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Democracies and the processes surrounding recent transitions to democracy are gendered in a variety of ways. Recently, feminist scholars have questioned the exclusionary ways in which democracy is both theorized and operationalized and how these have resulted in women and men being incorporated into democratic polities. They have demonstrated how processes of democratization, particularly the third wave of democratization that has taken place over the last three decades, are gendered. They have also shown that women’s movements were key actors in the broad opposition coalitions against many nondemocratic regimes. In order both to understand the differing role of organized women in the subsequent transitions to democracy and the ways in which transition paths affect gender outcomes, feminist scholars have begun to focus on the complex and sometimes contradictory interaction of four variables: the transition; women activists; political parties and politicians involved in the transition; and the institutional legacy of the nondemocratic regime. Two main areas that have been explored in relation to the political outcomes of transitions to democracy are women’s participation in competitive electoral politics and major changes in gender policy. In order to expand one important emerging area of research that is looking at how attempts to establish democracy in post-conflict settings are gendered, feminist scholars with expertise in third wave transitions to democracy need to analyze not only women’s roles in post-conflict institution building but also the ways that the outcomes have gendered implications more systematically.

Article

Raffaele Marchetti

Global democracy is a field of academic study and political activism concerned with making the global political system more democratic. This topic has become a central area of inquiry for established literatures including political philosophy, international relations (IR), international law, and sociology. Along with global justice, global democracy has also been critical to the emergence of international political theory as a discrete literature in recent decades. Global democracy is particularly concerned with how transnational decision-making can be justified and who should be entitled to participate in the formation of global rules, laws, and regulations. As democratic nations increase trade among themselves, policies like isolationism and nationalism make far less sense. Borders blur through free trade agreements and the creation of economic zones. As nations begin to take the interests of their partner nations into consideration when drafting laws and regulations, global democracy begins to take shape. However, due to globalization, the supposed alliance between democracy and the nation-state has come unstuck. The expansion of global connections has functioned in close cooperation with increased efforts to govern global affairs. Many scholars argue that increased transnational activity undermines national democracy. On the contrary, global democrats share the view that individuals should collectively rule themselves—to the extent that decision-making power migrates beyond the state, democracy should follow.

Article

Cynthia M. Nolan

Oversight of intelligence agencies maintains public control and knowledge of their activities through an assurance of accountability and responsible use of power. It reflects the essential part of democratic checks and balances as applied to intelligence and security services in government. The US intelligence community and its oversight offices are the most extensive, oldest, and most studied in the world. Here, oversight of intelligence had developed as a series of checks and balances against the often unchecked power that had revealed itself in a scandal of some sort. Meanwhile, early descriptions of the activities of the intelligence agencies have given way to more systematic examinations of the quality of intelligence. And as oversight has been formalized, so too have academic descriptions of that oversight, both to expose that oversight to scrutiny and to aim to improve it. It is the use and form of these advances in government and their relationships to the necessity of democratic control and accountability that present the most intriguing challenges to academic theories of government conduct. In a democracy, intelligence must deliver high-quality assessments, analysis, and warnings in the advancement of US interests while at the same time acting within the law and respecting the rights of US citizens. These two sides of the same coin give intelligence oversight multiple objectives and make the task of the overseer even more difficult.

Article

The nature of the relationship between economic development and income inequality has long been the subject of considerable debate. Economic growth has very different effects on poverty, depending on a country’s level of income inequality. In high inequality countries, economic growth that raises the overall level of income disproportionately tends to benefit the rich, whereas policies that encourage economic growth while reducing income inequality will greatly accelerate the achievement of poverty reduction goals. Thus, understanding how income inequality and economic development are linked is important for establishing economic growth policies that reduce poverty. The literature on the economic development–income inequality nexus in industrial society places emphasis on the causes of current social inequality. The central and most cited paper in the literature is S. Kuznets’s “Economic Growth and Income Inequality” (1955), which proposed an inverted U-shaped relationship between development and inequality over the course of industrialization. Some scholars have tried to build upon Kuznets’s theory by focusing on his claim that income inequality is a function of the nature of regulations put on the market. Other studies deal with the importance of studying the relationship between democracy and inequality, the effect of the nature of the government on shaping inequality compared to industrialization, and the implications of globalization for income inequality. This overview of the literature shows that there is little true consensus on the relationship between inequality and development and highlights two major areas for improvement: measurement and data quality.

Article

Jennifer D. Kibbe

Covert action presents a potential policy for decision makers who want something quicker or more muscular than diplomacy but less expensive and obtrusive than military force. In contrast with intelligence, which entails collecting and analyzing information, covert action is an active instrument of foreign policy. The three main categories of covert action include propaganda, political action, and paramilitary action. Another separate category is economic action, which involves destabilizing the target state’s economy in some way. Because of the inherent secrecy of covert action, outside scholars have no way of knowing how much they do or do not know about the topic at hand and it also makes it hard to verify the information, since the information comes from a variety of sources. Covert action literature is particularly strong in case studies of particular operations. There is also a well-developed subsection within the field that focuses on covert action since the end of the Cold War, the role that the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) played during World War II, and covert actions undertaken by other states. However, there are several issues in the covert action literature. These issues include the assessment of the success or failure of particular operations and of the policy instrument as a whole, the tangible and intangible costs incurred by covert action, the ethical questions raised by conducting covert actions as well as the particular methods used and its impact on democracy, the oversight of covert action, and the evolution of US law covering covert action.

Article

According to the democratic peace theory, democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies. Contrary to theories explaining war engagement, it is a “theory of peace” outlining motives that dissuade state-sponsored violence. The proposition that democracies are more peaceful than autocracies has spawned a huge literature. Much of the relevant quantitative research has shown that democracies indeed rarely, if ever, fight each other, although they are not necessarily less aggressive than autocracies in general. Although, statistically, the probability of war between any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states. According to scholars, the democratic peace theory can elaborate on the empirical phenomena previously explained by the earlier dominant research program, realism in international relations; in addition, the initial statement that democracies do not, or rarely, wage war on one another, has been followed by a rapidly growing literature on novel empirical regularities. This democratic peace proposition not only challenges the validity of other political systems, but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasizes balance-of-power calculations and common strategic interests.

Article

Bronwyn Leebaw

Truth commissions are temporary institutions that are tasked with investigating patterns of political violence under a prior regime as part of a process of political change. In the past, truth commissions were generally seen as a “second best” alternative in contexts where prosecuting past abuses was deemed unrealistic. Today, they are regarded as important tools for pursuing a wide array of goals, from democratization and reconciliation to human rights protection and individual healing. Early scholarship on the development of truth commissions focused on comparative democratization and on typologies that could be used to predict various transitional justice outcomes. More recently, scholars in the field of international relations have undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies in hopes of understanding what is driving the development of truth commissions. However, opinions differ as to the causes, consequences, and moral implications of truth commissions. Some attribute the proliferation of truth commissions to the growing strength of human rights norms and advocacy, whereas others argue that they merely function to manage the balance of power in transitional contexts, or serve as a basis for advancing values such as justice, democracy, and peace. These debates seem to have only intensified as truth commission scholarship continues to grow. One interesting pattern is that a number of scholars, have questioned the effectiveness of truth commissions in satisfying their own claims to investigate the “truth” about past abuses.

Article

One of the most prevalent ideas in the literature of international relations (IR) is that domestic political patterns are linked to foreign policy via the concept of political regime (democracy, anocracy, and autocracy). Since the beginning of the 21st century, the regime-type foreign policy nexus has gained ample theoretical and empirical credibility in IR theory. There are four areas of research on regime type and foreign policy: the first considers democratic peace literature focused on authoritarian and democratic foreign policies; the second deals with democratization and war literature that highlights the foreign policies of anocracies; the third uses the common large-N data sets and research design and unpacks democratic and authoritarian regimes (separately) to identify subtypes of each regime type; and the fourth is the so-called politics and war literature. The politics and war literature is fragmented, with authors pursuing separate and evidently incomplete lines of argument. There are three steps for integrating the key insights of the politics and war literature: First is the intensification of domestic opposition to established elites; second, the adoption of new ruling strategies as a means for leaders to cope with rising domestic political crises and to control their hold over the regime; and third, the occurrence of international crises, in which larger aspects of domestic politics persist or emerge and affect decisions involving the threat of war.