Democracy in Retreat

Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government

Joshua Kurlantzick
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Democracy in Retreat
    Book Description:

    Since the end of the Cold War, the assumption among most political theorists has been that as nations develop economically, they will also become more democratic-especially if a vibrant middle class takes root. This assumption underlies the expansion of the European Union and much of American foreign policy, bolstered by such examples as South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and even to some extent Russia. Where democratization has failed or retreated, aberrant conditions take the blame: Islamism, authoritarian Chinese influence, or perhaps the rise of local autocrats.

    But what if the failures of democracy are not exceptions? In this thought-provoking study of democratization, Joshua Kurlantzick proposes that the spate of retreating democracies, one after another over the past two decades, is not just a series of exceptions. Instead, it reflects a new and disturbing trend: democracy in worldwide decline. The author investigates the state of democracy in a variety of countries, why the middle class has turned against democracy in some cases, and whether the decline in global democratization is reversible.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18896-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Democracy Goes into Reverse
    (pp. 1-33)

    During april, the hottest month of the year in Thailand, all activity in Bangkok slows to a molasses pace. With temperatures rising to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, many residents leave town, heading north or to the islands east and south of the city, and the slow-moving flow of traffic releases a cloud of smog into the steaming air. In mid-April, the entire country shuts down for a week for the Thai New Year, leaving the few people still in the capital marveling at their sudden ability to drive across the city in minutes rather than hours.

    But in the...

  5. 2 How We Got Here
    (pp. 34-48)

    Only ten years ago, few political leaders or theorists would have predicted democracy’s decline. Even as late as the early 2000s, the fourth wave of democracy, which in the 1990s and early 2000s had swept through parts of Asia, Latin America, and—most notably—Sub-Saharan Africa, still seemed to be holding up. And the fourth wave built on three earlier waves of democratization, making it seem like the natural extension of democracy’s global spread.

    Throughout most of the twentieth century, democracy had been confined to tiny islands of freedom in a generally repressive globe, dominated by colonies, monarchies, and warlords....

  6. 3 The Fourth Wave
    (pp. 49-64)

    The outskirts of blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi, are some of the most forlorn suburbs on earth. Years of on-and-off drought and famine in the countryside have gradually destroyed Malawi’s farming families, driving many people to settle in Blantyre, where the men take odd jobs as guards at stores or as part-time bus drivers. Rows of shacks made from scraps of metal and scavenged wood cover the denuded hills outside the city, and, at night, if you are brave enough to walk in these neighborhoods, you can see young men posted as guards in front of the families’ tiny...

  7. 4 It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Consensus Fails
    (pp. 65-76)

    By the early 2000s, outside donors and many fourth wave nations like Malawi had little to show for the linking of rapid economic and political liberalization. The tough reforms of democracy and the tough reforms of market capitalism supposedly went hand in hand. Together, they would bring freedom of speech and free elections but also growth, which would trickle down to working class men and women. But in reality, the correlation, or lack thereof, between democracy and economic growth has been the subject of many studies, which have yielded inconclusive results. Harvard economist Dani Rodrik has examined a wide range...

  8. 5 The Middle Class Revolts
    (pp. 77-100)

    In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the lack of economic growth began to sour working class men and women on democratization. But in many developing nations the middle classes turned against democracy too. The Washington Consensus prescriptions had been, in many ways, predicated on the modernization theory of experts like Huntington and Lipset; for economic liberalization to be linked with political liberalization, an economic opening had to produce a middle class that then would help push for political change. Yet over the past decade, the middle class has, in many developing nations, subverted those predictions, just as the growth–...

  9. 6 Graft, Graft, and More Graft
    (pp. 101-116)

    For many first-time visitors to Jakarta, capital of Indonesia and the largest city on the intensely crowded island of Java, the metropolis seems to be in constant motion, its incessant activity and brutal equatorial heat wearing down travelers. Alongside the wide boulevards of the central financial district, where glass-and-steel skyscrapers jostle for space with five-star hotels, vendors peddling sticks of satay and clove cigarettes and copies of the Indonesian tabloids push their carts past mobs of local office workers dressed in Western suits. Away from the grandiose financial areas, in the cramped side streets of newer districts that have sprung...

  10. 7 The China Model
    (pp. 117-134)

    The attendees of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos are not exactly used to being told what to do. The Swiss resort draws the global elite: the highest-powered investment bankers, the top government officials and leaders, the biggest philanthropists, and the most famous celebrities, who gather each year to attempt to solve the world’s most pressing problems and still have time for evening cocktails.

    But in January 2009, the Davos crowd had to listen to a blistering lecture from a most unlikely source. Some thought that the first senior Chinese leader to attend the World Economic Forum, premier Wen...

  11. 8 The Autocrats Strike Back
    (pp. 135-152)

    Offering an alternative model of successful but undemocratic development to other nations, China and other authoritarian states may implicitly be fostering today’s powerful antidemocratic wave. But China, Russia, and, to a lesser extent, Venezuela and Iran have at times gone further. Worried by how the fourth wave of democratization, including the color revolutions in places like Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, has crept up to their borders, Beijing and Moscow have developed a range of explicit strategies to undermine democracy among their neighbors.¹ And in a number of neighboring states, including Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Cambodia, these authoritarian powers have enjoyed some striking...

  12. 9 Failure of the Emerging Powers
    (pp. 153-169)

    Representing the world’s largest democracy, which has sewn together a nation of a billion people, as well as countless ethnic groups, castes, and languages, Indian officials long have boasted of their nation’s deep and founding commitment to democracy. And as China and India increasingly have become global competitors—and China’s gleaming infrastructure, rapid decision making, and high growth rates have outshone India’s—Delhi has emphasized its rhetorical commitment to democracy only more.

    But to Myo, a Burmese activist, democratic India doesn’t look much different from authoritarian China.¹ Worse, maybe. “At least with China, you expect that they are going to...

  13. 10 Failure of the West
    (pp. 170-198)

    As we have seen, democracy in the early part of the twenty-first century faces a serious range of threats, from empowered authoritarians to conservative middle classes to emerging giants uninterested in democracy promotion. Yet the idea that democracy eventually, ultimately, will be the end state of every nation on earth remains a powerful concept. This idea of the inevitability of progress has existed for centuries, since the Enlightenment, but in the past twenty years it was enunciated so clearly by Fukuyama—an inevitability still publicly embraced by nearly every major Western leader, despite the global democracy recession of the past...

  14. 11 Prescriptions for the Future
    (pp. 199-236)

    The failure of young democracies in so many regions of the world, a decade-long trend that was not halted by the uprisings in the Middle East, has had enormous consequences. Most obviously, the renewed strength of authoritarian rule today, including the many “elected autocrats” who dominate what are nominally democracies, means that billions of people around the world continue to live under repressive or pseudodemocratic hybrid regimes, deprived of the social, political, and economic freedoms most in the West take for granted. It means that Thai webmasters and bloggers will continue to go on trial and face long prison sentences...

  15. Appendix: Egypt
    (pp. 237-240)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 241-274)
  17. Index
    (pp. 275-287)