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Preliminary Table of Contents
Annual Edition: Comparative Politics 13/14, Thirty-first Edition
UNIT 1: Why Comparative Politics?
1. Arab Revolts Upend Old Assumptions, Augustus Norton, Current History, vol 111, no 741
One of the key questions for comparative politics is: why study comparative politics? This article points out one reason: failure to pay attention to the citizens, the institutions and government, and social and economic conditions, led US policymakers to pursue foreign policies that completely failed to anticipate the political changes in the region. The author succinctly tracks the changes that occurred through the Middle East to reach the following conclusions: the US foreign policy in the Middle-East is untenable, as our reactive posture to events in the Middle East has made clear. If the US continues focus on allies or those who will be receptive to the US or West, it may jeopardize further opportunities to build ties with the region. The article, then, is instructive on what it means to take domestic politics into consideration: pay attention to the people, the institutions and government, and the social and economic conditions.
2. The Global Context, Marc F. Plattner, Journal of Democracy, October 2011
To follow-up on the previous article, what is next for the Arab World? It is tempting to shrink countries into the region; yet, the author points out that what we hope to apply from such a treatment is limited. For one, it is clear that from the changes already taking place that domestic politics and society will contextualize institutional changes. For another, the varying levels of violence and conflict inflicted upon the people will affect the democratization process, even though democracy appeals to the citizens in the Middle-East across religious or sectarian allegiances. To further complicate matters, even as the role of electronic communications underscores the roles of the "young people" at the forefront of this strategy, they also have the least experience in politics in general. What is next? The author suggests that we pay heed to domestic politics and policy, since "there is every reason to expect that subsequent political developments will take different courses in different countries."
3. Is Burma Democratizing?, Thomas Carothers, April 2012
Even as events in the Middle East unfold, a significant change is occurring in Burma, a country renowned for gunning down peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks against the military junta and for placing political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for over two decades. Does Burma typify military regimes? Or democratizing ones? What led to the change and what do the changes augur? As the author notes, our understanding of what is to come needs to be predicated on a comprehension of domestic politics: the people, the institutions and government, and social and economic conditions.
4. How India Stumbled, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2012 vol 19, no 4
From a different vantage point – looking at how an "older" democracy fares—the article reminds us that the road to and of democracy is by no means secure. Consider India, one of the powerhouses of the BRIC group that was considered capable of "growing" its way out of social and political issues. Within a short time, that capability has become mired in political and social stalemate as a result of its economic slowdown. The author argues for political solutions to the economic slowdown; namely, fulfilling government's promise to punish corruption, reduce regulation, and privatize industries. This article explains that India's failure to address recent scandals has reduced citizen's confidence of the government, fueling the informal economy and inhibiting growth.
5. More Aid Is Not the Answer, Jonathan Glennie, Current History, May 2010
This article provides another useful reminder that the failure to consider domestic politics and policies leads to disappointments: the countries in sub-Saharan Africa seem mired in underdevelopment despite extensive aid. The author argues for a fundamental reorientation of aid-extension so that it does not veer between the two extremes: clamoring to "do something" even when they are ineffective; or adopting an ideological "anti-aid" position. Fundamentally, the author counsels the need to strengthen political institutions and accountability, so that a careful analysis of possible solutions in relation to other policies and factors is possible.
6. A Video Campaign and the Power of Simplicity, Noam Cohen, The New York Times, March 11, 2012
This article illustrates the power of participation and communication: through a 30-minute video of Joseph Kony released in March 2012, the makers brought attention to conditions in Uganda that elicited a wave of outrage that partly propelled the US to send advisors to help with his capture. Mass mobilization of citizens, it seems, requires a simple message, a definite plan, and a clear political, social, or economic setting: important elements sometime overlooked in the belief that citizens do not play roles under some regimes.
7. Intensive Care for the United Nations, Thomas G. Weiss, Current History, November 2010
To return to the question posed in the first article in this unit, sometimes, the relevance of studying the political institutions and policies of foreign countries is underplayed because there are regional and international agencies, such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations, that focus on then. This article clarifies why this justification is dangerous: First, institutions with large memberships such as the UN are far from functional. Second, sovereign countries are generally reluctant to accept an over-arching authority. The author points out four significant problems with the UN that may require "radical" changes to achieve functionality. Notably, the solutions involve: (1) recognizing that no country is an island onto itself, i.e., state policies reverberate onto the international arena and vice versa; (2) creative partnerships that include rich and poor nations. Clearly, inattention to the politics and policies of foreign countries—even small ones—comes at a peril.
UNIT 2: Studying Comparative Politics: Evaluating Theories, Learning from Cases, Generalizing Trends
8. What Democracy Is . . . and Is Not, Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, Journal of Democracy, Summer 1991
The term "democracy" is often used normatively to defend political decisions or outcomes. In this article, the authors outline what the term means conceptually, procedurally, and in principle. They also emphasize citizen participation as an integral concept to democracy. This is made clearer in the discussion on procedures, where the authors note that citizen participation underlies the procedures that realize democracy. Finally, the authors explain that no single set of actual institutions, practices, or values embodies democracy.
9. Twenty-Five Years, Fifteen Findings, Philippe C. Schmitter, Journal of Democracy, January 2010
Too often, we fail to consider that theory and evidence—much of what we take as given—are challenged repeatedly and have evolved over time. In this article, we find out the reactions of the previous author, Philippe Schmitter, to the theoretical and empirical challenges of the theory of democracy espoused, as well as a "refresher" of fifteen points he considers relevant to the understanding of democratic development after twenty-five years.
10. Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring: The Myth of Authoritarian Stability, F. Gregory Gause III, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2011
In the vein of "theory" meets "reality," the author uses the onset of the Arab spring to flesh out Schmitter's first of fifteen points: It is difficult to predict democratization. As the author reminds us, few anticipated the Arab Spring. Yet, this is exactly why theory-building remains a fruitful exercise: Theory is not "dead", and theory-building demands the oversight be acknowledged, examined, and reconciled. Foremost among the oversight is the willingness to believe that the military will side with rulers; second is the underestimation of the role of economic development; third is the downplay of cititzens' mobilization. Alongside these oversights, the author also notes the progress in Middle-east studies that must be congratulated, including no longer explaining Arab in cultural terms, no longer using "old saws about how Islam is inimical to democracy," and acknowledging the popularity of democracy as a concept in the Arab world.
11. Advanced Democracies and the New Politics, Russell J. Dalton, Susan E. Scarrow, and Bruce E. Cain, Journal of Democracy, January 2004
This article also gives flesh to the notion of theory is not dead: Thus, even in established democracies, democratic development continues. In these countries, citizens are demanding more access, greater transparency in policy-making, and more accountability in government. The authors also show how procedures other than elections meet these demands. In particular, the authors note three trends in the evolution of democracy. First, changes such as campaign financing and term limits affect representation. Second, initiatives and referenda, where citizens participate directly in policymaking, are increasing. Third, citizens and interest groups are using the courts to pursue policy formation. Clearly, transitional countries are not the only ones facing the problem of institution building; this is why continued study remains important.
12. The Fight for `Real Democracy' at the Heart of Occupy Wall Street, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Foreign Affairs, October 2011, vol 90, no 5
In another "theory" meet "reality" treatment, this article shows how the Occupy Wall Street movement directly relates to the preceding article. The authors identify social movements in the United States, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece as part of a similar, transnational populist sentiment: the need for more responsive and representative domestic government institutions. In the wake of economic policies that seemed to favor financial and banking interests, citizens demand that the government better address their concerns by creating new institutions. These protests illustrate a desire for not only policy change, but also for institutional change. The author points to horizontal and participatory structures within the protest movements, explaining recent protests as an increased demand for greater access to government and efficacy in policy formation.
13. Capitalism and Democracy, Gabriel A. Almond, PS: Political Science and Politics, September 1991
Gabriel Almond shows that the relationship between capitalism and democracy is not clear. Drawing on the work of other theorists, the scholar explores how capitalism both supports and subverts democratic institutions, as well as ways in which democracy may both subvert and foster capitalist institutions. While the direction of effect will continue to be debated, the author notes the indisputable relationship between the economy, social equity, and political development.
14. Making Modernity Work: The Reconciliation of Capitalism and Democracy, Gideon Rose, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012, vol 91, no 1
In this historical recount, the author provides an overview of competing political economies to clarify the ambivalent relationship between capitalism and democracy described in the previous article. Importantly, the author notes that while protests within modern democratic states may seem to call into question support for capitalism or democracy, they also frequently bolster these institutions by attracting alienated groups to participate. The author points out that such participation and activism, including those described in many of the cases in the following units and articles, typically petition for policy change or economic redistribution within the existing political and economic regimes and not revolutionary institutional change.
UNIT 3: Participating in Politics: Acting within and out of Institutional Frameworks
15. What Political Institutions Does Large-Scale Democracy Require?,Robert A. Dahl, On Democracy, Yale University Press, 2000
The veteran scholar reiterates the theory in Unit 2: "Every actual democracy has always fallen short of democratic criteria." Notwithstanding, he provides six criteria that form the minimum institutional requirements for democracy: elected officials; free, fair and frequent elections; freedom of expression; access to alternative sources of information; associational autonomy; and inclusive citizenship. It is notable that institutions to facilitate citizen participation underpin all six criteria. While institutions and organizations such as interest groups and political parties are sometimes viewed with skepticism and even suspicion, they facilitate citizen influence and are, thus, indispensable toward building a democratic country.
16. Rare Haven of Stability in Somalia Faces a Test, Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, June 26, 2010
This article provides empirical support to the previous on the types of political institutions needed for large-scale democracy. In particular, it describes how Somaliland has successfully held peaceful national elections followed by transitions of power even as it is surrounded by conflict and violence in its neighbouring countries. Perhaps this accomplishment seems all the more impressive given that Somaliland – which is not a recognized as a country because of its breakaway status following the disintegration of Somalia in 1991 – does not have external onlookers or foreign aid to help along its progression towards democracy. Clearly, the success of Somaliland emphasizes the need for free and fair elections based on inclusive citizenship to buttress political stability.
17. Civil Society, Youth and Societal Mobilization in Democratic Revolutions, Taras Kuzio, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 39, 2006
In this article, the author shows how youth movements in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine, are consistent with the counterparts in the Middle East. Importantly, the author points out that the zeal of the youths had to be coached in order to viably challenge the former regime. Through organizing to confront electoral fraud, training to mobilize and unify, and contemporizing politics—incorporating modern communications like cellphones and texting, and using music and ridicule—to connect and raise awareness, the youth movements presented challenges that the authorities could not overcome with their traditional methods of portraying the groups as extremist, terrorist, or pro-Western anti-nationalists.
18. Online Activism, Guobin Yang, Journal of Democracy, July 2009
This article echoes the insights from the previous: First, modern technology has facilitated the expansion of political activism and emboldened political opposition, even in a country such as China where political control is high. Second, he points out the success of such political activism in effecting change. The author maintains that an important underlying principle is citizens' political attitudes and gives three reasons to explain how online activity catalyzes activism.
19. China's Cyberposse, Tom Downey, The New York Times, March 3, 2010
There is also a dark side to using the Internet to mobilize citizens. The author points out that the technology is being used to mobilize netizens not only against the government but also against other citizens. In the name of fighting injustice and wrong-doing, campaigns of "harassment, mass intimidation, and public revenge" have been carried out. As the author points out, the reality of the Internet is that engaging in political discourse constitutes one of the smallest uses of the Internet.
20. Protestors and the Public, Denis Volkov, Journal of Democracy, July 2012, vol 23, no 3
What is the effect of participation? Consider Russia, where Putin's political career appeared invulnerable. In Russia, protests in late 2011 and early 2012 showed the government that citizens demand that the government respond to the economic decline, as well as ensure greater economic distribution via the welfare state. Duma elections in September and subsequent street protests helped to relate popular preferences to a government that has been defined by top-down political control. Clearly, even in less-democratic countries, protests and social mobilization may occur. Do we know when and why?
UNIT 4: The Executive: Accountability and Responsiveness at the Top
21. Disabling the Constitution, Miklos Bankuti, Gabor Halmai, and Kim Lane Scheppele, Journal of Democracy, 2012, vol 23, no 3
Once in power, executives often redefine states' institutional structures. In this article, Hungary's president entrenched his powers by reducing the media's independency, expanding executive control over the Constitutional Court, and the country's electoral process. This article helps demonstrate how an aggressive executive can expand that branch's power vis-à-vis others, and entrench its powers. The executive's expansion, through constitutional means, can last past the current regime, institutionalizing power well into the future.
22. Chile's Middle Class Flexes Its Muscles, Patricio Navia, Current History, 2012, vol 111
In democratic states, responsive executives respond to popular demand. In this article Chile's growing middle class seeks greater economic security and elected a president to affect change. Recent protests for state-supported education and an expanded social safety-net have caused the center-right coalition government to respond to public demand with a reformed social market economy.
23. The Resilient Authoritarians, Martin Dimitrov, Current History,January 2008
This article reminds us that institutions have to be strong in order to constrain strong executives. Consider the examples of China and Russia: The article points out that much of the resilience is tied to the governments' willingness to loosen some restrictions while playing up on nationalistic sentiments. The author notes how "limited accountability" and "limited responsiveness" may be used to stall democratic development.
24. Singapore Poll Energizes Voters, Chun Han Wong, Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2011
Voters in Singapore have historically rewarded one party for the country's economic success for the last fifty years. However, recent executive elections show that modern voters are asking for an individualized government. Younger citizens with better education and more access to diverse media outlets are responsive to messages asking for expanded executive powers and reduced party influence. Restrained by the constitution, Singapore's presidential candidates seek to expand the executive at the expense of the legislative branch, and reduce the historic power of the dominant party. In turn, the ruling party reshuffled the cabinet and promised more direct public input.
25. North Korea, The New York Times, October 15, 2012
The recent leadership changes in North Korea, a country often engaged in brinkmanship–as pointed out in the article–lends to the examination of what executive leadership means in dictatorships in order to consider when changes are likely or possible. There are signs that the "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un is breaking away from previous leadership styles, including opening up to more Western-styles of dress and interactions, and even acknowledging mistakes and failures. These changes, viewed in the context of the spread of cellphones and DVD players, suggest that citizens in North Korea may now be aware of how "poor and backward their country has become" and that this has, in turn, emphasized the peril of the transition to the previously unknown Kim Jong-un. Perhaps in response, the "Supreme Leader" appears focused on domestic conditions, launching plans for trade and economic investment, a pilot program to allow farmers to keep more of their farm yield, and educational reforms to include an additional year of free education.
UNIT 5: The Legislature: Is Representation also Representative?
26. The Famous Dutch (In)Tolerance, Jan Erik, Current History
This article provides one perspective on why legislatures should be representative: failing that, they may lead to "tyranny of the majority." This article makes the point regarding the Netherlands, where the far right Party of Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands has made discrimination acceptable. For instance, the PVV has brought anti-immigration views into the mainstream by coding them as anti-Islam and capitalizing on fears of terrorism and extremism. The success of the PVV, in turn, appears to increase the acceptability of negative stereotypical views against minorities and xenophobia. If this negativity seems harmless, think again: the massacre in another Scandinavian country—Norway—clearly emphasizes that the need to pay heed to what democracy means for majority and minorities.
27. Equal Rights for Women? Survey Says: Yes, but . . . Victoria Shannon, New York Times, July 1, 2010
This article addresses the question that frames the unit: Is representation also representative? In a survey of 22 nations across both developing and developed countries conducted in 2010, the results show that while many are committed in principle towards equality and gender representation, this commitment often fails to be translated into practice. This leads to frustration that undergirds real attitudinal and institutional changes, which experts peg at about two generations. What happens until then? That is the question that goes to the heart of this unit.
28. The Impact of Electoral Reform on Women's Representation, Pippa Norris, Acta Politica, July 2006
This article provides more evidence that majoritarian systems tend to reduce diversity, including gender diversity. In the process, the author provides a survey of alternative electoral systems and their effects on diversity and representation, and ways to ensure diversity and representation are not compromised.
29. Elections, Electoral Systems and Conflict in Africa, Andrew Reynolds, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Fall/Winter 2009
This article agrees with that of the previous article, relating this time to ethnic mobilization and difference in African electoral systems. Electoral systems, and the majorities and minorities that they empower, affect political stability and democratization. They effectively legitimate some political actors and delegitimize other actors, thereby making elections (and electoral systems), important questions in new states.
30. Israel's Unity Government: A Bid to Represent the Majority, Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, May 9, 2012
While the previous articles underscore the importance of minority inclusion, this article problematizes minority control of government. Israel's parliamentary system has favored minority influences until recent elections. The "tyranny" of Israel's minority ultra-religious groups, once a product of the government's proportional representation system, is now challenged by new electoral rules. Is this better for democracy, or should Israel now worry about the tyranny of majority rule?
31. Latin America: Democracy with Development, Alejandro Toledo, Journal of Democracy 2010, vol 21, no 4
The former president of Peru offers his insights on the importance of institutional checks and balances against "authoritarian populist leaders" who are able to seize on economic disparities or crises as springboards for their individual political careers. As former president, his counsel bears weight: there is a need to accountability and rule of law as well as strong stable "political infrastructure" where "powers are compartmentalized" and each "unit is accountable to other government branches and agencies as well as to the people . . ."
UNIT 6: Unelected Government Office: Judiciary, Military, and Bureaucracy in Everyday Politics
32. Reclaiming Democracy: The Strategic Uses of Foreign and International Law by National Courts, Eyal Benvenisti, The American Journal of International Law, April 2008
The author notes that courts in several democracies have begun to apply international law and the jurisprudence of other national courts to their domestic laws. The article cites three areas where this judicial convergence is most notable: judicial review of global counterterrorism measures, the protection of the environment in developing countries, and the status of asylum seekers in destination countries. The author points out that in each of these areas, the judiciary does not actually aim to displace executive priorities or legislative policymaking with its judicial decisions. Rather, the aim is to push these branches of government to clarify policymaking. In doing so, the author points out that judiciaries are providing "expanded policy space" for domestic deliberation, which facilitates democratic development.
33. Rule of Law, Russian-Style, Kathryn Hendley, Current History, October 2009
Much of the focus on Russia's failure to institutionalize democracy has rested on the role of the executive, particularly Putin. This article points out that institutional-building in terms of defining and implementing rule of law is also short-changed, so that the popular adage in Russia is, " It is forbidden but if you really want to, then go ahead." But all is not lost; as the author points out, there are recent efforts to ensure transparency.
34. A Cautious Win in Egypt's Power Struggle, Bob Bowker, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Drum Opinion, August 16, 2012
What does it mean when announcement of the news of the Egyptian president had dismissed two top military chiefs and retired commanders of the navy and air force is greeted with concerns of backlash from the military? Former Australian Ambassador to Egypt and Syria provides his insights into the events in Egypt. Importantly, the author explains why there is unlikely to be backlash: even as the political role of the military appears diminished, there are reasons to expect that the military is far from marginalized. Indeed, the concessions to the military underscore the role that the military has played in the political transition in Egypt and continues to play as the sectarian counteraction to the religious dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
35. Korea's Third Kim, Naoko Aoki, Brown Journal of World Affairs, March/April 2012
From the Middle-East, we turn to North Korea where the military establishment remains a defining feat