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In each of the Arab countries surveyed, there is a fairly even division of opinion on whether Islam should play an important role in politics.

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The 15 percent nondemocratic population is also split down the middle between religious and secular orientation. A virtually identical pattern was found in Iraq in , with roughly similar patterns in Algeria and Palestine, as well. Supporters of democracy in these four societies more or less evenly divide between those who favor a secular democracy and those who favor an Islamic democracy though it is not entirely clear what respondents mean by that preference. And the most powerful predictor for a political Islamist orientation: a feeling of powerlessness. Political and economic problems, including low confidence in political institutions, are also associated with support for political Islam.

Significantly, even as Arab authoritarian states have thrown the pendulum back to political closure, many elements of civil society - intellectuals, NGOs, dissident bloggers, and even moderate Islamist activists - have labored to keep democratic reform on the national agenda. The danger of the moment is that when the path of peaceful participation and dialogue however limited and incremental is closed, many Islamists - who constitute the best organized and most powerful opposition in almost every Arab country - might turn to violence, as they did in Algeria in States like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia remain strong, resourceful, and proficient when it comes to repression.

But as dissent is shut down and political reform is deferred for longer and longer, the legitimacy deficit becomes more acute, the young become more alienated and radicalized, and eventually the regime becomes more vulnerable to violent uprising in the wake of a performance failure, such as a sudden economic downturn or a miscalculated upsurge in brutal repression.

A true shift in that stilted paradigm will not come until there is a transformation in the regional security context - a significant easing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if not actual peace, and some measure of stabilization in Lebanon, Palestine itself, and most of all Iraq. Such broad improvement would provoke three changes: First, it would ease the deep fear of losing control that causes regimes to tighten their authoritarian grips. Second, it would remove a prominent excuse that regimes utilize to justify political stagnation and oppression to both local publics and external ones.

And third, it would greatly diminish the strategic anxieties that cause the United States and Europe to back off from applying serious pressure for democratic reform. It is not only in the Arab Middle East where democratic hopes have been crushed in the last few years. Nowhere in the Middle East has the repression of democratic hopes and movements been more vicious than in Iran. During the first few years of the two-term presidency of Mohammed Khatami , the Islamic Republic began to decompress. But Khatami never held the predominant reins of power; those remained in the hands of unelected conservative theocrats, beginning with the supreme leader Ali Khameni and the Council of Guardians, which can veto legislation and disqualify candidates for office.

Beginning with the elections, the hard-line clerical establishment, which controls the judiciary and the state security apparatus, struck back. It closed reformist newspapers and think tanks, vetoed political and economic reforms, and jailed hundreds of liberal journalists and student and civic activists subjecting some to severe torture. Although Khatami was reelected in , it was a hollow victory for a humbled president, leaving advocates of civil society deeply disillusioned.

The reform movement retreated and fragmented.


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In Iran, the suffocation of democratic aspirations has come with a unique twist. By clicking on "Submit" you agree that you have read and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. Email Newsletter. Log In. Toggle navigation MENU. Email Address. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov.

Email address:. Please provide an email address. Categories of Interest: Select All. To begin, it is useful to recall what the world looked like in the mids and why the prospect of a democratic world seemed, so recently in historical time, such an illusion.

The Spirit of Democracy

Back home, American democracy was mired in the depths of the Watergate scandal, as President Nixon obstructed justice and abused his constitutional authority in a desperate bid to cling to power, before finally resigning in August In April , dictatorship, not democracy, was the way of the world. Barely a quarter of independent states chose their governments through competitive, free, and fair elections. Most of those were the wealthy capitalist countries of the West plus a number of small island states with British colonial legacies.

Save for Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Colombia, Latin America was under repressive military rule or abusive civilian governments with heavy military influence. Brazil had been under military rule for a decade, and many were hailing a miracle of development under its modernizing autocrats, as investment poured in. Meanwhile, East Asia save for Japan was being transformed economically by authoritarian, not democratic, states. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore were recording spectacular rates of economic growth under authoritarian regimes that seemed to many scholars and observers to have the formula for rapid development: concentrate state power to generate high savings, steer investment to critical industries, repress labor unions, keep wages low, ensure political stability, and so attract high levels of foreign investment.

The model was profoundly alluring not only to Asian societies hungry for development but to American policy makers desperate for pro-American success stories that could stand up to the Communist threat. Thus, when Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos having failed to amend the constitution to remain in office beyond his second and final elected term declared martial law in September —overthrowing the constitution, assuming dictatorial powers, and locking up thirty thousand members of the opposition—his alliance with the United States drew even closer.

What Marcos in was reflecting was an almost pan—Southeast Asian disgust with the outcomes produced by democratic politics. In Africa, where the retreat of European colonial rule was less than two decades old, the picture was much grimmer still. Of the then thirty-eight states of sub-Saharan Africa, only three were democracies, and each of them—Botswana, Gambia, and Mauritius—had a million people or less. South Africa was firmly in the grip of a racist, apartheid state.

Most of the opposition—political and intellectual—to African dictatorships bore sympathy for socialism and a deep wariness of the capitalist West.

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Wars of liberation were in the process of driving out the last European colonial presence, Portugal, but in countries like Mozambique and Angola the movements that were winning were Marxist and authoritarian, not democratic. As the new Portuguese military government withdrew its forces from Angola and Mozambique in , these countries became independent under Marxist parties that were fighting civil wars against American-backed ethnic and ideological challengers.

By the time Haile Selassie fell, almost all of sub-Saharan Africa was under military or one-party rule. So was the Arab world, where Lebanon was the only democracy, and one that would soon expire as the country descended into civil war. More broadly in the Middle East, there were democracies as well in Israel and Turkey, but Israel was considered a Western country in its culture and level of development.

Turkey was a more encouraging case of a modernizing and secular Muslim country, but its democracy had significant military influence. And the Turkish model would be shaken during the second half of the s by a slide into polarization, violence, and terrorism, which claimed more than five thousand lives until the September military coup. In the academy, the comparative study of democracy had declined, and the most important work on democracy in the second half of the s was on the breakdown of democratic regimes. Emphasizing the importance for democratic development of some history of political competition and a tradition of toleration toward political oppositions, Dahl observed:.

It is unrealistic to suppose, then, that there will be any dramatic change in the number of polyarchies within a generation or two.


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In , even as a new, still unnamed wave of democratization was gathering steam, Samuel P. Huntington proffered a similar assessment. The substantial power of anti-democratic governments particularly the Soviet Union , the unreceptivity to democracy of several major cultural traditions, the difficulties of eliminating poverty in large parts of the world, and the prevalence of high levels of polarization and violence in many societies all suggest that, with a few exceptions, the limits of democratic development in the world may well have been reached.

Just seven years later, Huntington would publish his book naming and tracing the stunning third wave of global democratic transformation. The pessimism of the time was driven in part by the preeminence of modernization theory, which found a powerful correlation between democracy and the level of economic development. They sustained democracy, so the theory went, because they had high levels of education and personal income, and a large middle class. These features of development, in turn, bred among the general public the political knowledge and participation, the toleration of dissent and opposition, the inclination to political moderation and restraint, the desire for freedom and accountability, and the propensity to form and join independent organizations that made democracy possible.

Such a broad political culture of democracy constitutes a key dimension of the democratic spirit. To be a democracy, a country first had to develop economically. Driving the logic in policy terms was the convenient fact that all these dictators were allies of the United States and the West in the Cold War.

Siding with these dictatorships could even be justified in terms of our democratic values: they were transitional regimes, not permanent ones, and partial dictatorships, not total ones like the Communist movements that threatened them, and that they came to power to eliminate. There was during this period a deeper form of pessimism, culturally based.

It was no accident, so the argument went, that democracy had emerged largely in the West, with its Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment cultural traditions. The non-Western democracies of this period were mainly in countries that had been infused with the liberal cultural norms of the West, such as the former British colonies of India, Sri Lanka, and Jamaica, or Japan, which had been conquered and occupied by the United States after World War II. Elsewhere, the prospects were deemed thin. Writing in the mids, one prominent U.

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How did a world that seemed so naturally and even ineluctably authoritarian in become predominantly democratic by ? How could so many social science and foreign policy experts have been so wrong? That is the story of several of the early chapters of this book. But it is, unfortunately, not the whole story, or even really the story of the current moment.

As this book is written, the democratic boom has given way to recession. Its start, I argue, may be traced to the military coup in Pakistan, which symbolized the failure of many of the new democracies to perform decently in delivering development, social peace, and good governance.

Since then, there have been setbacks to democracy in highly influential states such as Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Thailand, and democracy is seriously deteriorating in other big, important countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh.

The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World

The bold campaign by President George W. Bush to transform the Middle East by first overthrowing Saddam Hussein and transforming Iraq from dictatorship to democracy has backfired badly, leaving that country in chaos. With Islamists gaining political and frequently electoral ground throughout the region, even the Bush administration has pulled back from its own democracy agenda, and Arab democrats feel betrayed.

Around the world, a backlash has gathered against international democracy promotion efforts, led by Russia and China, and such regional petro-powers as Iran and Venezuela. Many observers see in this downturn the natural limits of democratic possibilities. As the American interventions in Iraq and quite possibly Afghanistan become more embattled, this neorealism will likely gain ground. There are genuine grounds for concern, sobriety, modesty, and reassessment—but not for democratic despair. As I show in this book, there remains considerable underlying momentum and potential for democratic progress in the world.

Increasingly, democratic values and aspirations are becoming universal—even in the supposedly unfriendly Middle East and Muslim world more broadly. And these global democratic norms are reflected in regional and international institutions and agreements as never before. If we look at the causes of democratic expansion in the world, both domestic and international, we see that the factors that gave rise to the democratic boom are still very much alive.

The central challenges are whether the new democracies can deliver what their peoples expect in terms of development and decent, lawful governance, and whether the rich, established democracies can summon the will and wisdom to refashion and sustain their efforts to promote democracy. The second part of this book looks at the challenges of democratic development and consolidation in each of the regions where democracy has yet to take deep root: Latin America, postcommunist Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

These chapters show wide variation in democratic progress and prospects, but also the urgent need to combat corruption and strengthen the ability of states to provide a rule of law and an enabling environment for economic growth. Yet, where there are threats to democracy, there are also opportunities. Even countries like Iran and China, which now seem so immune to the global democratic trend, stand a very good chance of becoming democratic in the next two to three decades.

And if China can democratize, why not the entire world? In the end, I maintain, it is the policies and the collective will of the established democracies that could make the crucial difference. The last three decades have unleashed unprecedented hopes and expectations for democratic development, even quite remarkably in poor countries.

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Now, democracy is really the only broadly legitimate form of government in the world. The enemies of democracy—such as the global jihadist movement of radical Islam—can win only if democrats defeat themselves through arrogance, intransigence, ineptitude, and greed. History has seen no shortage of those features of human nature, which have played a large role in previous breakdowns of democracy.

But human progress follows from the capacity to learn from and transcend our failings. The underlying dynamics of global economic and political development, and the broad trends in world culture and institutions, remain quite favorable to democracy in the long run. Shrewd and visionary policies emanating from the established democracies—led, but in a far more collegial fashion, by the United States—could reignite and sustain global democratic momentum.

Then the horizon of the long run might draw considerably nearer to the point where, some few decades hence, the whole world could capture the spirit of democracy. Since the American and French revolutions, two views of liberty have contested. One is that these revolutions expressed universal rights and values. The American Declaration of Independence did not assert a peculiarly American right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It declared that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. The second view of liberty has been that if people are in some sense created equal, they are nevertheless not imbued with the same values and expectations of government.

Freedom and democracy are not universal values but rather Western concepts. Culture limits how far they can travel. One of the most famous advocates of this position has been the longtime prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who, in trumpeting the Asian values of order, family, and community, has made it his business to tell people not to foist their system indiscriminately on societies in which it will not work.

I do not believe you can impose on other countries standards which are alien and totally disconnected with their past. So to ask China to become a democracy, when in its 5, years of recorded history it never counted heads; all rulers ruled by right of being the emperor, and if you disagree, you chop off heads, not count heads. The agenda must include human rights.

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They may not be ready for it. Asian societies, he argued, stress loyalty to the family and group over individual freedom and needs, defer to authority in order to answer deep psychological cravings for the security of dependency, and value order over conflict. To the extent that democracy exists at all, he explained, it is the kind of shallow or illiberal democracy that mutes criticism of authority, scraps checks and balances, and concentrates political power in individual leaders. In a variety of ways, this cultural skepticism has also been applied to Latin America as well as the Middle East.

Particularly prior to the late s, prominent scholars of Latin America saw the region as steeped in absolutist, elitist, hierarchical, corporatist, and authoritarian cultural traditions, inherited from Spain, that were not conducive to democratic rule. This view continues to shape the way the West thinks about the possibilities for Arab democracy.