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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .


The Changing Nature of Democracy
Edited by Takashi Inoguchi, Edward Newman & John Keane

(Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1998)
285pp. Index. Pb.: 19.00; ISBN 92-808-1005-7.



The democratization literature is characterized by its popularity and by several points of controversy: how to define democracy, whether there are socioeconomic and cultural correlates of democracy and where in the world they are applicable, and the process by which democratic rule becomes consolidated. Beyond contention is the need to explain the torrent of democratic regimes that flooded the globe during the Third Wave of democracy. This also is a critical juncture for the "Third Wave" democratic countries. Without resolution of longstanding societal issues in newly democratized countries, the threat for democratic retrenchment, and possibly ethnic conflict, is increased.

Unfortunately, ethnic conflict is never seriously engaged as an influential actor in democratization in this otherwise fine edited collection that addresses the above issues. It bring together 15 significant international scholarly contributors, and allows them to write on their main subjects of inquiry. Thus, Bruce Russett discusses how "Democracy and international peace can feed upon each other" (p. 167) while in separate contributions Philippe Schmitter, and Alfred Stepan and Juan Linz, outline their well-known analytical frameworks for consolidating newly democratic countries. (For Schmitter, a democracy is consolidated when politics are dull.) There are also strong essays on less well-discussed topics, such as Saad Eddin Ibrahim's illustration of democratic elements in Islam, and Bernard Crick's "meditation on democracy" and the word's evolvement in modern times.

The book is grouped into four main subject areas: defining democracy, the societal framework for democracy (the roles of the constitution, political parties, and mass media), international forces on democratization (the "democratic peace," the "free market," but curiously no mention of foreign policy or ethnic conflict), regional characteristics of democracy (highly pertinent discussions of "Asian democracy," the evolution of Eastern European democracy, and the welcome essay on democracy in Islam), and an exploration of democracy in different organizational frameworks such as the United Nations.

The book, therefore, serves as a nice collection of expert theorizing and praxis on a broad spectrum of democracy-related topics, though neglecting ethnic conflict. Its main contribution is to expose those unfamiliar with democratization themes to this literature. It is recommended reading for undergraduates and faculty alike (and would make for a good general reader in an undergraduate democratization course), though the most familiar of the authors present their well-known themes in a somewhat introductory fashion, making their essays be of less utility for faculty in the democratization field, though no less readable.


Ross E. Burkhart,
Boise State University




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