29 Jan

Democracies struggle into existence

Foreign Policy magazine takes a look at struggles to get democracy going in western countries in the past, and how that applies to Arab Spring:

The toppling of a long-standing authoritarian regime is not the end of a process of democratization but the beginning of it. Even failed democratic experiments are usually critical positive stages in the political development of countries, eras in which they get started on rooting out the antidemocratic social, cultural, and economic legacies of the past. Too many observers today interpret problems and setbacks as signs that an eventual stable democratic outcome is not in the cards. But such violent and tragic events as the French Revolution, the collapse of interwar Italian and German democracy, and the American Civil War were not evidence that the countries in question could not create or sustain liberal democracies; they were crucial parts of the process by which those countries achieved just such an outcome.

The widespread pessimism about the fate of the Arab Spring is almost certainly misplaced. Of course, the Middle East has a unique mix of cultural, historical, and economic attributes. But so does every region, and there is little reason to expect the Arab world to be a permanent exception to the rules of political development.

The article looks at how it took multiple tries to get democracy to stick in France, Germany, and Italy. In fact, in my lifetime I remember Spain being considered ‘unable to be culturally democratic’ in much the same way Arab countries are considered today. The same thing was true of South Korea.

Don’t read the comments of the article by the way. The racists and conservatives there completely fail to engage with the points made and repeat talking points. FP really needs to shut down comments or engage in moderation, like most news sites it seems to fail in that regard utterly.