Archive for June, 2012

I’ve been hmmming about the question of whether economic development really does induce democracy, or vice versa.  I know this is a fairly old-school debate (see Lipset, 1959), but I really don’t think it’s been proven either way yet.

Some would argue that Asia is showing Lipset to be correct, in that economic development led to democratic transition.  An increasingly specialised economy led to an empowered middle class, which experienced a new form of meritocratic career, and begun to feel it was entitled to a greater say in public affairs.  We’ve seen this primarily in South Korea and Taiwan; but there are those examples, as Tom Ginsburg outlines in this great article – http://www.fpri.org/enotes/200712.ginsburg.democratictransitionscasestudiesasia.html – Singapore, which is very wealthy yet basically authoritarian; and China could also be cited, or in fact any other communist one-party state, because the wealthy middle class is affiliated so strongly with the party itself.  Around the world, in fact, but more relevantly in China, income disparity within countries is growing quickly.  Here we might be seeing a post-French Revolution situation unfolding, indicating that it might be another good while before ‘democracy’ in the real sense actually takes root.

We may even see a strengthening of authoritarian statehood in these nations.  The CCP seems to just consolidate itself more with time, as the clever route they took around the development of civil society is enabling them to channel the desire for civilian government into their own model of dealing with it.

In any case, it can’t yet be said that Lipset has been proved correct.  I think that can only be decided once the more complex states exhibit signs of conforming, rather than those with less of an independent history themselves.



Read Full Post »