For those of you who are writing on the influence of Islam on the prospects for democratization in predominantly Muslim countries, here is an interesting video, which asks Muslim women about their views on the compatibility of Islam with women’s rights and democracy. This is a nice complement to the Fish article that we read two weeks ago. Here is an illuminating quote from one of the women interviewed in the film:
“First of all I didn’t understand why my brother didn’t have to do housework and I have to do housework…as a little girl it did not make sense to me. Just because he’s a boy he doesn’t have to do housework?!? So for me the questioning was from the family, but the family never used religion to justify why [boys didn’t have to do housework], so I always knew it was culture and tradition.”
“We wanted to break the monopoly, that only the lama, only the religious authorities, have the right to talk about Islam and define what is Islam and what is not Islam.”
Co-founder, Sisters in Islam
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Here is the very interesting video, which is about 26 minutes long. Throughout this film many of the concepts that we have learned this semester are brought into play.
In IS210 today, we viewed a short clip from this interesting lecture by Professor Joseph Chan given at Cornell University. Professor Chan of the University of Hong Kong talks about the shared moral basis of contemporary Chinese society. With Leninism/Marxism/Maoism being discredited amongst most Chinese, the search begins for a new moral basis/foundation for society.
As Professor Dick Miller says in his introductory remarks:
In China, as in the United States, people feel a great need for an adequate, shared, ethical basis for public life. There, as here, people don’t think that freedom to get as rich as you can is an adequate basis.
So, what is that basis, if the official ruling ideology of the political regime no longer seems legitimate. Liberal democracy? Confucianism. There are adherents in China of both of these as the proper ethical foundation. What does Professor Chan have to say about the compatibility of Confucian ideals with democracy? Watch and find out. It’s a very informative lecture.
One of the empirical facts of the post-WWII era has been the inexorable rise not only in the number of democratic states, but also in the number of the world’s denizens who reside in democracies. We’ve probably all seen the Freedom House world Maps of Freedom, which are published on an annual basis.
That’s great for providing a quick visual idea of how many of the world’s states have democratic regimes. But, it doesn’t tell us how many of the world’s inhabitants live in democracies. This clever cartogram by Gleditsch and Ward does this. Cartograms bend and mis-shape world maps on the basis of the values of the underlying variable–in this case, population. What do you think? The map below shows a dramatic rise since 1945 in both the number of states and the number of the world’s citizens who live in democracies. You’ll note that this map is from 2002 data, and there have been some important changes, notably Russia’s slide back toward autocracy in the last decade or so. Also, look at how massive India and China are (population-wise)!
In IS210 we will discuss the relative merits of the two most frequently instituted electoral systems–proportional representation and plurality (also called majority or “first-past-the-post” electoral systems.
In advance, here is a chart that I’ve created, which shows the electoral results (in terms of number of seats won in the House of Commons) of the 2011 Canadian Federal election. The bottom of the chart contains the actual number of seats won, while the top lists the hypothetical number of seats each party would have won if Canada’s electoral system were one of proportional representation. So, Canada’s electoral system is working as it should, correct?
In conjunction with this week’s readings on democracy and democratization, here is an informative video of a lecture given by Ellen Lust of Yale University. In her lecture, Professor Lust discuses new research that comparative analyzes the respective obstacles to democratization of Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. For those of you in my IS240 class, it will demonstrate to you how survey analysis can help scholars find answers to the questions they seek. For those in IS210, this is a useful demonstration in comparing across countries. [If the “start at” command wasn’t successful, you should forward the video to the 9:00 mark; that’s where Lust begins her lecture.]
Those of you in my IS210 class may find the Polity IV data to be of use when writing your paper. Click on the image below to take you to the website, where (if you scroll down to the bottom) you can see the regime scores (between -10 and +10) for each country over many years. See the example at the bottom of this post.
Here’s an exampe of the history of movements in regime for El Salvador from 1946 until 2010. How many changes in regime does El Salvador seem to have experienced in the post-WWII period? What happened in the early 1980s?
In the wake of the revolutionary changes that have (hopefully) taken place in Tunisia and Egypt, much has been made about the role of social media–particularly Facebook–in facilitating the participatory aspect of the revolutionary end-game. (A Google search of `Facebook AND Egypt revolution’ turns up over 22 million hits.) The Globe and Mail’s Chrystia Freeland is the latest journalist to address the phenomenon, quoting economists Daron Acemoglu and Matthew Jackson.
Freeland notes that social network media have helped resolve what social scientists refer to as the collective action problem.
“It is a question of co-ordinating people’s beliefs,” said Daron Acemoglu, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who, with Matthew Jackson of Stanford University in California, is working on a paper about the effect of social networks on collective action problems.
Protesting against an authoritarian regime is a prime example of this issue, Mr. Acemoglu said, because opponents of a dictator need to know that their views are widely shared and that a sufficient number of their fellow citizens are willing to join them to make opposition worthwhile.
“I need to know if other people agree with me and are willing to act,” he said. “What really stops people who are oppressed by a regime from protesting is the fear that they will be part of an unsuccessful protest. When you are living in these regimes, you have to be extremely afraid of what happens if you participate and the regime doesn’t change.”
That makes publicly protesting an oppressive regime a classic collective action problem: If everyone who wants regime change takes to the streets, the group will achieve its shared goal. But if too few protest, they will fail and be punished. Even if an overwhelming majority wants change, it is smart for individuals to speak out only if enough compatriots do, too.
To Freeland’s characterisation of the collective action problem I would add that the reason it is “smart for individuals to speak out only if enough compatriots do, too” is because each individual reasons in the following manner:
I am only one person; my individual marginal contribution to the probability of having a successful revolution is infinitesimally small.
Thus, my taking part or not will not be determinative. That is, the revolution will succeed or fail regardless with or without my participation.
Given the above, and given potential costs of participating, it is rational for me to not participate.
Social media, however, can help to change the calculus of participation by assuring the would-be participant that millions of others will also participate, thereby decreasing the potential costs of participation to any one individual. I do have an issue, however, with Freeland’s use of the Groupon analogy, which is based on the difference between the types of private goods Groupon specialises in and the truly public good that is a revolution.
We’re witnessing the fall of another autocrat, this time in the northern African country of Tunisia. The (as of earlier today) former president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, has stepped down amidst worsening violence and protests, ending 23 years of autocrat rule. The BBC reports:
Tunisia’s president has stepped down after 23 years in power amid unprecedented protests on the streets of the capital Tunis.
Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi said he would be taking over from President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. A state of emergency has been declared amid protests over corruption, unemployment and rising prices.
BBC sources say Mr Ben Ali has flown to the Mediterranean island of Malta, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Earlier, police fired tear gas as thousands of protesters gathered outside the interior ministry.
Doctors say that 13 people were killed in overnight clashes in Tunis, and there are unconfirmed reports that five people have been killed in protests on Friday outside the capital.
Troops have surrounded the country’s main international airport, Tunis Carthage, and the country’s air space has been closed.
In an address on state television, Mr Ghannouchi said: “Since the president is temporarily unable to exercise his duties, it has been decided that the prime minister will exercise temporarily the duties.”
Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali addresses the nation in this still image taken from video, January 13, 2011. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was only Tunisia’s second president since independence from France in 1956
Mr Ghannouchi, 69, a former finance minister who has been prime minister since 1999, will serve as interim president. Earlier, the president – who had said in a TV address on Thursday night that he would relinquish power in 2014 – said he was dismissing the government and dissolving parliament, and that new elections would be held within six months.
The state of emergency decree bans more than three people from gathering together in the open, and imposes a night-time curfew. Security forces have been authorised to open fire on people not obeying their orders. Human rights groups say dozens of people have died in recent weeks as unrest has swept the country and security forces have cracked down on the protests.
The protests started after an unemployed graduate set himself on fire when police tried to prevent him from selling vegetables without a permit. He died a few weeks later.
If Tunisia manages to use this moment as the springboard towards democratisation, it would be only the second true democracy in the Middle East/North Africa. According to the Freedom House organisation, that region of the world is the least democratic, as the map below demonstrates
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has just released a new report on the influence of diamonds on the political situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). We’ve read various papers on the link between resource wealth (“lootable resources”) and political outcomes, such as regime type and economic outcomes. This report analyses the link between the presence of large stores of diamond wealth in CAR, the level of political instability (it’s essentially a failing state) and the existence of endemic conflict. From the executive summary of the report:
In the diamond mines of the Central African Republic (CAR), extreme poverty and armed conflict put thousands of lives in danger. President François Bozizé keeps tight control of the diamond sector to enrich and empower his own ethnic group but does little to alleviate the poverty that drives informal miners to dig in perilous conditions. Stringent export taxes incentivise smuggling that the mining authorities are too few and too corrupt to stop. These factors combined – a parasitic state, poverty and largely unchecked crime – move jealous factions to launch rebellions and enable armed groups to collect new recruits and profit from mining and selling diamonds illegally. To ensure diamonds fuel development not bloodshed, root and branch reform of the sector must become a core priority of the country’s peacebuilding strategy.
Nature scattered diamonds liberally over the CAR, but since colonial times foreign entrepreneurs and grasping regimes have benefited from the precious stones more than the Central African people. Mining companies have repeatedly tried to extract diamonds on an industrial scale and largely failed because the deposits are alluvial, spread thinly across two large river systems. Instead, an estimated 80,000-100,000 mostly unlicensed miners dig with picks and shovels for daily rations and the chance of striking it lucky. Middlemen, mostly West Africans, buy at meagre prices and sell at a profit to exporting companies. The government lacks both the institutional capacity to govern this dispersed, transient production chain and the will to invest diamond revenues in the long-term growth of mining communities.
Chronic state fragility has ingrained in the political elite a winner-takes-all political culture and a preference for short-term gain. The French ransacked their colony of its natural resources, and successive rulers have treated power as licence to loot. Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the CAR’s one-time “emperor”, created a monopoly on diamond exports, and his personal gifts to French President Giscard d’Estaing, intended to seal their friendship, became symbols of imperial excess. Ange-Félix Patassé saw nothing wrong in using his presidency to pursue business interests and openly ran his own diamond mining company. Bozizé is more circumspect. His regime maintains tight control of mining revenues by means of a strict legal and fiscal framework and centralised, opaque management.
The full report can be accessed here. Here is a Al-Jazeera English news report on the situation in CAR.
In comparative politics, there are two countries that are truly exceptional–the USA and India. By “exceptional”, I mean just that; they are both exceptions to general rules that have solid support, empirically and theoretically. For example, when looking cross-nationally there is a strong negative relationship between religiosity and economic development. That is, the richer a country, the less religious (ceteris paribus) are its residents. Except for the United States. The USA is exceptional in many regards; i.e., it doesn’t behave like all other advanced industrial democracies.
India is also exceptional, but in different ways from the US. For example, there is strong support for hypotheses about democracy and social (ethnic/religious) heteroeneity, which suggest that there is no way that India should still be (after more than 60 years) a fairly well functioning democracy. Many observers keep waiting for the other shoe to drop as India’s democracy has lurched from crisis-to-crisis, and has to contend with endemic levels of corruption, particularly in its judiciary (as we see in this excerpted report–written by the Asian Human Rights Commission and which I found at the Human Security Gateway, a great source for information about security issues in world politics). Somehow, though, India’s democracy hangs on.
By recommending the impeachment of a High Court judge, the Chief Justice of India has revived a dead debate concerning the Indian judiciary. On August 2, 2008 in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice recommended the impeachment of judge Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court. Judge Sen is accused of having been involved in financial misappropriation before he was appointed as a judge. It is reported that in 1984 while judge Sen was practising as a lawyer he was appointed as the receiver in a dispute concerning the Steel Authority of India. It is alleged that in the capacity of the receiver he misappropriated a sum of INR 2,500,000 [USD 59523], which judge Sen reportedly paid back on orders from the court. Later, he was appointed a judge at the Calcutta High Court in 2003. A judge accused of corruption facing impeachment, a process by which a sitting judge could be removed from service in India, is nothing special. A corrupt public servant is not worthy of continuing in service and is least desirable to serve as a judge in a court of law, a public office that demands scrupulous impartiality and untainted personality. Anyone accused of a crime must be prosecuted and the crime investigated into. The fact that the accused is a judge must not provide the person with any immunity. Judge Sen being the first person recommended for impeachment by a Chief Justice of India does not mean that the judiciary is immune from corruption and other vicious practices. There are similar allegations against some judges in India. But not a single judicial officer was impeached so far. The only exception was the case of judge V. Ramaswami who faced impeachment in 1991, an attempt that failed due to the absence of a political consensus. It is expected that history will not be repeated. If it is repeated it would be a shame upon the Indian judiciary and its accountability. The accountability of judges, particularly in the context of increasing allegations of malpractices resorted to by judges is a grave concern in India. As of now there is no open process for the selection, promotion and if required the dismissal of High Court or Supreme Court judges in the country. The entire process is retained within the whims of the Supreme Court. All attempts so far to enforce accountability on the judiciary were vetoed by the judiciary itself. There is also the absence of a political consensus over this issue.