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115 7 Assessing the Effectiveness of Democracy Promotion Frames As discussed in chapter 2, democracy promotion is a type of political influence whereby an actor—a state, an international organization, or one’s own government—attempts to induce other states or its own society to accept the norms, beliefs, and policies favored by this actor. Since this influence is effectuated through the language of communication, democracy promotion encompasses a discursive and generative aspect of influence operating at the level of meanings. These meanings, which are conveyed through discourse , organize public knowledge, structure the hierarchy of beliefs, and generate consensus or result in discord in the subjects of communication.1 How democracy and democracy promotion are framed plays a vital role in political influence and persuasion. Discursive frames can act as both constraints and resources for those interested in advancing or maintaining their models of democracy and views on democratization. The effectiveness of the issue presentation—that is, its ability to persuade, organize knowledge, reproduce or change attitudes, and elicit public support—is known as frame resonance. Discursive frames act as constraints when the advocated models of democracy find little resonance with the target governments and populations. They act as resources when they draw on or creatively connect the reformers’ ideas with the citizens’ and governments’ dispositions. There is rarely perfect commensurability between a discursive frame for a model of democracy and the political knowledge or opinions of the targets of communication. Several dimensions can be used to align an issue representation with the views of governments and populations and assess how resonant the resultant frame is. These qualities of a discursive frame include cultural compatibility, salience, consistency, and credibility.2 In the remainder of this chapter, these dimensions are used to assess the effec- 116   Democracy in Central Asia tiveness of the democracy promotion frames used by the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and the Central Asian states. In US, EU, Russian, and Chinese frames, the targets of communication are both the governments and the people of the Central Asian republics. In the case of the Central Asian governments’ discursive frames, their effectiveness is assessed against the beliefs, values, and dispositions of their own citizens, as expressed through the survey instrument and focus groups. Limitations of Western Democracy Promotion Frames Cultural compatibility denotes a sensitivity to national contexts: How well do the ideas of the democracy promotion frame mesh with the target state’s historical legacy and political experiences and the society’s political knowledge and cultural stock? The analysis of the US and EU democracy promotion frames in chapter 3 showed that both actors neglected the target society’s cultural context and chose to promote a narrow ethnocentric notion of democracy shaped by their own experiences and beliefs. Whether in their annual reports, statements of representative bodies, or interactions with local recipients of aid, both the United States and the EU applied their own standards in judging institutions and practices as either democratic or undemocratic. The US democratization frame has emphasized political processes and institutions aimed at fostering a pluralistic political system and citizens ’ activism. Such a perspective reflects a set of internalized assumptions about the relationship between citizens and the state. In the context of the USSR, for example, the presumption was that the totalitarian government instituted and managed the relationship between Soviet citizens and the communist state. Subsequently, the United States expected that, given the opportunity to relate to the state differently, the people of former Soviet countries would act like the citizens of a democracy and keep the state in check through political activism.3 These views have been strengthened by the structure of democracy funding, which requires a measurable and discernible impact. As a result, the democracy promotion agencies have been motivated to design projects that generate quantitative and short-term results rather than long-term qualitative progress. Thus, democracy assistance has been channeled to civil society actors, parliaments, parties, and other institutions because they can produce concrete results. They measure success by the numbers reported to the home office: numbers of NGOs Assessing the Effectiveness of Democracy Promotion Frames  117 receiving assistance, people trained, journals published, workshops conducted , and official documents collected, drafted, and analyzed. The EU has projected an even fuzzier conception of democracy in its foreign relations. Yet, similar to the US discourse, the EU’s rhetoric has signaled support for free and fair elections, economic and political liberalization , and market reforms. The idea that elections can be both unrepresentative...


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