Comment and Synthesis: Plenary Session III

Overview

Charles Tilly

In case anybody thought otherwise, we are not going to leave this meeting with a clear, illuminated, unambiguous set of rules for identifying democratic processes, much less for promoting them. We who have not been involved in A.I.D. activity have probably come to a realization that was not as clear until these discussions began: there is a very sharp dilemma that faces any public agency involved in the work of promoting democratization. Clearly, the consequences of any intervention, given the present state of our knowledge, are limited and partly unpredictable. This is an uncomfortable position to be in, although a common one in public policy. If there is anything that the discussions of the last day or so have promoted, or ought to have promoted, it is some sense of humility about the extent to which we as American experts and activists and agents of the state can actually make a difference and about the extent to which we can predict the outcome. That is one side of the dilemma. It is a genuine dilemma because it is also true that the American state, arguably the most powerful state in the world militarily, diplomatically, and economically, continues to act in the world arena in ways that will significantly affect the prospects for democracy in different parts of the world. While it is convenient for us academics to say, “Well, we don't know enough, let 's forget about it,” or “Let's do more research,” it is more of a problem for A.I.D. that the United States continues to act. Trade policy, the writing of constitutions, military assistance, diplomatic initiatives, especially those involving others than the current representatives of the state, as well as assistance programs of various kinds, all have a significant, often indirect effect on the prospects for democracy in the future. At a minimum, by undertaking an initiative for democratization, you have taken it on yourselves to think through and perhaps even act on the effects on democracy of a wide range of American actions. The kind of understanding of democratization that we are coming to in this meeting implies looking closely at the consequences of actions of other divisions of the government over which A.I.D. itself has little or no control.



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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop Comment and Synthesis: Plenary Session III Overview Charles Tilly In case anybody thought otherwise, we are not going to leave this meeting with a clear, illuminated, unambiguous set of rules for identifying democratic processes, much less for promoting them. We who have not been involved in A.I.D. activity have probably come to a realization that was not as clear until these discussions began: there is a very sharp dilemma that faces any public agency involved in the work of promoting democratization. Clearly, the consequences of any intervention, given the present state of our knowledge, are limited and partly unpredictable. This is an uncomfortable position to be in, although a common one in public policy. If there is anything that the discussions of the last day or so have promoted, or ought to have promoted, it is some sense of humility about the extent to which we as American experts and activists and agents of the state can actually make a difference and about the extent to which we can predict the outcome. That is one side of the dilemma. It is a genuine dilemma because it is also true that the American state, arguably the most powerful state in the world militarily, diplomatically, and economically, continues to act in the world arena in ways that will significantly affect the prospects for democracy in different parts of the world. While it is convenient for us academics to say, “Well, we don't know enough, let 's forget about it,” or “Let's do more research,” it is more of a problem for A.I.D. that the United States continues to act. Trade policy, the writing of constitutions, military assistance, diplomatic initiatives, especially those involving others than the current representatives of the state, as well as assistance programs of various kinds, all have a significant, often indirect effect on the prospects for democracy in the future. At a minimum, by undertaking an initiative for democratization, you have taken it on yourselves to think through and perhaps even act on the effects on democracy of a wide range of American actions. The kind of understanding of democratization that we are coming to in this meeting implies looking closely at the consequences of actions of other divisions of the government over which A.I.D. itself has little or no control.

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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop Nonetheless, this is actually a rather good time to be talking about democratization. It is a good time because changes in the international system are aggressively and inevitably placing the political futures of a large number of states on the agenda in the way that they were not 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago. Decisions made in the next few years in Eastern Europe, in Latin America, in the Middle East, and elsewhere will significantly affect the prospects for democracy in those areas. Again, those are not A.I.D. decisions, but they are ones about which all of us have to care a great deal. This is a moment of volatility; those of us that have been thinking about and dealing with Eastern European changes discover our Eastern European counterparts eager to talk about the very same subjects that we have been discussing here, far removed from Prague, and Warsaw, and Budapest, and Moscow. Not only are they eager to talk about them, but eager to devise policies, try experiments, reorganize their governments in the light of ideas drawn from other experiences. Indeed, one of the problems that we have faced repeatedly is the sometimes over-eager readiness of our Eastern European counterparts to import a model of organization that they think represents the immediate substitution of an American, or at least a Western parliamentary alternative, not to mention a Western market system, for the organization that occurred under state socialism. In some sense, our most prudent role in these cases is first to warn and then to advise; that in itself could be a major service. Nevertheless, for all the worry about making the wrong recommendations, intervening wrongly, supporting naive initiatives that will then have catastrophic consequences, we are at a wonderful moment in some sense because the world is volatile and there actually is an opportunity for change. That means that as the state system goes through a remarkable transformation, one of the main things we ought to be thinking about is how to accommodate American policy to what is already happening to these opportunities for dramatic intervention. So we have a kind of convergence in opportunities for public policy, public concern, and academic interest. We are at a privileged moment for collaboration compared with almost any time in the last 25 years. My particular expertise has to do with European experience over a very long period of time. I am not going to treat you to a lecture on democratization in European history; much of it would be irrelevant. But I do want to emphasize some conclusions that are clear from European experience over the last 500 years or so, and that are germane to our discussions. The first conclusion is that democratic institutions emerge from struggle. They emerged from conflict, struggle, and contest within European states. They took shape as what you might call “bargains ” between different segments of the population and those that are trying to keep the

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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop state going. Bargains may be a misleading word if it suggests sitting around a table and deciding where the interests of each party can best be met. These bargains took place at the conclusion of revolutions, of rebellions and their settlement, or of major regional struggles. But it is particularly through massive struggle and the settlement of struggle, through accommodations in which the parties that survived the struggle each got some recognition of their claims on the state and on the political process, that democratic institutions' protection of minorities, minimum guarantees of human rights, representative institutions, judiciaries that had a certain amount of autonomy, and so on through our standard list, came into being. And that background of struggle has two further implications. First of all, the movement was not on the whole a continuous incremental movement, but one that occurred in fits and starts: long moments of accommodation, continued but now constrained struggle, moments of crisis and very rapid change. A second implication is that the moments of settlement stood out for their great importance in the creation, maintenance, and implantation of democratic institutions. A further lesson of the European experience, into which Terry Karl and Philippe Schmitter gave us more insight from recent experience in Southern Europe, is that far from converging on a single path to democratic development, the European states, and I would say this more generally for Western states, arrived at broadly democratic situations by many different paths. The implications are that anyone trying to anticipate or promote democratization cannot do it by treating it as a kind of railroad track and watching whether a country is on that particular track. There are multiple, quite different paths depending on different countries' prior class structure, ethnic structure, economic organization, and position within the geopolitical complex of the world. A further implication is also one that Terry Karl and Philippe Schmitter brought out: a series of alternative provisional settlements, the ones they described as pact, imposition, reform, and revolution, all have historically produced partly, or even strongly, democratic outcomes. Pessimistically, this means that no single formula is likely to help us very much, but optimistically that we have the chance to use the enormous area expertise that A.I.D. has accumulated as a basis for thinking through alternative paths to democratic institutions. What we have done is to sharpen our sense of the kinds of choices facing any government seeking to promote democratization in the world. This includes the U.S. government and A.I.D. as an agency with an initiative for democracy. It seems to me that there are implications with respect to six different choices that come from the discussion so far. Each time I name “ A” and

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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop “Z” as alternatives, remember that we are not talking whether we want to choose A or Z, but what the distribution of efforts along this continuum ought to be. The first we might call the choice between infrastructure and mechanisms. This is the choice between promoting those conditions that in discussions here we have called elements of civil society or intermediary institutions, and in other contexts the economic circumstances that promote democracy, as opposed to the specific promotion of mechanisms that are manifestly democratic in themselves. All of these choices turn out to be tough choices, both of relative emphasis and of making our choices politically viable. But these choices are difficult because every bet on infrastructure is chancy. It is often easier to say that we will promote the appearance of juries, or particular democratic institutions that we know to operate in different Western contexts, than it is to bet on the existence of organizations that have their own agendas and whose short-term interests and perhaps even dominant values are ones that make us at least uncomfortable and perhaps even angry. Yet the weight of the expertise that has been aired so far says that the investment in manifestly democratic mechanisms is likely to be less effective than the investment in infrastructure. A second choice is between democratization and democracy, that is, the difference between choosing to forward a process and the alternative of moving directly into the realm of democracy as such. Emphasizing process includes taking the chance to stabilize the rights of minorities to speak in opposition, even if the immediate step of supporting those minorities is to cement in place ideologies of which we do not approve. The discussion so far has sharpened the recognition of an uncertain and varied process of democratization that does not simply consist of a little more each year of each of fifteen elements of democracy, but that is likely to lead through very peculiar paths, some of which look like steps away from democracy. This is one where a serious collaboration between the area expertise already accumulated within A.I.D. and expertise outside may be particularly helpful. The third choice is between external intervention and internal promotion. Our choice obviously is limited in this regard; if we are talking about projects in countries other than the United States, we will always be external. Nonetheless, the choice lies between essentially offering incentives that we apply ourselves--offering ourselves as the judges of the success of programs--and the solidification, support, promotion of groups within any particular country that we think will take initiatives for democracy. This is a terrible choice for any operating agency because of the many horror stories of betting on wrong horses, letting money go to waste or to corruption, and the sheer possibility that we have analyzed incorrectly who will do what. Yet the cost of a strictly external program,

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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop by the very reasoning that we have laid out during this workshop is that the impact on democratization in the medium- and long-run is likely to be slight. That brings us to a fourth choice between “bottom-up” and “top-down” programs. One difficulty is that, to some extent, one can better control the top-down approach. One can make a bargain with those who hold power and one has some means of enforcing that bargain internationally. But, from the analyses presented here, the chances are that, over the long run, other interventions below the governing elite will have a substantial impact on democratization. An obvious fifth choice that follows from the previous ones lies between a regional approach and a general approach. Here we see the great advantage of having an agency-wide program, not least because it is something one can communicate to the legislature, to the administration, and to others who provide support for the programs of the agency. Budgets, to some extent, depend on the ability to launch programs that are coherent and connected, or at least appear to be. In the studies and arguments and theories we have been discussing, however, the weight of the evidence lies on the other side. It argues that intervention is likely to have more power by taking into account the particular circumstances of one area of the world or even of one particular country. Finally, one choice that we have not talked about much, and that follows from what I was saying earlier about the current world situation, is between crisis intervention and routine intervention. At least some of the evidence and reasoning we have followed, and my reading of the European experience in general, suggests that the point at which an initiative for democracy could make a difference is when a crisis has occurred and when parties are open for some kind of settlement, when they are negotiating what will happen next. However, if you are going to design coherent programs, there is much to be said for making them incremental--something you can do this year, something you can do next year, something you can do the year after that. You can then watch the progress of programs of education, of transforming police forces, or of providing support to political party systems. But we ought to consider quite seriously the possibility of providing aid to states that have arrived at the moment when they are going to develop a constitution, settle a civil war, end a rebellion, make a new arrangement among ethnic groups, somehow set into place the treaty that ends one era of political struggle and produces the next accommodation. But the obvious difficulty is that as a program such an approach does not fall into a neat set of incremental initiatives or constitute a program. Rather, it consists of preparing a “rapid strike force” for intervention that would be available as advisers in a time of crisis, the way that John Norton Moore has been involved in

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THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY: Proceedings of a Workshop writing the constitution of Namibia. You can read what I have to say as another declaration of how complicated the world is, but it does seem to me to provide opportunities for all of us. Certainly it provides opportunities for the obvious recommendation that a significant effort go into monitoring what is happening in different countries with respect to the infrastructure of democracy: sheer watching, comparing, indexing, reporting back. And the obvious recommendation from an inveterate academic: an opportunity for collaborative research on such questions as Jane Mansbridge raised about deliberative democracy and for following Pearl Robinson's recommendation to look at the resources that any particular people, any particular state, any particular area already has in existence for deliberation and conflict resolution and protection of minorities. Other opportunities include feeding the hunger of many states for clarification on what the rule of law implies and spending more time and more ingenuity on reorganizing coercive institutions, the military and the police. Another opportunity is to risk analyses of the different paths by which countries in different parts of the world have already gingerly stepped toward democracy. We need to explore whether there are ways of intervening, or counseling intervention, or assisting processes that are already going on that will not immediately install the precise replicas of American or even Western democratic institutions, but in a more general way will institute the infrastructure, the social organization that will lead one country or another toward human rights, the protection of minorities, consultation of the public, integrity of the judiciary, limits on the self-enrichment and aggrandizement of those who hold political power, and guarantees of articulate opposition that we put together as a general sense of “democracy” and of values for which all of us are willing to sacrifice something.