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#99 The Global Setting and Transition to Democracy: Preliminary Conjectures

By Richard Falk

Exploring the global dimensions of democratizing potential at the state level is, at once, an elusive and complex topic. It is difficult to establish convincing causal linkages. At the same time, the interaction between the global setting and national political development involves a plethora of elements difficult to assess in terms of their relative importance. At the same time, the clustering of regional and subregi onal tendencies toward and away from democratization lends substance to the contention that the global setting is an important element in any adequate account of the course of political development for any particular country.

Thus, our concern with global setting is partly a matter of achieving a better understanding of prospects for, and obstacles to, the realization of full democratizing potential at the state level. It also feeds into the policy- forming process of a country such as the United States which contends that it favors democratizing tendencies in foreign societies.

The following paper mainly considers, and elaborates upon, nine guidelines for policymakers dedicated to the promotion of democratic potential:

  1. State actors, except in extreme instances, promote democratization best by agreeing to respect the dynamics of self- determination by refraining from intervention in the internal affairs of foreign societies.
  2. Demilitarization initiatives on all levels seem conducive to the promotion of democratic potential.
  3. Publicity, censure, and withdrawal of the symbols of legitimacy by impartial international actors in response to authoritarian abuses generally contribute to the mitigation of authoritarian practices and to progress toward democratization.
  4. Delegitimizing interventionary options within the domestic arena of hegemonic actors is of great importance.
  5. Promoting normative activism in global and transnational arenas with respect to the protection of human rights generally encourages democratization.
  6. Selective easing of short- term economic burdens by way of debt relief, extension of credit, and foreign aid encourages democratization.
  7. Critical scholarly and journalistic appraisals of the failures of antidemocratic regimes and the successes of democratic governance in relation to proclaimed goals may encourage democratization.
  8. The emergence of a new international economic order that equalizes North-South relations and that strengthens the capabilities of all states to achieve self-determination would increase democratic prospects.
  9. Transforming structures of world order in the direction of establishing the will and capability to protect global, as well as national, interests would generally work in favor of democratic prospects.


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