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Question: With references to Gabriel Almond, "Determinacy-Choice, Stability-Change: Some Thoughts on a Contemporary Polemic in Political Theory," Government and Opposition V (Winter 1969-70), pp.22-40,Dankwart Rustow, “Transitions to Democracy: Towards a Dynamic Model,” Comparative Politics (April 1970), pp.337-363,Scott Flanagan, “Models and Methods of Analysis,” in Gabriel Almond, Scott Flanagan, and Robert Mundt eds., Crisis, Choice and Change: Historical Studies of Political Development (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973), pp.43-76,Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp.15-72 and Samuel Huntington and Joan Nelson, No Easy Choice: Political Participation in Developing Countries (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1976), pp.19-41, Do you believe that structural factors are always dominant in determining transition to democracy (or away from authoritarianism)? To what extent can human agency contribute to democratization for (a) an opposition activist; (b) a member of the elite ruling group (not the supreme leader)?
No, structural factors are not always dominant in determining transition to democracy (or away from authoritarianism). While it is true that structural factors such as economic factors and foreign aid can play an important role in political transitions, it is also true that human agency has the potential to play an equally important role. For example, in Gabriel Almond's article "Determinacy-Choice, Stability-Change: Some Thoughts on a Contemporary Polemic in Political Theory," he highlights the idea that "human choice has a causative role in political and social change" (p.26). This idea was furthered by Dankwart Rustow in his article "Transitions to Democracy: Towards a Dynamic Model," in which he argues that the success of a transition to democracy depends on both structural and agentic factors. He states that "both objective and subjective conditions, forces, and actors are equally important" (p.346). Given the importance of human agency in transitions to democracy, it is possible to make the argument that both opposition activists and members of the elite ruling group (not the supreme leader) can contribute to democratization. An opposition activist can contribute by pushing for political and social reforms, as well as organizing protests, civil disobedience campaigns, and other activities that aim to bring about change. A member of the elite ruling group, meanwhile, can contribute by pushing for reforms from within the system, such as advocating for greater transparency, more representative democracy, and structural reforms that would benefit civil society. In conclusion, while structural factors can certainly play an important role in political transitions, human agency also has the potential to contribute to democratization. Both opposition activists and members of the elite ruling group can contribute to democratization by advocating for reforms from within their respective systems. It is important to remember, though, that democratization is a complex process, with outcomes that depend on both structural and agentic factors.
March 8, 2023, 2:02 a.m.
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