Saturday, 26 May 2012

Determinants of Political Development




From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century, the world had witnessed significant changes in both political and socio-economic structures through peaceful and violent struggles. However, not every country had experienced the same path of transformations into a new regime due to difference in historical sequences, social and economic base, geo-politics, and supports from different classes of society. Some countries such as England, France, China, and Japan, had managed to transform from agrarian society into modern states by adopting different paths of transformation. Currently, the issue of Arab Spring, which has originated in Tunisia and now is ongoing in some Middle East countries, has been drawing many attentions from politicians and scholars on violent political transitions to real democracy of those countries, especially in Egypt and Libya. Furthermore, Myanmar or Burma has surprised the world by its own peaceful transformation into democratic government during the universal election in 2011 and by-election in early April 2012. Interestingly, civilian control of government has been declared but the role of the military behind the government is still skeptical by international community. Furthermore, with the intervention of UN from 1991-93, Cambodia is also an example of peaceful transformation into electoral democracy which pave the  way for stable peace and national reconstruction after three decades of chaos and civil wars. This article will take some discussion on the way of transformations of a regime and inauguration of a new regime and provide comparative views among those countries.

Robert Dahl (1971) has identified three possible paths to polyarchy as follows:

I.                  Liberalization precedes inclusiveness: a closed hegemony increases public contestation and then is transformed to a competitive oligarchy. Then, by increasing inclusiveness of the regime, the competitive oligarchy is transformed into polyarchy.
II.          Inclusiveness precedes liberalization: a closed hegemony abruptly become inclusive by popular participation in elections. By increasing public contestation, then, it is transformed into polyarchy.
III.       Shortcut: “a closed hegemony is abruptly transformed into a polyarchy by a sudden grant of universal suffrage and rights of public contestation.”

Dahl explained that first path is a peaceful mean to democracy in which competitive politics precedes expansion of popular participation. The practice and culture of competitive politics developed first in a small elite group and the critical transition from non-party politics to party competition also occurred. Later, the population is allowed to take part in the political election, for example Cambodia which has adopted democracy since 1993 election. From this view, he pointed out that the first path is more likely to produce stable transformation from hegemony toward polyarchy. As the second path involves first with popular participation which is sometime uncontrollable, system of mutual security must be worked out. The third path is a shortcut way which shortens the time required for learning some basic values of democracy, but often with violent ways. However, before a system of mutual security can be worked out among many political competitors, the emerging competitive regime could turn into a hegemony ruled by one of the contestants. However, the risk of failure could be reduced if liberalization process is accompanied by a dedicated search for viable system of mutual guarantees. However, I think that trust should be made among all parties through confidence building mechanisms such as dialogues and social forums. With the intervention of independent force such as a neutral military, peaceful negotiation could provide a guarantee basis and is the best way to solve difference among all parties.

On inaugurating the competitive regime, Dahl defines the term “inauguration” that it is the application of power, influence, or authority to introduce and to legitimize a regime. Then, two important ways are considered, which polyarchies or near-polyarchies have been inaugurated in the past. The first way is within the already independent state in which a new regime is inaugurated by evolutionary peaceful process (England) or by revolution to overthrow the old regime (France) or by military conquest (Japan). The second way is within a dependent country in which the old regime is transformed by evolutionary process without a national independence movement (Australia) or by national independence movement (India) in the course of a “revolution” against the colonial power. 

Therefore, Dahl provides his view for the future that “stable polyarchies and near-polyarchies are more likely to result from slow evolutionary processes than from the revolutionary overthrow of the existing hegemonies.” However, he suggested, the length of process can probably be reduced and the prospects of a stable transformation increased if inaugural processes are accompanied by a search for an internal system of mutual security.

To see detail of how specific countries went on its own way to a modernized and capitalist state and which social classes (peasants, landed upper-class, bourgeoisie) are the main players in the transformation path,  Barrington Moore in his book “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World” has provided a detailed view on how some countries such as England, France, United States, and Japan, transformed itself into new and modern industrial regime. There are three main historical routes from the preindustrial to the modern world as follows:

The first route leads through bourgeois revolution in which the landed upper class was an important part of the capitalist and democratic process. The key factor of peaceful transformation in England is the growth of commercial life in both town and countryside during the 16th and 17th centuries did not pose any threat to the crown. The landed upper class and the peasants had a very good relationship which provides a good economic base for capitalism to thrive. There are other factors which also contributed to the progress of England’s democracy such as independent parliament and no serious peasant problem. However, France’s democracy has been transformed from a reverse direction at the expense of the King Louis XVI by peasant revolution.

The Second route has also been capitalist, but reached in peak in fascism during the 20th century (Germany and Japan). In case of Japan, it managed to contain and prevent peasant revolution. Its feudalism remained vigorous into 19th century. However, the peasants were the main contributor to process of industrialization and were the source of capitalist accumulation. Since the Restoration, the political history of Japan may be divided into three main phases. The first one is the adoption of a formal constitution and some of the outward trapping of parliamentary democracy in 1889. The second phase ends with the failure of democratic forces to break through the barriers imposed by this system. The third phase is the period of a war economy and the Japanese version of a right totalitarian regime. In short, the Meiji government (1868-1912) took many important steps, especially Imperial Restoration, to make Japan as a modern industrial society. He also argued that the adaptability of Japanese political and social institutions to capitalist principles enabled Japan to avoid the cost of revolutionary entrance and proceeded to the modern history. However, because Japan managed to escape this horror, Japan succumbed to fascism and result in defeat in World War II. From my own idea, I think that this may not be the case. Japan’s situation is similar to that of England without peasant revolution. But why England did not fall into fascism? And why Japan fell into such a situation? Perhaps, Japan had extreme nationalism and militarism, the persecution of democracy and liberalism, the high concentration of power in the hand of a small political elite group who became an extreme totalitarian. Meanwhile, England had a strong parliament and has already been a mature capitalist democracy which has gone through peaceful and slow evolution since 16th century.

Next, the third route is communism as in the case of Russia and China of which the great agrarian bureaucracies of these countries served to receive the commercial and industrial impulses. The agrarian bureaucracy in these two countries inhibited the growth of a class of independent merchants and manufacturers. So, in the absence of a bourgeois revolution, there came a peasant revolution that in turn opened the road for totalitarian modernization.

Finally, the fourth route is in the case of India that has weak impulse toward modernization. Particularly in India, there has been neither a capitalist revolution nor a peasant one leading to a new regime. However, historical prerequisite of Western democracy did exist, but was just a fa├žade.

From my viewpoint, Barrington Moore have made a good comparison on the path of transformation between England and France, and between Germany and Japan, between Russia and China, but he have not yet provided any comparative view between England and Japan, and between American Civil War and any of the above mentioned countries, which has undergone through similar path of transformation but the way in which these nations inaugurated their new regimes are totally different. However, I am skeptical of Moore’s idea on the fall of Japan into fascism due to Japan’s success in avoiding peasant revolution. I think the main causes are extreme militarism, the degeneration of democratic process, and the rise of totalitarian which paved the way for Japan to enter fascism. 

For Dahl’s three possible paths to polyarchy, the first path leads to the most stable regime, but the other two paths could be dangerous unless it could make a system of mutual security or guarantee. However, I think that he does not say how to create this system, which I think it could be achieved through confidence building and peaceful negotiation with the support of a neutral military. 

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