Richard Anderson et. al. (eds.). Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy. (2001).

From Book Reviews:”


_Main Argument:_

They each challenge the current received wisdom in accounts of democratization, using evidence from the post communist region. The authors are developing an alternative to the old “preconditions” school of explaining the emergence of democracy, which saw economic development, economic equality, modernization, class structure (including a strong bourgeoisie), ethnic homogeneity, or a strong dose of Protestantism as preconditions of democracy. They argue that we should expand the range of elements of the democratization process we consider. They claim that dispersion of political power is important for democracy. They support an understanding of democratization, which is not deterministic, but allows for human agency.


_Method:_ Four substantive sections, each written by one of the listed author. Neoinstitutionalist perspective. Common thread is that the fragmentation of elites is of fundamental importance for democratization.



== Notes ==



_Philip Roeder: The Rejection of Authoritarianism_

–     An examination of why the old authoritarian regimes were rejected in the first place

–     He argues that elements of the old ruling classes were more likely to turn toward a democratic solution at the point when elite fragmentation prevented the old authoritarian “constitution” from working effectively

–     Institutional pluralism within the authoritarian states was the precondition for a democratic breakout system, he identifies a number of types of authoritarian regimes (autocracies, oligarchies, and exclusive republics); the most successful democratizers are states in which elites are forced to broaden their base of support beyond the old “selectorate”


_M. Steven Fish: The Dynamics of Democratic Erosion_

–     Comparative analysis of all twenty-eight postcommunist countries, Fish finds that the key independent variable is excessively strong executive power

–     Considers those postcommunist regimes that first democratized, and then de-democratized (at least partially)

–     ”Hyper-presidentialism” is the best explanation for backsliding


_Richard Anderson: Origins of Russian Democracy_

–     Focuses on shifts in linguistic discourse that begin to undermine the integrity of the formerly hegemonic ruling blocs

–     The importance of a strong, distinct, elite identity for the preservation of authoritarian patterns of rule, and of the breakdown of that distinctive identity (and the social boundary it maintains between the elite and the population) for the beginnings of democracy

–     The willingness of the members of the nomenklatura elite to begin to compete with one another for external popular support, and the willingness of the population to take sides in this competition

–     Democracy emerges as the elite begins to speak a form of Russian measurably closer to that of the population at large


_Stephen Hanson: Defining Democratic Consolidation_

–     Looks at the problem of the consolidation of democracy in general

–     He argues that democracy can be considered relatively secure only when a sufficiently large proportion of the political class and its associated officialdom have internalized the democratic regulation of their own behaviour

–     He asserts that democratic consolidation cannot be seen in isolation from regime consolidation –> Russia’s flawed democratic consolidation is conditioned by geopolitical and sociological factors

–     Proposes a middle way between these two alternatives: A democracy is consolidated when at least the “enforcers of democratic institutions” are seriously committed to democracy



_Critique:_ Although Fish’s approach, especially when combined with Roeder’s, provides a rich empirical and theoretical basis to take the debate forward, the attempt to hold other variables constant, including, one might stress, the role of contingent factors like personalities and other agency issues (including weak oppositions), together with structural factors such as international conjunctures, proximity to the European Union, ethnic composition, religious tensions, historical memories of statehood and the like, renders the argument rather less than convincing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *