Democratization in Eastern Europe. the Interaction of Internal and External Factors: An Attempt at Systematization

By Kummel, Gerhard | East European Quarterly, June 1998 | Go to article overview

Democratization in Eastern Europe. the Interaction of Internal and External Factors: An Attempt at Systematization


Kummel, Gerhard, East European Quarterly


INTRODUCTION: INSIDE - OUTSIDE

Whereas other aspects of the transition towards democracy (and market economies) are studied quite extensively (and although there has been a gradual change in this regard in the mid-1980s), the international dimension of this process is still an under-researched area; when it comes to comparative and quantitative research it is even largely left out. This situation is rather paradoxical in view of "the salience of international factors in this process" (Pridham/ Herring/Sanford 1994: 2) and the observation that democracy "does not happen in an international vacuum" (Di Palma 1990: 183). This paradox is due to the intrinsic complexity of international relations and the wide range of external factors which make it difficult to assess the influence and importance of external factors and to establish unequivocal causal relationships (Pridham 1994: 11). A glimpse at the empirical reality shows the variety and the magnitude of external factors:

(A) In both the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan international politics was at the beginning of democratization. Here, one can think of the military defeat in World War II and the determination of the victorious and democratic countries, foremost the United States of America, to create and substantially support democratic political systems and governments in these countries in the face of the emerging antagonism vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Alfred Stepan (1986: 71f.) coined the term externally monitored installation to describe these events.

(B) Taiwan and South Korea are countries in which democratization can--at least partly--be attributed to the direct and indirect effects of an export-oriented strategy of development. This strategy involved a thorough integration into the world market. As a result, the number of the political and economic elite's as well as the urban population's external contacts with democracies markedly increased (university exchange programs, studies in foreign countries, business and trade relations, cultural exchange). These contacts provided the basis for a growing realization that membership in the club of western industrialized countries (the OECD) would be facilitated by the liberalization and the democratization of one's own political system (Diamond 1992: 121).

(C) In the case of the democratic transitions and consolidations in Southern Europe, the regional structure was conducive to and promoted democratization. The European Community required democratic political systems as a ticket to EC membership; Brussels not only provided economic incentives, but, at times, also resorted to political pressure to initiate democratic reforms. (The "freezing" of the Greek application for membership after the military takeover in 1967 is a case in point.) Once a member of the EC, this membership furthered the democratic consolidation in Greece, Portugal and Spain (Pridham 1991).

(D) By contrast, at times, the regional structure and, particularly, the policies of the United States, the hegemonic power, were adverse to democratization in a number of Latin American countries. Under the impact of the east-west-conflict and the global system confrontation with the USSR, Washington often perceived democratic mass movements in Latin America as potential or likely intrusion targets for communist action. To prevent the domino theory to become true, the US conducted various secret service operations, e.g. in Guatemala 1954, in Brazil 1964, in Chile 1973 and in Nicaragua 1984 (Forsythe 1992). In turn, after the end of the east-west-conflict, there is greater political space for democratic mass movements (Karl 1990: 15f.).

It is obvious from these cases that it is very difficult to translate the international dimension into hard empirical data and variables; since he could not identify a "reliable empirical indicator for that purpose," Tatu Vanhanen (1997: 161), for example, was persuaded to leave out an analysis of the significance of external factors and power resources in his recent study on the perspective of democracy in more than 170 states.

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