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What Is Democratic Consolidation? Essay

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Updated: May 17th, 2019

One of the most important inquiries that should be made is on how democratic consolidation can be understood especially from the political point of view. It is apparent that research has revealed that there is no serviceable or specific definition of the concept “democratic consolidation” (Schneider 215).

Therefore, the concept has become common in comparative politics whereby scholars have been in haste to derive a fully satisfying definition. However, it is important to understand that democratic consolidation denotes the transition that occurs in liberal institutions to a point that leaders conform to democratic rule (Schneider 215).

While the latter statement may appear holistic and largely appealing in any given democratic setting, it is imperative to note that it may be hardly be achieved as an ideal situation in political governance. From a careful review of literature, it has been confirmed that democratic consolidation is the means by which young democracies mature to ensure that they do not risk reverting to authoritarianism (Lim 117).

Notably, this process is mainly underpinned to promote the ideology that political actors embrace democracy, a factor that will make political institutions secure against the threats of authoritarianism (Lim 220). Therefore, it is arguable that this concept is meant to foster stabilization of regimes by eliminating challenges that can bring about breakdown of the social fabric. However, the concept of democratic consolidation especially among young and growing democracies may still be a mirage and an idea from reality.

It is vital to note that democratic consolidation entails numerous political aspects such as diffusion of democratic rules, legitimization, neutralizing anti-political actors and fostering civilian supremacy (Schneider 215). If the aforementioned elements are to be embraced and indeed implemented in any political governance, then it implies that a lot of political goodwill ought to exist. Moreover, it also entails eradication of authoritarian enclaves and stabilizing electoral rules in order to avoid election irregularities bearing in mind that no single democratic government can boast of democracy if its leaders are not freely and fairly elected into political offices. Research has revealed that the process cannot be complete without decentralizing state power and establishing judicial reforms (Andreas 94). In line with this, political actors also need to introduce mechanisms that will foster direct democracy in order to safeguard the functional interests of the civilians. Notably, different scholars have dissimilar understanding of the concept (Lim 118). In this case, the meaning and usage of the concept basically depends on the context and goals in which the political actors stand for (Schneider 215).

At this point, it is also worthy to analyze some of the major characteristics of regimes in the “gray zone” especially in regards to the principle of democratic consolidation. It is important to note that regimes in the ‘gray zone” are those that are in the third wave of democratization (Rapley 35). From an empirical point of view, it is evident that these regimes have not yet experienced full transition from authoritarianism into full democratization.

Therefore, in terms of the ideals put forward by the political ideology of democracy, they are largely at standstill and majority of such governments often reverse towards authoritarianism. It is arguable that these regimes cease to become outright authoritarians yet they are not fully democratic.

On the other hand, it may not be automatic for all the regimes in the ‘gray zones’ to revert to autocratic rule bearing in mind that in the event strong democratic institutions are set up, the likelihood of reverting to authoritative rule may be null and void altogether. In addition, these regimes appear ambiguous due to the fact that they are semi-authoritarian (Lim 221).

In this case, these regimes have liberal political institutions that uphold political liberty. Nevertheless, they still portray some traits of authoritarian rule. This kind of scenario has been the case with certain young economies although a similar scenario may be replicated even in well developed economies.

The other characteristic is that such regimes give little space for political competition, a factor that significantly decimates government’s accountability and transparency when executing its roles and responsibilities. Research reveals that they avail limited space for press freedom to function freely.

Besides, political parties with divergent or opposing views are not easily accommodated in such regimes since in most cases, they command majority rule and as such they may dilute the strengths of ruling parties (Rapley 95). Needless to say, the latter scenario is what may be described as political immaturity.

In addition to this, since these regimes are not fully democratic, they are often unable to produce effective governments. This is due to the fact that democratic processes of electing a government are often manipulated by authoritarian traits that adversely violate the basic tenets of transparent governance.

Then, why would it be difficult for regimes to move out of this zone? Empirical evidences have shown that it is normally difficult for ‘gray zone’ regimes to move out of this type of governance. One of the possible factors that make it pretty cumbersome for the regimes to get out of the zone is due to deep-rooted individual differences. Notably, after the end of the Cold war, there emerged leading intellectuals who were against the outfits of liberal democracy.

In line with this, most of political actors in such regimes have cultural bias on the concept of liberal democracy (Rapley 102). Moreover, there are only few governments that are willing to abandon authoritarian rule and adopt democracy. In this case, they fear strict limitations imposed by democracy. Research has revealed that there is a possibility that ‘gray zone’ regimes will definitely increase in number since most states have had problems coping with political transitions (Andreas 99).

For instance, countries that have embraced democratic consolidation have ended up having weak democracies. In this case, majority of world states prefer semi-authoritarian regimes, a factor that makes it difficult for them to shift from the ‘gray zone’. Furthermore, it is important that there should be moderate political conflicts in states.

According to Lim (235), consolidation of democracy cannot take place with frequent confrontations. Therefore, it is important to ensure that there is peace or else the civilians will disregard the values and interests of democracy.

Apparently, there are myriads of conditions that are necessary for democratic consolidation to take effect. The factors that affect consolidation of democracy should be realigned by all costs (Lim 221). It is agreeable that most of these factors are non-economic such as illiteracy and squatting levels of human development that is common in poor economies.

Therefore, one of the essential conditions for consolidating democracy is by ensuring that there is effective human development through public awareness in order to strengthen social cohesion. Research has revealed that there is need to eliminate all forms of procedures, traits, expectations and institutions that seem to be incompatible with the outright ideas of democracy. In line with this, new institutions and procedures should be established in order to create a favorable aura for consolidating democracy (Andreas 101).

It is important to have numerous and political actors participating in politics and decisions who will win other people to embrace the new regime. Another important element to note is that new institutions should establish the act of favorable political balance through power sharing. This wills lure civilians to shift their mind from the previous regimes.

Poverty has been considered as a major social-economic problem, a factor that is attributed to its extended negative impacts that directly and indirectly threatens the very existence of human beings. Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl argue that the state of poverty in most places in the world today is very shocking. Poverty has also raised deep concerns over its increasing levels and equally high resilience of negative implications (720).

The question that lingers in many minds is whether different states across the globe are playing an effective role in addressing the rising levels of poverty. As this paper analyzes, rationalists are of the opinion that the practices and policies adopted in most states have greatly contributed towards poverty. While some may seem to oppose their own views and quickly defend their actions, steps to address the underlying threats posed by poverty are yet to be seen.

Definitely, various states across the world have played profound roles in promotion and fighting of poverty. Lenagala and Ram argue that the rising levels of poverty in many states today should be viewed as a factor that is contributed by existing leadership (923).

Many nations wallowing in the miasma of absolute poverty almost unanimously share a common factor called poor leadership. A state whose leadership is pitiable lacks the ability to effectively prioritize essential needs, effectively allocate resources and create an ego-centric model that facilitates economic growth.

While some opponents of this view may argue that poverty is a personal aspect and individuals must bear the responsibilities of their destinies, it is important to note that a state should be concerned with the welfare of its citizens. Take for instance, a country like North Korea where the development and welfare of citizens has been given special priority.

The practice promoted in this state is that its leadership has put the affairs of its citizens third after creation of weapons and their acquisition. Therefore, citizens in this nation are left to fend for themselves and most often forced to go without basic needs.

Environmentalism is becoming less realistic to the present states as focus towards conservation, the imminent dangers to the planet and its occupants, as well as methods to address them fail to take the urgency required to save the planet and its occupants. The endless cry of people in hunger, continued loss and extinction of biodiversity, strange and incurable infections, and loss of lives from warfare are a clear indication of individual and administrative sycophancies on environmental concerns.

The major question whose answer appears to be elusive to many is why states today do not clearly conceptualize the damage they are doing to themselves, citizens and most importantly, to the future generations. Besides poor leadership as indicated above, Icel argues that many governments have ignored the importance of conserving the environment, a factor that has seen a rise in pollution, global warming and subsequent poverty (500).

When the Kyoto Protocol was established, the globe got a sigh of relief that the disaster had at last gotten a long term solution. However, the force that initially propelled the establishment of Kyoto Protocol appeared to slowly but surely fade away as more countries clung to their conservative models that are highly selfish and sycophantic. Even after the problem was justified scientifically, Yanagisawa explains that many countries’ leadership saw the issue as a carefully drawn model to stall their development (316).

In the US for example, administrations over the years have failed to gather enough political goodwill to sign the protocol while most implementing countries fail to their mandated emissions reduction levels (Icel 505). Though countries such as the US indicate efforts being undertaken to address global warming, accruing efforts are largely undermined by its continued emission of green house gases.

Other countries such as China have hidden under the umbrella of being developing nations largely because by the time Kyoto Protocol was drawn, the country was not grouped in the industrialized category. Indeed, just like the US and China, many other states lack the much needed proactive approach that can be used to identify future environmental problems and subsequent poverty levels that could befall nations.

Sandoval, Rank and Hirschl observe that pollution is one of the greatest threats to environmental conservation and sustainability (720). Many states have however turned away from acknowledging pollution and its effects on poverty as a way of either avoiding accruing responsibilities or evading related complexities.

Environmentalism requires society to be able to interpret the interconnectedness of the different spheres of the environment (aquatic, lithosphere, atmospheric, and the biological). Despite the fact that over 2.8 billion people globally lack access to clean water and basic sanitation, states continue to heavily pollute the remaining water resources.

The ever rising number of industries releases some of their wastes into water systems and ultimately affects its quality for domestic, agricultural and other uses. This problem is metaphysically rhetoric in that either from industries, agricultural practices, or even domestic chores, pollutants continues being released into the environment at rates higher than ever experienced in the past.

This discussion would not be complete without mentioning the high global poverty levels that have plagued the globe for long. Jeppesen explains that to poor people, the immediate concerns are neither conservation nor environmentalism (490). However, they are mostly concerned with basic survival that puts the global and state resources into great pressure. A good example is the continued use of biomass as the main source of fuel in most developing countries.

This coupled with intensified mechanization of deforestation has resulted into extremely high rates of forest cover removal. Jeppesen estimates that about 13 million hectares of land are cut down every year (500). Even if it is for reasons of alleviating poor economic status or the need to promote greater development, the role played by many states only enhances poverty levels.

To sum up, the ability to develop effective poverty eradication mechanisms by states forms a major pillar that will support the fight against poverty. One would surely agree with rationalists in the sense that many states have overlooked the importance of eradicating poverty in a more holistic manner. One of the major efforts that cannot go unnoticed in fighting poverty is facilitating good governance.

Works Cited

Andreas, Schedler. “What Is Democratic Consolidation?” Journal of Democracy, 9.2 (1998): 91-107. Print.

Icel, John. “Why Poverty Remains High: The role of income growth, economic inequality, and changes in family structure, 1949-1999.” Demography 40.3 (2003): 499-519. Print.

Jeppesen, Sandra. “From the “War on Poverty” to the “War on the poor”: knowledge, power, and subject positions in anti-poverty discourses.” Canadian Journal of Communication 34.3 (2009): 487-508. Print.

Lenagala, Chakrangi and Rati, Ram. “Growth elasticity of poverty: estimates from new data.” International Journal of Social Economics 37.12 (2010): 923-932. Print.

Lim, Timothy. Doing comparative politics: An introduction to approaches and issues. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2005. Print.

Rapley, John. Understanding development: Theory and practice in the Third World. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. 2007. Print.

Sandoval, Daniel, Mark Rank and Thomas, Hirschl. “The increasing risk of poverty across the American life course.” Demography 46.4 (2009): 717-737. Print.

Schneider, Ben Ross. “Democratic consolidations: Some broad comparisons and sweeping arguments.” Latin American Research Review, 30.2(1995): 215. Print. Yanagisawa, Anton. “Poverty: social control over our labor force.” International Journal of Social Economics 38.4 (2011): 316-329. Print.

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