Valerie Bunce, “Rethinking recent democratization: Lessons from the postcommunist experience” World Politics 55 (2003), pp. 167-192.

_Summary_: seeks to use the postcommunist experience in East-Central Europe and the former USSR to rethink our understanding of recent democratization. It does so by conducting a conversation between two bodies of research: (1) studies of Latin American and southern Europe, which collectively have constituted the reigning wisdom in the field, and (2) research on postcommunist politics. The discussion focuses on two relationships central to discussions in the field – between transitional politics and subsequent regime trajectories and between the consolidation and the sustainability of democracy.

 

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Looking at the post-communist cases, Bunce argues that:

*first, the degree of uncertainty in democratic transitions varies considerably.

**this in turn affects the strategies of transition and their payoffs.

**many of the most successful transitions in the post-Communist area including pacting (though rarely as elaborate as the Spanish experience) and that some also evidenced for a brief time broadly representative interim governments.

**at the same time, due to the high level of mass mobilization in many cases the compromises that were deemed beneficial in other regions were rejected (e.g. a gradual transition, the inclusion of the military in politics).

*second, mass mobilization can contribute to both the founding and the consolidation of democracy.

**the pattern in the post-Communist world suggests that the most successful transitions to democracy generally began with mass protests.

**the reason for this is that political protests performed a number of valuable functions: they signalled the breakdown of authoritarian order; created a widespread sense that there were alternatives to that order; pushed authoritarian leaders to the bargaining table; created a large opposition united by its rejection of the incumbent regime; gave opposition leaders a resource advantage when bargaining with authoritarian elites; and created a mandate for radical change.

*third, under certain conditions the democratic project is furthered by transitions that involve both nationalist protest and changes in state boundaries.

**late nationalist mobilization – or nationalist demonstrations that first appeared when the communist regime and state were disintegrating – is associated in virtually every instance with a rapid transition to democracy and progress since that time in building a stable democratic order.

*fourth, while rapid progress in democratic consolidation improves the prospects for democratic survival in the future, it does not follow that unconsolidated democracies are necessarily less sustainable. Indeed, compromising democracy (and the state) may contribute to democratic survival.

*finally, while comparisons among new democracies can identify the optimal conditions for democratization, they may have less to say about optimal strategies for democratization.