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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out the basic principles everyone should have such as liberty and the right to live, however what they do not explicitly state is the term “democracy” but describe this term. Throughout history, people are always drawn to democracy and freedom; no matter if it seems that democracy is in retreat. Rice states, “No transition to democracy is immediately successful, or an immediate failure.” (Rice, 2017) Democracy is a balancing act between executive, legislative and judicial authority; the institutions we have in place protect this balance and are legitimized in the eyes of the government.
When countries transition to a democracy there is always some sort of disruption, however the key is finding a balance between the disruption and stability that have the characteristics of a democracy. Several scholars believe that the state of that society is a major factor along with the idea that a civil society must already be in place and developed enough.
Rice states these are not the only factors in the transition to democracy, but it depends in where you start; she lists off four institutional landscapes that lay the groundwork for these transitions into democracy. The first institutional landscape type is a totalitarian collapse: institutional vacuum. Benito Mussolini created the term “totalitario” which means, “All within the state, none outside the state, none against the state.” All aspects of life are controlled and follow the “cults of personality” where the society must follow the working of a single leader. When this type of regime collapses, it is normally at the hands of an external power.
There is an institutional void which leads to an abundance of emotions which leads to revolutions. The second type of landscape is the gradual decay of totalitarian regimes: institutional antecedents remain.
After communism ended, the communist institutions remained like a youth organization call Komsomol. In addition to these more institutions developed that fostered a positive civil society for the Soviets. The third landscape is an authoritarian regime and the struggle for meaningful political space. In authoritarian regimes, there is space available for groups independent of them such as, universities, labor groups, the business community and non-governmental organizations. However, these organizations remain useful to the regimes until a certain point; because there must be a balance of control and freedom. The fourth and final institutional landscape are Quasi-Democratic Regimes: fragile and vulnerable institutions. There are several places in the world where the political sphere is free, but it remains corrupt and hollow. Quasi-democratic states have to balance its force to sustain its democratic governance.
In the Declaration of Independence, it holds the principles of equality such as “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” America began in the state of tabula rasa and the state was born where times where much simpler compared to today’s international system. The Articles of Confederation created a system too weak to protect the interest of the republic, which led to the creation of the American Constitution. The Founders’ had 5 key aspects to the design of the institution. The first concept they tackled was institutional balance between the states and the center through federalism. Secondly, the Founders wanted to limit to role of the armed forces in a way where the political power of the country was not threatened, while the country was protected.
Third, they created the separation of politics, religions and the power of the state. Fourth, the Founding Fathers left room for the growth of the private sector and the emergence of civil society. Last, they left the spirit of constitutionalism with their offspring, this spirit has allowed Americans of all generations to seek rights. Our Founding Fathers understood the importance of institutions and believed the way to have a stable democracy and have the rights they were withheld from was an institutional framework. In continuation, our nation’s founders held the belief of American Exceptionalism; they believed that America was different compared to other countries in terms of its foreign policy. The United States was influenced by the ideas of liberty, justice, and enlightenment compared to the ideas and polices leading other nations in the world during this time. The Founding Fathers desired to avoid the chaos of constant militant warlike atmosphere on European foreign policy.
In “Farewell Address’ of 1796, George Washington explicitly states the expectation of isolationism remaining a key paradigm in American foreign policy. Washington’s Address acknowledged two fundamental theories of American foreign policy: Liberalism and Realism. One of the key ideas of liberalism is the promotion of democracy and the method of this is promotion is through the activist and exemplar models. In the activist model, democracy is actively promoted through economic and military intervention. The best example of this is former President Woodrow Wilson.
The reason behind Russia’s failed democracy is common with other democratic transitions around the world; weak institutions that were not enough strong enough against economic decline and social instability. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the state in a unique position where the borders of the state, the identity of the people and its economic and political systems where are to be considered at the same time. Gorbachev’s effort to make the Soviet Union a “normal nation” began with the introduction of democratic reforms like the creation of a quasi-independent parliament. In addition to a new parliament, Russia accepted help from the West. While Russia was not a part of the Marshall Plan, Europe and the United States provided assistance to the Russian democratic transition through experts in the government and private sector.
However, through the rapid period of the economy privatization it created a large amount of rich new elites when the poverty levels of the general population skyrocketed. The term “shock therapy” was given for this rapid reform of the government; in 1988, 96% of the Russian labor force was dependent on the state for employment and all of the population’s income from this or transfers from the state. The number of people in poverty from 1988 to 1994 increased from 2 percent of the population to 50 percent. Russia had two privatization programs: the first one passed by the Supreme Soviet was signed by Yeltsin in 1992 and the second in 1995 was a presidential decree had the most dramatic affect. The second privatization led to the rise of oligarchs who gave loans to the government and received stakes for the money to not be repaid; while all of this was happening murder and corruption ran rampant. Typically, the first president of country set the tone of how things are run and Yeltsin and the tensions between his government were quite high. After a time, Vladimir Putin rose to power and began to systematically centralize power to the presidency. During this he began his assault on civil society, which was already quite small and lacking political direction and therefore, led to the Russian population having no institutionalized way to express their views or seek political change. Russia is the perfect example of a new political institution being created but separated from its people and society. The Russian people have never had their own institutions to use or trust which would have given them legitimacy.
During the Cold War, the Poles maintained their fiery sense of nationalism more than ever among nations throughout this period. For years the Poles fought against the Soviet Union and demanded better until martial law was declared on December 12, 1981.After this declaration, many were imprisoned, and the military was in control and basic rights were suspended. However, this did not stop them from fighting for freedom! Rice goes into explain how Gorbachev’s laid the frame work for the collapse of communism is Poland. In the late 1970s, the Polish Pope John Paul II emerged as the leader of the Catholic church and provided inspiration to Poland’s drive for freedom against the communist rule. Another strength in Poland’s transition were the workers, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) provided financial support to the Polish organization the Committee for Workers’ Defense also known as Solidarity.
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the founder of Solidarity was asked to form a government on August 19. After the formation of a new government Poland was offered foreign aid; in total the Polish American Enterprise was granted $240 million. Another major factor that led to this successful democratic transition was the influence of the European Union and NATO. The influences of the European Union and NATO placed an important focus of the reforms on institutional change. Poland successfully joined North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. Currently, the young democratic institutions of Poland are being tested by the clash of conservative social attitudes with the liberal beliefs of Europe. These rifts are not likely to destroy Poland’s democracy because democracy never develops in a straight in a line along with the fact that the Poles still have their fiery attitudes. The independent press and civil society of Poland are fighting back vigorously, just as their ancestors did on their path to freedom.
At the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest Vladimir Putin stated, that “Ukraine is a made-up country.” This comment is what many Russians believe and is a snapshot of how Ukraine history is entangled with Russian. Kiev had its first democratic openings with the Gorbachev’s reforms, in 1988 a nationalist movement began known as the Ukrainian People’s Movement for Restructuring. Ukraine was declared sovereign in 1990 by newly elected parliament but they stopped short of calling it an independent state but declared it independent in 1991. Overall Ukraine has experienced three revolutions in 25 years: independence the Orange Revolution, and the Maidan. In November 21, 2013 Ukraine announced it would no longer seek an accord with the European Union which launched Ukraine into its a third revolution. After three months of chaos, the Ukraine president accepted a $15 billion loan from Russian. Less than a year later in February of 2014, Russian forces seized Crimea. Since their independence, Ukraine’s economy has grown but in the last 7 years it has contracted. For example, in 2015 the economy contracted by 10 percent most likely due to stagnation in industrial regions like Donetsk. While Ukraine is plagued with questions about its future, they have survived which means its leaders can still transform Ukraine to a stable democracy.
There is a moral and practical case for the promotion of democracy promotion. Throughout history democracies do not fight with one another, there are many years of democratic peace Two years ago in 2016, Freedom House ranked 145 out 195 countries as “free” or “partly free”. Rice states that the United States is living proof that the work of a democracy is never done.
In the past five years, the world has seen the rise of populism, nativism, and isolation. In this rise, there was a revolt against political elite and their institutions, that left many people pondering, “what will come next?” In fact, these problems effected countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Voters in the United Kingdom voted in” Brexit” and rejected the participation in the European Union, the goal behind this was regain control of the country’s borders and economic policies. In the United States, the election of a new president with no political background who criticized the political elites became the topic throughout the political space. Rice names populism, nativism, isolationism, and isolation as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but reaffirms that democratic institutions are stronger.
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