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Reviews 131 Edward Friedman, editor. The Politics ofDemocratization: Generalizing EastAsian Experiences. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1994. xi, 276 pp. Hardcover $66.00, isbn 0-8133-1805-x. Paperback $22.95, iSBN 08133 -2265-0. This volume recounts East Asia's recent experiences with democratization. Specifically , it discusses the successes as well as failures offive East Asian countries: China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Its goal is to build theories ofdemocratization using a comparative framework. The most important contribution ofthis book is its démystification oftwo of the most influential assumptions that social scientists make about democracy. The first assumption stresses the importance of socioeconomic conditions for the development ofdemocracy (i.e., a high rate of economic development and the rise ofa middle class). The second assumption dictates the cultural prerequisites for democracy, implying that democracy can be built only on the cultural soil of Western, Protestant, individualism. The authors are right to criticize Eurocentric assumptions about democracy when democratization is spreading all over the world. While criticizing outmoded theories ofdemocracy, the authors stress generalized political explanations for the variation among consolidating democracies by using the East Asian case. They define democracy as "fair rules by which citizens choose officials to run government in an accountable manner" (p. 2). So defined, all the countries in the book, with the exception ofChina, have achieved democracy, although the degree ofdemocracy varies from country to country. Rather than focus on economic and cultural conditions, the book stresses the importance ofpolitics in the process ofdemocratization. Edward Friedman points out that "Political action can rapidly change the conditions that matter" (p. 4). For example, one ofthe most important political actions that has facilitated democracy in East Asia has been the policy ofland reform, including the 1946 reform imposed by the United States in Japan, the reform ofthe early 1950s in Taiwan , and the farmer-initiated baochan daohu (household contracting system) in China in the late 1970s. Land reform is important because it can create a world of democratically oriented independent tillers. In Taiwan and China, small family farmers are motivated "to participate in any form ofcommodity movement which strengthens farmers' family economic interests and weakens the expansion© 1997 by University 0fpolitical power" (p. 204). Japanese farmers, on the other hand, have succeeded oj awai ? ress^ using the formal democratic structure (mainly elections) to assert their political influence on national policy formation. Small-farm producers are important in the development ofdemocracy, not passive recipients ofhistorical change. 132 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 The authors take issue with pessimistic predictions about democracy's supposed "incompatibility" with the cultures ofConfucian East Asia. Many people do not regard Japan as a democratic state because ofits historical cultural blinders . Sato and Arase challenge the conventional view ofJapanese politics as only "interested in serving the conservative business groups who are solely interested in making money [while] the Japanese people are happy to have a government that gets on famously with despotic regimes" (p. 8). Japanese people enjoy a degree of freedom in job choice, residence, and political activity. The political activities of Japanese farmers are the main reason for the survival ofthe Liberal Democratic Party in Japan. The very fact that the LDP has to form national policies to satisfy the rural constituency shows the power ofJapanese farmers. The long life ofthe LDP often gives one the false impression ofa monolithic LDP structure. In fact, the LDP is divided into several factions, and the competition among these factions is very strong. They have to fight for campaign finances and electoral votes. Moreover, "conciliation and consensus are the key to the long life in power of die Liberal Democratic Party" (p. 3). In the case of Korea, Tun-jen Cheng and Eun Mee Kim point out the importance as well as the difficulties of consolidating democracy through a broad conservative consensus. Democratization is regarded "as the building ofpolitical institutions , common interests, and new forms oflegitimation. Consolidating a democracy requires building political parities and alliances capable ofestablishing credible national agendas and control ofthe military, making the security forces accountable to electoral representatives, and crafting a constitutional arrangement " (p. 5). Democratization emerges from apolitical process ofclash, compromise , and consensus building...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 131-133
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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