The Arab Spring: A Fourth Democratic Transition?

In this roundtable meeting, Professor Schmitter addressed the different modes of transition from an autocratic government  into a democratic one, with emphasis on the Arab Spring.  

He asserted that the series of democratization began after World War I and World War II, and later on in Latin America. However, the conditions of transition are different depending on the spatial context. Thus democracy as a political arrangements with social and economic consolidation is much less appealing today than it was in 1974 and in the 1980’s in Latin America; because the timing is different and it occurs in a different context. After twenty - thirty years of democratization, a certain number of Latin American countries have shown that democracy eventually produces greater social and economic equality. As a result, democracy cannot possibly be in the Arab world as 'promising’ as it was in southern Europe and Latin America. Professor Schmitter also referred to the relationship between civil society organizations and political parties which complement one another. Yet the disconnection between civil society organizations and political parties seems particularly strong in the Arab world, which forms a problem.

On the one hand, he mentioned how the different modes of transition occur from above such as the Russian. On the other hand the transition in the Arab world is forced from below, which is the usual way to mobilize oppressed people. Near the end of the meeting, he claimed that the Arab democratization wave would be different from that in Europe and Latin America. The big question regarding the Arab spring is: Can they organize themselves in a way that continues the struggle for democratization?

Saturday, April 21, 2012 - 12