Dahl on Democracy

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Chapter 12: What Underlying Conditions Favour Democracy?
Page 145-165
We face two questions: How can we account for the establishment of democratic institutions in so many countries in so many parts of the world, and how can we explain its failure? A full answer is impossible; two interrelated sets of factors are undoubtedly of crucial importance.

During the 20th century, the main alternatives lost out in competition with democracy. The monarchy, open oligarchy, hereditary aristocracy fatally declined in legitimacy and ideological strength. Though replaced by nondemocratic alternatives (fascism, nazism) they flourished briefly due to their defeat in WW2. Military dictatorships, mainly in latin America, fell due to economic, diplomatic and military (Argentina) failures. The main democratic antagonist (USSR) collapsed due to internal decay and external pressures. A final victory for democracy has not been achieved, nor was it close, see China. Middle eastern countries are still not democratic as well as some countries that reverted back to nondemocratic regimes as conditions were not favourable.

Favourable conditions:
Essential conditions for democracy
1. Control of military and police by elected officials.
2. Democratic beliefs and political culture.
3. No strong foreign control hostile to democracy
Favourable conditions for democracy:
4. A modern market economy and society
5. Weak subcultural pluralism

democratic institutions are less likely to develop in a country subject to intervention by another country hostile to democratic government in that country. E.g. Soviet intervention prevented Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary from democratizing despite favourable conditions. The US: history of intervening in Latin America, overthrowing democratically elected governments to protect their economic interests in the region, for instance in Guatamala in 1954. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US started supporting development of democratic institutions in Eastern Europe.

Unless the military and police forces are under the full control of democratically elected officials, democratic political institutions are unlikely to develop or endure. The most dangerous internal threat to democracy comes from leaders who have access to the means of physical coercion: military and police. Military and police leaders must defer power to democratic officials. In central and Latin America, of the 47 governments, two thirds gained power by means other than free and fair elections, most often by a military coup. In contrast, Costa Rica has been a beacon of democracy since 1950. In 1950, Costa Rica eliminated the threat of a military coup by abolishing the military all together.

Democratic political institutions are more likely to develop and endure in a country that is culturally fairly homogenous and less likely in a country with sharply differentiated and conflicting subcultures. Cultural conflicts can erupt in the political arena, and they typically do: over religion, language, or even dress-codes in schools. Issues like these pose a special problem for democracy. Cultural problems are often viewed as matters of principle from deep religious convictions, cultural preservation or group survival. They view them too crucial to allow for compromise, nonnegotiable. A peaceful democratic process requires negotiation, conciliation and compromise. In older democracies, they have managed to avoid severe cultural conflicts. Even if these differences exist, they have allowed more negotiable differences (i.e. economic issues). There are some exceptions. Cultural differences have been significant in the US, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and Canada. How have democratic institutions been able to survive in these countries? Assimilation. The American solution, British colonists encountered new waves of...
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