Up in the Clouds; Christopher S. Allen Reviews Democracy from Above: Regional Organizations and Democratization

By Allen, Christopher S. | Harvard International Review, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Up in the Clouds; Christopher S. Allen Reviews Democracy from Above: Regional Organizations and Democratization


Allen, Christopher S., Harvard International Review


The transition to democracy by formerly dictatorial regimes in Eastern and Southern Europe and Latin America during the past decade and a half has been a significant and momentous development in the "third wave" of democratization. Scholars of comparative politics and international relations, however, disagree on the primary cause of these transitions to democracy.

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Much of the literature in comparative politics emphasizes internal or domestic factors, while tending to minimize external or international ones. On the other hand, most scholars of international relations emphasize external factors, such as the role of great powers, in helping the spread of democracy in these transitional countries.

In Democracy from Above, Jon C. Pevehouse takes issue with both sets of scholars. He argues that they fail to appreciate the role that regional organizations play in both the transition to and the survival of democracy in these formerly dictatorial nation-states. Furthermore, he contends that the role of domestic elites via their membership in regional organizations has assisted governments in the delicate path to democratization by representing the concerns of interest groups such as business and the military. In a comprehensive and rigorous set of empirical case studies that examines Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Paraguay, Peru, and Turkey, Pevehouse makes a generally strong case for the role that these regional institutions play in the generation and sustenance of democracy.

The book's eight chapters are very well-organized and clearly written. While chapter two focuses on theories that address the international influences on the transition to and the achievement of democratic outcomes within a state, the third chapter combines these elements of theory with an empirical focus. Primarily, the chapter lays out the methodology for measuring the role of these international organizations. More importantly, however, this chapter offers a powerful argument against the role of great power politics as a significant actor in the democratizing process.

From this, the fourth chapter proceeds in an empircal fashion to test the association between membership in regional and international organizations and the transition to democracy. In chapter five, Pevehouse examines the case studies of Hungary, Peru, and Turkey and the regional organizations that assist in the transition to democracy. Subsequently, chapter six focuses on democratic consolidation and provides a quantitative test of the democratic endurance argument. The most significant finding here is that membership in a specific international organizations is very strongly related to the duration of democracy.

In chapter seven, the book critically examines the role of regional organizations in protecting democracy, specifically the cases of Greece, Paraguay, Guatemala, and Turkey. Finally, chapter eight addresses the theoretical implications of the book's conclusions for scholars of comparative politics, international relations, and policy analysis. Moreover, Pevehouse's concluding argument attempts to make a strong case for the synthesis of comparative politics and international relations approaches to the phenomenon of democratization, as his citation of the work of political science professor Peter Gourevitch indicates.

As strong as the book is, however, it is not able fully to bridge the gap between the different perceptions of democracy and democratization held by the scholars of comparative politics and international relations, respectively. The book's primary shortcomings lie in the way it defines democracy, democratic leadership, and the direction of democracy in states. …

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