Power to the People: Democratization around the World

Power to the People: Democratization around the World

Power to the People: Democratization around the World

Power to the People: Democratization around the World


Robert K. Schaeffer believes that democracy is not something that is conferred from above by elites, rather it is a form of politics that comes from below, from an aroused and aware citizenry.


Where dictators fell, civilian democrats came to power. The democratization of political power, which occurred in more than thirty countries around the world since 1974, was a welcome and remarkable achievement. But political change on both sides of the Cold War divide did not come easily. It was triggered by regional economic crises and propelled by political problems in individual states. The civilians who replaced dictators, juntas, and one-party regimes extended power to people who had long been excluded from politics. They rewrote constitutions and held multiparty elections to restore civil society. Then they sold state assets, opened markets, and downsized armies to revive moribund economies. It is not clear, however, that the uniform economic policies adopted in democratizing states the world over can solve problems that have such different regional origins. If the democrats who assumed power are unable to solve their separate economic problems, the dramatic political gains made in recent years may be lost.

To appreciate these developments, it is necessary first to examine the origins of dictatorships in postwar republics. This account of contemporary democratization begins with the emergence of a new interstate system in the postwar period.

During and after World War II the United States and the Soviet Union designed a new interstate system based on developmentalist republican states. They advanced this new "republican" system over the objections of their European allies because they believed that the old "imperial" system was responsible for world war and the Great Depression. Chapter 1 examines the architecture of the new system and the construction of its two central political and economic institutions: the United Nations and Bretton Woods.

Although they agreed on the architecture of the new system, the United States and the Soviet Union reserved spheres of influence for themselves, a development that led to a series of disagreements and conflicts known collectively as the Cold War. As a result, the growing republican interstate system was also divided by the two great republics, a process examined in Chapter 2.

The division of the world into superpower spheres had two consequences. First, some of the new postcolonial republics rejected Cold War assignments . . .

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