Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development

Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development

Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development

Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor, and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development

Synopsis

In this ambitious book Eva Bellin examines the dynamics of democratization in late-developing countries where the process has stalled. Bellin focuses on the pivotal role of social forces and particularly the reluctance of capital and labor to champion democratic transition, contrary to the expectations of political economists versed in earlier transitions. Bellin argues that the special conditions of late development, most notably the political paradoxes created by state sponsorship, fatally limit class commitment to democracy. In many developing countries, she contends, those who are empowered by capitalist industrialization become the allies of authoritarianism rather than the agents of democratic reform. Bellin generates her propositions from close study of a singular case of stalled democracy: Tunisia. Capital and labor's complicity in authoritarian relapse in that country poses a puzzle. The author's explanation of that case is made more general through comparison with the cases of other countries, including Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Egypt. Stalled Democracy also explores the transformative capacity of state-sponsored industrialization. By drawing on a range of real-world examples, Bellin illustrates the ability of developing countries to reconfigure state-society relations, redistribute power more evenly in society, and erode the peremptory power of the authoritarian state, even where democracy is stalled.

Excerpt

On 7 November 1987, the Republic of Tunisia made international headlines. A bloodless coup swept Habib Bourguiba, the country’s founding father, from power after thirty years of increasingly autocratic rule. His successor, Zine Abdine Ben Ali, proclaimed a new era for Tunisian democracy. Over the next twelve months Ben Ali embraced a set of sweeping reforms designed to liberalize political life. Presidential decrees of amnesty released hundreds of opposition leaders from prison and exile. Constitutional reform put an end to the institution of “president for life.” A new party law paved the way for the doubling of legal opposition parties. And a new press code freed journals and newspapers from many prior constraints. Ben Ali announced: “Our people have attained a sufficient level of responsibility and maturity … to contribute … to the management of their affairs in conformity to the republican idea. … Our people are worthy of a political life … truly founded upon multipartyism” (La presse, 31 December 1987). This break with autocracy sparked elation throughout Tunisian society and raised high hopes that the country was finally on the threshhold of joining the third wave of democratization.

Five years later, the picture looked very different. Opposition leaders were once again the subject of routine harassment by the regime. The country’s most vibrant political movement, the Islamist Renaissance Party, had been declared illegal and its members brutally repressed by state security forces. Newspapers and journals critical of the regime were again the regular victims of government seizure and/or banishment. And human rights abuses by the regime multiplied, carried out in the name of . . .

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