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The Third Wave Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century

review The Third Wave Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century

Between 1974 and 1990 than thirty countries in southern Europe Latin America East Asia and Eastern Europe shifted from authoritarian to democratic systems of government This global democratic revolution is probably the most important political trend in the late twentieth century In The Third Wave Samuel P Huntington analyzes the causes and nature of these democratic transitions evaluates the prospects for stability of the new democracies and explores the possibility of countries becoming democratic The recent transitions he argues are the third major wave of democratization in the modem world Each of the two previous waves was followed by a reverse wave in which some countries shifted back to authoritarian government Using concrete exampl. I should confess a distaste for Huntington to start I thought Political Order in Changing Societies was crypto fascist with too much emphasis on the strength of institutions with too little attention paid to their purpose or responsiveness And Clash of Civilizations was essentially racist absolutism with as much intellectual rigor as a stand up comedian's white people do this black people do that act Still that doesn't mean The Third Wave is all bad Huntington should get a lot of respect for trying to explain the undeniable transition toward the liberal democratic model that took place in the latter portion of the 20th century rather than trying to come up with silly one size fits all theories for predicting democratization like Rostow's take off theoryHuntington's explanation boils down to failures by the authoritarian state versus the rise of non state actors Dictators economically isolated and internally corrupt fail to generate the funds necessary to supply goods to the people in order to buy their obedience through social services and other programs Using force to uash dissent proves less effective as dissent grows widespread fomenting armed resistance In the meantime non state institutions varying from trade unions to religious groups provide services to the public motivate social movements against the regime and contribute to the demise of the regime's claim to authority Huntington offers a strong structural explanation for democratizationHis attempts to guess at which countries will emerge out of the democratization process as stable and promising democracies is where he falls short however He is correct that native democracy movements do better because they have better claims at legitimacy but he lumps external factors into a vague welcoming international environment category that downplays the massive influence of the Washington Consensus and the political economy in determining just how much freedom Third World countries have to elect who they want and what policies they adopt Huntington switches from structure to culture in the predictive part of the book and The Third Wave is at its most noxious when he casts doubts upon democracy in places like Mongolia and Pakistan because democracy is somehow incompatible with Confucian and Islamic precepts The enemy of democracy true rule by the people has been and always will be the campaign by elites inside and outside a country to defend their interests against the majority who would redistribute resources eually If cultural factors were truly a major variable in deciding who holds on to democracy how does one explain the variance of democracy's survival in culturally similar places like Britain and Germany or Romania and RussiaTo be fair Huntington did not have the benefit of a crystal ball Yet like too many scholars he fell into the trap of looking at people based on nominal categories something that intellectuals have been doing since the time of race science and eugenics if not before If you can separate the bad from the good The Third Wave is an interesting exploration of the conditions leading up to authoritarian breakdown and the rise of democratic movements but not much than that

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Es empirical evidence and insightful analysis Huntington provides neither a theory nor a history of the third wave but an explanation of why and how it occurredFactors responsible for the democratic trend include the legitimacy dilemmas of authoritarian regimes; economic and social development; the changed role of the Catholic Church; the impact of the United States the European Community and the Soviet Union; and the snowballing phenomenon change in one country stimulating change in others Five key elite groups within and outside the nondemocratic regime played roles in shaping the various ways democratization occurred Compromise was key to all democratizations and elections and nonviolent tactics also were central New democracies must d. Huntington appears to have rushed this book out to have something in the market as the Iron Curtain fell in the early 1990s Poor editing has resulted in lists of countries when a table would have conveyed the information clearly A fundamental limitation is that Huntington appears to adopt a flawed US model of democracy without exploring other models The most interesting comments come in the last chapter with Huntington's observation that 'No Islamic country has sustained a fully democratic system for any length of time If he had focused on the implications of these cultural differences he would have had a interesting book; and perhaps one that would have been useful to US policy makers with their fatally flawed oxymoronic and uixotic attempts to impose democracy on Afghanistan and Ira

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Eal with the torturer problem and the praetorian problem and attempt to develop democratic values and processes Disillusionment with democracy Huntington argues is necessary to consolidating democracy He concludes the book with an analysis of the political economic and cultural factors that will decide whether or not the third wave continuesSeveral Guidelines for Democratizers offer specific practical suggestions for initiating and carrying out reform Huntington's emphasis on practical application makes this book a valuable tool for anyone engaged in the democratization process At this volatile time in history Huntington's assessment of the processes of democratization is indispensable to understanding the future of democracy in the world. Samuel Huntington has authored many important works This is one of those He argues that the 20th century has seen three waves of democracy More and countries democratize and then democracy recedes Nonetheless over time the total number of democracies has grown A useful work with an historical perspective

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