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Institutions And The Fate Of Democracy

Institutions And The Fate Of Democracy: Germany And Poland In The Twentieth Century

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  • Book Info
    Institutions And The Fate Of Democracy
    Book Description:

    As democracy has swept the globe, the question of why some democracies succeed while others fail has remained a pressing concern. In this theoretically innovative, richly historical study, Michael Bernhard looks at the process by which new democracies choose their political institutions, showing how these fundamental choices shape democracy's survival.

    Offering a new analytical framework that maps the process by which basic political institu-tions emerge, Bernhard investigates four paradigmatic episodes of democracy in two countries: Germany during the Weimar period and after World War II, and Poland between the world wars and after the fall of communism.

    Students of democracy will appreciate the broad applicability of Bernhard's findings, while area specialists will welcome the book's accessible and detailed historical accounts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7275-4
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
  2. 1 Institutional Choice and Democratic Survival in New Democracies
    (pp. 1-25)

    Why do new democracies pick particular institutions? Why do some vest executive power in presidents, whereas others choose prime ministers? Why do some have electoral systems that yield a large number of parties and others choose systems that limit their number? One purpose of this book is to explore issues of this nature, which political science calls the problem of institutional choice. But this inquiry goes one step further. Institutional choices have important ramifications for the success or failure of democracy; a democracy’s initial institutional choices affect whether it survives or breaks down. Whereas contemporary political science has studied both...

    (pp. 26-77)

    The failure of democracy during Germany’s Weimar Republic (1918–1933) is considered one of the great cataclysms of the twentieth century. Already by 1930, Weimar had degenerated into a constitutional form of dictatorship due to defects in its institutional design. These defects helped to pave the way for the Nazi dictatorship that put an end to all pretense of constitutional rule with the passage of the Enabling Act of 1933.

    The origins of Weimar’s democracy lie with Germany’s defeat in the First World War. A coalition of three parties, which had begun to agitate for a fullblown parliamentary democracy during...

    (pp. 78-113)

    Democracy in interwar Poland was short-lived. A provisional government committed to democracy emerged in late 1918. A constituent assembly was elected to draw up a constitution, and a new legislature and government were elected under its provisions in 1922. This formof government broke down in 1926, when Jozef Piisudski successfully executed a coup d’état and inaugurated a regime described by the most prominent modern historian of interwar Poland as a “semi-constitutional ‘guided democracy’” (Polonsky 1972, vii).¹ Ironically Piisudski was one of the politicians most responsible for the inauguration of Polish democracy.

    Interwar Poland’s institutions were framed largely by the Constitution...

  5. 4 The Federal Republic of Germany: LEARNING FROM HISTORY
    (pp. 114-182)

    The origins of postwar German democracy also lie in defeat in war. Unlike 1918, defeat in 1945 was total. This unconditional surrender meant that German sovereignty was interrupted and placed in the hands of four occupying powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. Democratization in West Germany emerged only with the failure of the fourpower occupation. The inability of the quadripartite occupation government to provide a solution to Germany’s postwar problems led the Allies and the Soviet Union to pursue different policies in their respective occupation zones. These difficulties were one of the foundational events...

    (pp. 183-246)

    Poland was central to the collapse of Soviet-type authoritarianism in Europe. Following several periods of liberalization by the Polish regime, an explosion of oppositional social movements, and failed attempts to repress and normalize the situation by the regime, Poland emerged as the leader in democratization in the region. The failure of the penultimate attempt to liberalize the regime in 1988–1989 led to the historic Roundtable Talks. This maneuver inadvertently produced unplanned, rapid, and full democratization in 1990–1991. After a period where democracy was highly contentious and seemingly threatened in the first half of the 1990s, Poland has settled...

  7. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 247-264)

    Germany is the classic case of a relatively late modernizer¹ that embarked upon an authoritarian path of development. The failure of this national strategy, symbolized by the defeat in the First World War, was followed by the failure of Weimar democracy, and the ensuing fascist dictatorship. With cataclysmic defeat in the Second World War, the launching of democracy under Allied auspices, and the integration of the country into Europe, Germany has been transformed into one of the leading global democratic powers.

    Poland was once emblematic of the failed democratic aspirations of the successor states that emerged from the wreckage of...