Haggard, Stephan, and Robert R. Kaufman.Dictators and democrats: masses, elites, and regime change. Princeton University Press, 2016.
Both political scientists and economists have been working on explaining transitions to and from democracy for decades. People supporting modernization theories argue that there is a casual mechanism between level of development and democracy (Przeworski, 2000; Boix, 2011). Moreover, some of them have argued that high inequality can be a barrier to democratization, because elites will fear redistribution when masses are empowered by democratization and they will have a lot to lose (Acemoglu and Robinson, 2005; Boix, 2003). Nevertheless, Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have tested the theoretical relationship between inequality and democracy empirically and then concluded that the structural factors such as level of development and inequality cannot predict transitions to and from democracy (Chapter 1). They have provided evidence that there may not be casual inferences between structural factors (eg. inequality and level of development) and democratization, proposing a big challenge for modernization theorists. In fact, given the recent facts, such as the aftermath of Arab Spring and growing authoritarian powers (eg. China and Russia), it can hardly be argued that modernization theories are generalizable. Therefore, obviously, “the end of history” in Fukuyama’s term is becoming even more debatable in the recent years. In this case, Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have offered a new perspective of democratic transitions.
Different from exploring the correlation between structural factors and transitions, they identified two paths of transitions: mass mobilization and elite-led transitions. In other words, the former one is “bottom-up”, and the latter one is “top-down”. These two paths of transitions help to reveal different mechanisms of transitions, which implies that there might not be a “one-for-all” explanation for transitions to or from democracy. Besides, they have also argued that military regimes and single-party regimes are more vulnerable to mass mobilization (distributive conflict transitions) because they are more dependent on coercion and exclusion (p.64-p.69). This argument contributes to detailed analysis rather than a unified theory of democratization, which indicates that the path, consolidation, and durability of transitions may be more closely related to regimes’ socio-political structures instead of economic development.
A third strength of this book is that Haggard and Kaufman have adopted a mixed methodology. Apart from Large-N analysis, which is a dominant method currently in social sciences, they have provided fruitful case studies in depth. The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods is conducive to both theory building and theory testing. Moreover, they have adopted more than one measurements of democracy in quantitative analysis to capture different components of democracy and examine the consistency and robustness of their arguments. Similarly, they have also provided case studies in pairs, which makes different cases more compatible. In consequence, they have successfully reduced biases that could happen in either Large-N or Small-N analysis.
However, Haggard and Kaufman (2016)’s work is still not perfect. First off, though they have connected different paths of transitions to different regime types, it would have been more contributive if they have gone further. For instance, could there be any other factor that decides both regime types and transition paths? They have claimed that distributive conflict transitions are more likely to happen in regimes which rely more on coercion, repression, and exclusion at the expense of limited contestation and co-optation, while elite-led transitions are more likely to occur where regimes are less repressive and better at co-optation, but they did not explain why some regimes rely more on coercion and repression while others do not. To illustrate, it could be the case that the more domestic conflicts a country has, the more likely that people choose a military regime or a single-party regime, and accordingly, the regime is more vulnerable to mass mobilization.
Besides, Haggard and Kaufman (2016)’s arguments of consequences of transition paths are inconsistent to some extent. Though their quantitative evidence supports the idea that distributive conflict transitions benefit democracy consolidation more, their case studies have illuminated that the difference between distributive conflict transitions and elite-led transitions can be subtle. In addition, even distributive conflict transitions did benefit democracy consolidation more, there could also be another reason: in a country where people are better-educated and better-organized, and where the civil society is better-developed, mass mobilization, namely “bottom-up” transitions are more likely to happen. As a result, after this country democratized, it is more likely to stay democracy because of its people and society, instead of the transition path. Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have not included data regarding population and social structure, and thus there might be some problem of their conclusions in terms of how different transition paths lead to different consequences.
Third, in terms of elite-led transitions, Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have borrowed Levitsky and Way (2006)’s argument of leverage and linkage. However, in Levitsky and Way (2006)’s original work, leverage and linkage are both multi-dimensional concepts including positive conditionality, diplomatic persuasion, military force, investment, bilateral and multilateral aid flows, etc. Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have only used aid dependence and neighboring democracies to measure linkage and leverage respectively. These two indexes may not fully capture their concept of “international pressure” and its influence on elite-led transitions. Moreover, the casual mechanism between external pressure and elite-led transitions remains unclear. It is reasonable to assume that international sanctions or a decline in foreign investments can be an economic burden to authoritarian regimes which drives them to democratize, but the influence from neighboring democracies on authoritarian regimes is not that straightforward. Hence, Haggard and Kaufman (2016) either needs to find a better measurement, or to offer a better explanation of the mechanism. Furthermore, how much “international pressure” can contribute to democratization also relies on the power of the countries on both sides. For instance, the affect of neighboring democracies on China or Russia is definitely different from that on Malawi, and the affect of the US on other countries is also definitely different from that of South Korea. Therefore, Haggard and Kaufman (2016)’s work could have been better if those factors have been taken into account and have been controlled.
Overall, Haggard and Kaufman (2016) have offered several new perspectives of transitions to and from democracy, based on which there are a great number of possible extensions. Though there are still several problems to be fixed, the book has successfully challenged previous arguments of modernization theories and attempted to test theoretical models such as linkage and leverage with empirical data.
Acemoglu, Daron, and James A. Robinson.Economic origins of dictatorship and democracy. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Boix, Carles.Democracy and redistribution. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Fukuyama, Francis.The end of history and the last man. Simon and Schuster, 2006.
Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way. "Linkage versus leverage. Rethinking the international dimension of regime change."Comparative Politics(2006): 379-400.
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