Reflecting on the first few chapters of Dickson’s new book on the CCP, I’d like you to respond to the following question…
Using our previous readings (particularly Bueno de Mesquita and Smith and Schmitter and O’Donnell) as your theoretical guides, give me an inventory of the CCP’s key strengths and weaknesses when it comes to holding onto power.
Assume for a moment that it’s the spring of 2011, and that you are either:
1) Muammar Gaddafi, the longstanding ruler of Libya
2) one of the leaders of the then-ongoing anti-Gaddafi rebellion.
If you are Gadaffi, your goal is to stay in power as long as possible while giving up as little as possible in concessions to your opponents. If you are a protester or rebel, your goal is to overthrow Gadaffi or force him to resign, while ensuring that power passes to an elected government (we will for the moment assume that you’re not a committed Islamist looking to establish the sharia and an Islamic state). Using the Schmitter and O’Donnell reading as your guide, please explain what your best strategy would be for realizing your goals.
In our articles for this Monday, we can identify numerous ways of strategically engaging in electoral fraud, from the “portable polling places” of Louisville, to police intimidation, ballot box theft, and the infamous vote buying and selling organizations in scenic Adams County, Ohio. In large part, these strategies can be broken down into two categories–fraud that adds to a candidate’s vote total, and fraud that suppresses an opponent’s vote total. Of the two, which one is more dangerous and damaging to democracy? Why?
Amidst a wide range of humorous examples and anecdotes, Bueno de Mesquita and Smith have embedded a key argument about why democracies tend to provide better governance than authoritarian regimes–a larger “selectorate,” or coalition size. Why does being forced (in practical terms) to incorporate a larger ruling coalition force political regimes to offer better governance? And what lessons does this provide for considering how to make authoritarian regimes more democratic?
In the Keyssar readings, we see that while voting rights on the whole expanded tremendously for most Americans from the colonial era to the early 20th century, there were many instances in which the deals that expanded political participation for some (typically, white males) led to reductions in voting rights for others. Why were voting rights extended in such a halting, “one step forward, two steps back” sort of way in the 19th century? What sorts of politics influenced the extension of voting rights in this period of US history, and what might these patterns tell us about the emergence of democracy in other countries?
In the first course meeting for our unit on democracy and democratization in the antebellum (“pre-Civil War”) United States, we discover that the era immediately following the end of the Revolutionary War was a tumultuous one, in which the question of what democracy would look like in the new nation was far from settled. In particular, the readings by Holton and Bouton highlight the role of growing economic conflict between the US’s wealthy (and bondholding) elite and small farmers and tradespeople (most of whom are debtors).
For your blog post, please describe the economic situation in the early republic, articulating as specifically as possible what the elites and smallholders each wanted, policy-wise, from the state and federal governments.
In the readings for Wednesday, Barrington Moore and Charles Tilly challenge modernization theory and the wealth/democratization relationship by invoking the role of political institutions in determining a country’s democratic government.
Your question, then, is this:
What role does social structure-the organization of society and it’s wealth- play in bringing about democracy? Is violence or the credible threat of violence necessary, as Moore argues, in order to bring about practical limits on elite power? Or is there a peaceful path to economic redistribution and powersharing?
When it comes to thinking about the relationship between religion and politics, matters are complicated by a number of factors. One is that religious doctrine is often a hotly contested issue, with many voices competing to “speak” for the religious tradition. Another is that there are often significant differences between doctrine as it is described by religious leaders and the beliefs and practices of ordinary adherents (a 2014 Univision poll demonstrates a widening gulf between the attitudes of American/European Catholics and their brothers and sisters in the Global South on issues of morality and church teachings, for example).
-A book by some guy about Islam and Democracy
Given those issues, as well as the arguments and evidence provided by the readings, are Islam and its practices are “compatible” or “incompatible” with democracy and democratic government as you understand it? Is it even possible to answer such a question? If not, what might be a better way of putting it?
Having considered economic prerequisites for democracy on Tuesday, let’s turn now to the question of culture. In the works by Putnam, Welzel and Inglehart, and in the YALI curriculum, we see shades of a longstanding argument among political scientists: Where do the values that undergird democratic stability come from? Although Lipset suggests that they come (relatively) unproblematically from the process of modernization, each of our sources for Wednesday offers a more complicated, historically-grounded account of the emergence of democratic values and beliefs.
-Ronald Inglehart, Founder of the World Values Survey
So, my question for you: Each one of our authors today argues–in their own way, of course–that democratic values, beliefs, and cultural norms are a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of democracy. Is this correct? Must citizens come to democratic institutions already primed to accept and cherish them (perhaps through longstanding membership in many social organizations or by the possession of “self-expression” values)? Or is it possible for a society without the “necessary” culture to learn to value democracy by experiencing it? Based on your readings, what do you think?
In the readings for Monday, we move on (for the moment) from definitions, and begin our search for answers to the question “What sorts of societal conditions (if any) are favorable for the emergence and maintenance of democracy?” Our first set of readings examine the question of wealth and democracy – that is to say, they examine the relationship between a country’s economic status and its political status.
Based on your readings, do you agree that wealthier societies have an advantage in crafting and sustaining stable democracy? If so, why? What is it about wealth and economic development that makes democracy better able to take root?. If you are not persuaded, why not?