Transitional Regimes

Democratic Innovations in Transitional Societies

The last 30 years have witnessed a wave of democratic change across parts of Latin America, East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the former Soviet Bloc. Most visibly, structures of authoritarian rule in scores of countries have given way to formal institutions of electoral competition, separated powers, and judicial oversight. In China, democratic experimentation in local elections, judicial reform, and processes of public consultation are taking place beneath the surface of continued authoritarianism. While democratic reform seems secure in some places, other movements toward democratic politics have turned out to be incomplete, tentative, or even short-lived.

Why does democratic government take firm root in some contexts but not others? How do countries move from the outward forms of democracy to the everyday habits of party competition, active civic engagement, and the rule of law? Can constitutional models imported from Western democracies work in vastly different social, economic, and cultural conditions, or do they require adaptation to local needs, norms, and practices? Can authoritarian regimes such as China use tools of public participation to maintain their grip on power, or does democratic reform generate its own self-propelling dynamic?

Conferences and Workshops:

Governance-Driven Democratization: Exploring the Theoretical Terrain and Recent Developments in China
Workshop 10-11 April 2006
Summary in PDF format