A Review Article
By Patricia Lee Sharpe
U.S. policy makers would love (I almost said “kill”) to find the magic formula for creating, co nsolidating and sustaining democracies. Political scientists, for their part, have been struggling to uncover the secret.
Academic speculations about democracy cover a lot of ground. Maybe what’s most determinative is a country’s socio-economic mix—its ethnic make up, education, class structure, income distribution, degree of industrialization and so on. But maybe, others assert, successful democratization depends more on historical and/or developmental sequences involving “tasks” like cons titution writing, party formation, trustworthy elections, the emergence of an organized civil society, and other elements of institutionalization that diminish the attractions of charismatic (or merely brutal) authoritarianism. Then there’s this: maybe, for an emerging democracy not to backslide, it’s better if the process has been gradual rather than abrupt.
Now try putting all these factors (and more) into a predictive formula. It’s apparent why democracy-building for real is such a dicey (and perhaps best avoided) ambition for outsiders, idealistic or otherwise. Human affairs are messy at best, which is why seers have opted, traditionally, for gnomic statements about future events, thereby proving how wise (or prudent) they were.
A new book illustrates the contingencies and complications of democracy-building by looking at two cases that couldn’t have been more salient if they had been imagined: India and Pakistan. That excellent book is Phillip Oldenburg’s India, Pakistan and Democracy: Solving the Puzzle of Divergent Paths.
Modern India and a brand new, largely Muslim Pakistan were born when England terminated its shape-shifting, three century old mercantile/colonial/imperial enterprise in South Asia. Among the still-remaining loose ends: the ultimate fate of Kashmir, now very much in the news again, and Pakistan’s political exploitation of a once rational but no longer credible fear of invasion by a “twin” that’s four times larger population-wise.