuing discourse they permit.
4. Web Sites on which relevant information and views
can be posted, supplementing publication of relevant research reports in
journals and working papers.
5. Sponsorship of research
by scholars interested in these problems plus facilitation of the
widespread dissemination of their findings.
To start the ball rolling, a few documents and a small discourse group on the INTERNET will be launched by Teune and Riggs. Several relevant lists are already available through which we can easily reach an international group of informed and concerned scholars -- addresses are available. It should not be difficult to identify interested and qualified public officials in the democratizing countries to join our proposed discourse group. We expect this list to grow spontaneously. Preliminary documentation can be made available, without cost, on some linked Web Sites.
For the project to have any long-term impact, however, it needs to
receive funding from different sources so that the activities mentioned
above can be carried out successfully and sustained. Suggestions and
fruitful leads will be greatly appreciated -- send them to Henry Teune <firstname.lastname@example.org>
and Fred Riggs
17 September 2000
1. For background papers see: "Bureaucracy and Viable Constitutionalism." Abdo Baaklini and Helen Desfosses, eds, Designs for Democratic Stability: Studies in Viable Constitutionalism. (Armonk, NY; London, UK: M.E.Sharpe. 1997) pp.95-125. This book contains papers from the COVICO conference, SUNY/CLD, Albany, New York.
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 Teune Globalization and Local Democratic Governance 
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