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Theories of Globalization


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The Globalization of Democracy Building: A Polyarchic Dilemma

When we look at the Middle East and democratization, we must realize that democracy in its current form is largely a Western concept. Democracy building on the part of the US outwards is a classic example of globalization.
This paper will examine two theories of globalization: the interdependency theory of Waltz and Robinson?s view of globalization as one of power politics. It will then move on to examine globalization theory in regards to democracy building. Finally, this paper will seek to examine democracy building initiatives in two countries, Iraq and Lebanon.
Theories of Globalization
Waltz contends that we view globalization at interdependence, and that ?interdependence [is] again associated with peace and peace increasingly with democracy.? ? People, firms, markets matter more; states matter less,? because it is the economy that drives states to make decisions. As the world becomes more interdependent on one another, decisions are made as a collective whole in the economic field, not the independent political state.
In many ways, Waltz suggests that Globalism is really Americanism spread around the globe. As the Cold War ended, it become clearer that the ideology that won out, a capitalist democracy, was the winner and dominant ideology. The theology behind it was that if a country is not transparent, with a flexible free market, then it will crumble.
What if a country is looking to open its economy? Waltz argues that a country wishing to join the world market must wear a ??golden straightjacket,? a package of policies including balanced budgets, economic deregulation, openness to investment and trade, and a stable currency.? Because it is economies that globalism is most concerned with, it is not a political decision by any one state or person, rather an economic ?herd? of investors and lenders that decide when a country will receive investments and become a world economic player. Because it is a herd that decides the success of a state, they do not care about who is in government, rather whether a state has ?stability, predictability, transparency, and the ability to transfer and protect its private property.?
To Waltz, globalization also means homogeneity: of prices, products, rates of interests, etc. But could this not also translate into a homogeny of culture? A strong economy under globalization requires transparency, but then that transparency might transfer ideologically to the social and political realms as well. Waltz argues that this is exemplified in that ?latecomers imitate the practices and adopt the institution of the countries who have shown the way.?
?States are differentiated from one another not by function but primarily by capability.? Capacity to change, adopt, keep power, trade, adapt. If they cannot adapt, then Waltz argues that their failure to be welcomed into the global community will lead to a larger poverty gap, less investment, less technology: a stagnant economy. What globalism has brought the world, Waltz ultimately argues, is not an increasing interdependence, but growing inequality amongst Northern and Southern states.
Robinson focuses on economics as well, but further argues that globalization is the spread of capitalism throughout the world. Before globalization was relevant, power was battled through militaries and physical strength, through conflicts. The US picked up where colonialism left off, intervening both politically and militarily in Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere. After WWII, this left the U.S. with the responsibility of stability, and they often chose authoritarian regimes, whether purposely or not.
However, these authoritarian regimes were often challenged as in Egypt and Iran, by ?nationalist-oriented elites to secure greater autonomy and local control.? They were then were responded to by the U.S. , with support for the authoritarian regimes in order to maintain stability.
This changed in the 1970?s and 80?s, as popular movements demanding change became more frequent. The fall of the Shaw and the support for Nasr and subsequent Nasrist rebellions in the Middle East are perfect examples of this. There was a crisis with the ruling elite that the US had supported, and the authoritarian regimes became de-stabilized. As the movements were gaining momentum, the US could no longer ensure economic stability in the region and backing authoritarian regimes was therefore not a way to ensure the stability that was needed. Therefore, in the 1980?s, the US changed its foreign policy to one of democracy promotion.
As the global economy became more relevant and defined, a new elite emerged based on capitalist strength; an elite fluent in money markets and free capital exchange. Robinson points out that this happened in the mid-1980?s before the end of the Cold War. This is an important point, because it shows that the US was concerned with globalization of political and economic factors before the supposed end of the bi-polar hegemonic system.
What resulted from the switch away from supporting authoritarian regimes was an endorsement of polyarchy. ?Polyarchy refers to a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation in decision-making is confined to leadership choice in elections carefully managed by competing elites.? The assumption in polyarchy is that the elite will respond to the will of the majority.
In the Middle East, populace movements are seeking fundamental social change, not just simply a change in the electoral process. The difference between popular democracy and polyarchy are important to note. Popular democracy means that the majority of voters decides policy and representative outcomes, while polyarchy implies that an elite will decide what is best for the majority. Transitions away from authoritarianism towards polyarchy ?does not involve eliminating a coercive apparatus but subordinating that apparatus to civilian elites.? In other words, whomever is elected does not have to represent all the people, simply the ruling economic elite. The economic elite make globalization work.
The term globalization implies two processes: capitalist production and trade replacing protectionist economies through specialization and globalization of the process of production and an integrated market. This has led to an integration of national economies, where uniformity results across boarders, not just economically, but socially as well. The rule of the economies is based in the US, along with Europe and other ruling elites.
This elite gives sway to neo-liberalism, ?a model that seeks to achieve the conditions for the total mobility of capital. [It] includes the elimination of state intervention in the economy and the regulation by individual nation states over the activity of capital in their territories.? In the Middle East, the elite is seeking stability in the economic policies of the state, so that the structures of the global economy can operate. This requires price and exchange rate stability, etc. for markets and capital to flow freely.
Polyarchy is basically defined as:
?Nothing more than the holding of elections. Equality of conditions for electoral participation is not relevant, and these conditions are decided unequal under capitalism owing to the unequal distribution of material and cultural resources among classes and groups, and the use of economic power to determine political outcomes. Political rights are most importantly the judicial right, not the material ability to become a candidate and participate in elections. The outcome is unimportant.?
The transnational practices of globalization are on three levels: economic, political and cultural. Economically it is transnational capital that is most important to the globalized elite. Politically, it is the success of the economic elite, and culturally, globalism is a system of consumerism.
According to Robinson, US aid programs target the stability now of polyarchic systems. These systems must respond to dissent. The change cannot be ?from above,? but must be ?from below,? changing civil society, organizations at the grassroots level. Therefore, US aid programs target women and student groups, as well as labor unions and political parties in democracy building programs.
Democracy Building
Kriesberg was right when he said, ?When parties do not agree about the system they constitute, the conflicts are particularly contentious and difficult to settle.? This is particularly true when controversies over institutionalized systems are created in the political and social sphere. But people have to be largely discontent with the party in charge. That discontent within the political arena, democracy advocates claim, can be solved with more democratization.
It is important to understand however that regimes will only become democratic when they are significantly challenged from within. Unfortunately, those that are most able to form a collective majority are the Islamic parties and such opposition does exist.
Since the Kennedy administration, the US has been sending aid to countries around the world under the guise of democracy building. As part of his Cold War strategy, Kennedy linked democracies to peace, arguing that democracies lead to more economic stability and friendly relations to the United States. Otherwise known as the Democratic Peace Thesis, the idea that democracies don?t fight other democracies was fundamental to the Kennedy Administration.
However, aid until the early 1990?s went primarily to Latin America and Asia. After the Gulf War, Bush started to increase aid to the Middle East to around $250 million over the decade with the majority of those funds going to Egypt and the Occupied Territories in Israel (West Bank/Gaza). The US did not challenge other countries. The money that went to the Middle East was primarily for institutional reform in Egypt: to court efficiency, tort reform and decentralization of government. The U.S. ?defined its role in the Middle East as that of helping to prepare the countries for the day when political change would become possible, rather than making change happen.?
The Middle East Policy Initiative, launched at the end of 2002, harolled the Bush administration as stepping up it?s funding to democracy building in the Middle East. In reality, the funds allocated for this goal was $29 million for 2003, an insignificant increase from the 1990?s.
Market Linkage
There are many that agree with Robinson, who argue that the institutionalization of US aid towards democracy is not whole-hearted, with democracy as its only goal. Vitalis contends that, ?beneath the latest fashionable rhetoric, ?democracy? in the hands of AID serves as an instrument for the pursuit of other ends ? specifically, more market-friendly economies.?
These market- friendly economies are important for US exports, price controls and stable currency?s that will allow foreign direct investment (FDI). As a country becomes more open to trade and reforms the government sector, the private sector becomes more open for firms to operate on a more level playing field with state owned banks and institutions. This means that the US and other market-economies can have a ?slice of the pie,? in any country that becomes more capitalistic.
Countries may allow democracy building companies such as the National Democratic Institute, or USAID into their countries, because of what Vitalis terms ?rent-seeking.? Rent-seeking is when a country seeks aid of any kind that can bring in additional income to the state, including money from licenses or permits. These activities require employment of citizens in the home country as well.
What USAID then accomplishes is dominance by both the US- in domestic markets, and the home country who is rent-seeking, not looking to employ democracy building for democracy?s sake. What ?AID [then] exemplifies the ?parasitic? relationship Springborg describes between a ?self interested? and embattled public authority and the array of clients it serves.?
USAID argues alternatively that ?AID?s democracy project would operationalize a strategy for ?supporting processes of democratic institutional reform that will further economic liberalization objectives.? Institutional reform does not simply imply legislative or judicial branch reform, but economic-market reform as well. If transparency is a bi-product of market reform that seeps into the private sector, then that is a worthy bi-product.
What market reform accomplishes in the democracy building front is a ?justifi[cation] sociologically and politically as the best way to reduce the impact of nepotistic networks. The wider the scope of market forces, the less room there will be for rent-seeking by elites with privileged access to state power and resources.?

Case Studies: Iraq and Lebanon
There is an assumption in the Middle East is that democracies cannot successfully take form in Arab countries that are Islamic. Democracy building dissenters sometimes argue that a stable democracy is virtually impossible in any Arab/Muslim country. These beliefs are held by the same people who believe that there is a Huntington-like ?clash of civilizations,? where ideologies of the West cannot be merged with those of the East. Their argument is said to be based in history, as Freedom House President Adrian Karatnycky represents, when he argued that:
?Since the early 1970?s?.the Islamic world, in particular its Arabic core, have seen little significant evidence of improvements in political openness, respect for human rights, and transparency.?
Other groups, like CATO and World Values, join the Freedom house in this course of ideology, when they contend that they calculated that ?a non-Islamic country is three times more likely than an Islamic country to be democratic.?
Alternately, scholars argue that there is a homogeneity that exists in most countries that would lend itself to solely Muslim rule, with each country?s Muslim majority. This is because of the simple assumption that in a representative government, majority rules.
However, there are two countries that stand out of this norm, even to those scholars who agree with Huntington: Iraq and Lebanon. Both countries have mixed society?s comprised of different religious and ethnic backgrounds that serve to balance each other out, with no one party holding a clear majority. Indeed, before the Lebanese civil war that began in the 1970?s, Lebanon represented to the Arab world a society that was ?free, open, pluralist and stable.? ?Lebanization? emulating a country that had worked to perfect political compromise, create a system of careful consensus politics, while creating a working proportional representational system.
The system of governance in Lebanon would be proportional based on the confessional system: a representative structure on the basis of religious and ethnic heritage. It would not be by ideological beliefs, etc., but by representation of all people along these divisional lines. Once established, the National Pact limited the actions that the political infrastructure of Lebanon could take. The majority of seats were given to the Christian populace (six) and five to the Muslim populace, therefore creating a system where each populace would have ensured representation.
In July of 2003, the Governing Council of Iraq was created as an interim government, charged with the task of assembling the beginnings of a government in both the legislative and judicial areas of government, under the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). It is composed based on a confessional system, comprised of thirteen Arab Shiites, five Arab Sunnis, five Kurdish Sunnis, a Christian and a Sunni Turk. In September, the Council also created a cabinet that was comprised of a similar make-up.
Some opponents to the CPA and Governing Council argue that the confessional system ?would engrain and legitimize particularistic identities, creating notions of ?exclusiveness? that inevitably would exacerbate dislocations among the country?s various communities.? These same opponents point to Lebanon as a reaffirmation to this claim, arguing that it was the confessional system that led to the civil war and its own political demise.
Kora Mehta, a program officer who works with democracy building projects in Lebanon, discussed why the confessional system in Lebanon has failed:
?I see the confessional system as involving 2 parts: 1: the confessional system itself as an institution 2: the circumstances that keeps it in place and maintains the power it has, feeding into itself. There is a lot of Syrian involvement, and they continue to take advantage of the system and manipulate those aspects of the confessional system that help them. Because of the manipulation and the support, the confessional system on the national level dictates the political environment in Lebanon. The reasons that it is powerful is because of that manipulation? I differentiate then between the system itself and manipulation of that system.
What Lebanon shows about the challenges of the confessional system is that manipulation is easier, because you?re not violating the tenants of the system. By increasing manipulation, you?re buying into the system itself, but weakening the system as a whole. This is because your there?re representing your sect or religion. You?re not advocating democracy in the pluralistic sense? It doesn?t require systems to become pluralistic.?
Other scholars would like to suggest that the major conflict in Lebanon is that of identity, where lines are drawn according to religion. This is a fair position; however, the divisions by religion are artificial. Those lines were established by the French when they created Greater Lebanon in order to be able to use the Maronites to administer the country. The French felt that they had a common bond with the Christians in the area, and thus gave them more favors and opportunity than the rest of the community.
Chrigton and Iver, in their case-study of Lebanon, viewed protracted conflicts as ??identity driven,? the result of an underlying ?fear of extinction? that grows out of the experience of being a vulnerable ethnic group living with memories of persecution and massacre.? What is successful about Lebanon, was that for 30 years, there was no significant internal conflict. The civil war that started in the 1970?s was largely instigated by outside states, using Lebanon as their battlefield: not fundamental problems with Lebanon itself. As my previous paper argued, the continued problems in Lebanon are due to lack of economic stability, which has tied the hands of those responsible for the political climate.
Iraq is not identical to Lebanon in make-up; it has a large Shi?i majority, with large constituencies of Sunni and Kurdish peoples as well. Iraq also differs from Lebanon on less cosmetic lines, because its economy has the potential to be largely successful, once its oil production is reestablished. Its identity currently is muddled. Many Kurds are demanding a separate, autonomous state. Other citizens are worried that a Shi?i majority could turn the state into an Islamic republic imitating its neighbor Iran.
In Iraq?s case its successful economy could manage to let there be more peace in its transition to a democracy. After oil trade is re-established, there will be significantly increasing funds towards internal administration, education, and infrastructure, something in which Lebanon is lacking. The downward turn in Lebanon?s economy has caused great discord and fractionalization within its political arena. It is the economy, not its confessional political system that has caused that fractionalization.
Iraq has similar problems of identity when it comes to its politics. The lines that established its borders are not indicative of a common culture, they were drawn by the British along their own ?divide and rule? policy that included the wilayat of Mosul, largely Kurdish in population.
Avoiding a Polyarchy
In order for Iraq to be successful, it must create a true confessional system, based on the realities. It cannot allow its constitution to be made with haste, and must be very careful not to let outside parties to pervert and ?interpret? its representational make-up. As we have seen previously, the inability for Lebanon to stay true to its confessional nature has led to continues economic and political failure.(
Kora Mehta put it best, when she said:
?What Lebanon shows about the challenges of the confessional system is that manipulation is easier, because you?re not violating the tenants of the system. By increasing manipulation, you?re buying into the system itself, but weakening the system as a whole. This is because your there?re representing your sect or religion. You?re not advocating democracy in the pluralistic sense? It doesn?t require systems to become pluralistic.?
What is required is ultimately a pluralistic, operating democratic society. To Mehta, Iraq could work as a democracy, but it has to avoid the problems of Lebanon. It could be argued that perhaps There?s a difference in identity between Iraq and Lebanon? Iraq as an identity means more that Lebanon to the Lebanese. If that is the case, then you have a unifying force to counter the confessional system problems that occur in Lebanon?you have an overarching identity.
That identity may be the glue that could create a working confessional system in Iraq. However, as Alison Lawlor points out;
?The people of Iraq need time to consider what will be best for them. There must be a civil society that works before they can establish a true democracy. NGO?s must work with Iraqi?s to form civil service organizations that can advocate the needs and wants of their constituents. There must be a point at which there is an understanding of what it means to provide for the people as a political representative, not just the state providing for the people.?
Lawlor points out that the state of Iraq has a history of being an oil-welfare state. This history of state welfare, where taxes and oil revenues provided, until the 1980?s, for the people, meant that there was a lack of civil services. While the regimes may have been authoritarian and repressive, they also provided most of the services the populace needed, pushing out the service sector. Now, the state of Iraq needs to look at privatizing its industries and allowing for free markets. Opening up its industry to privatization may have a devastating effect at first, causing public outrage.
Furthermore, Lawlor considers the timing of the US agenda in democracy building in Iraq. She contends that with the reform of the public sector, assuming that Iraqi?s can adapt to and accept a truly democratic regime by the US administration?s deadline of June 2004 is unreasonable, ?these things take time.?
However, the US wants elites to stay in power. Perhaps the deadline is to ensure that their representatives are those in power in the political realm. Mehta raises a good point:
?There are people in the US administration who truly want [democracy in the Middle East. There is a dilemma when people start to assume that the US government should have moral ethics in its actions, that they should do what is morally right all the time. I believe they should? but the reality is that the US will serve in the interest of its population, Americans. I believe that encouraging democracy in the Middle East would serve in the interests of the American people, but the US administration doesn?t necessarily believe that.?
What the US needs is stability, not democracy. Stability in Iraq would open up oil production once more. An elite in power that the US is friendly with could lead to inexpensive oil, and a new state for US exports, furthering its world market. Iraq will most likely turn into another polyarchic state, unless the US backs off with its rhetoric and deadlines.
There is possibility for democracy in Iraq. It could be the confessional system, or it could look like something else, perhaps a quota system (although such a system has failed in Jordan) or a representative list system. But whatever Iraqi?s choose, they must consider that it must be chosen with attention paid to the rights of all their constituents. A confessional system may work but they have to keep in mind that, ? If you want a truly democratic system, there is no one whose rights could be lesser than anyone else?s. You can have a confessional system, as long as no one manipulates it. The problem is that not everyone participating wants a true democracy.?
That democracy must be pluralistic and takes time to build. If there is to be true democracy in the Middle East, esp. in Iraq and Lebanon, it may not look like what the US wants. The majority of both populations is Muslim, so both states might have another Islamic Democracy outside of Iran. The US, if it wants to escape polyarchy and contend that it is just in its programs of democracy building must accept this fact as well, that ?Islam is a way of life and it?s a religion, but its basic tenants are very similar to other religions. They do not contradict with democratic thought. We often assume that a democracy will look like the U.S. It might not. But still it will be a democracy.?


Basham, Patrick. Gambling with History: Bringing Democracy to the Middle East. CATO Institute. Aug. 26, 2003.

Carothers, Thomas. Bethany Lacina. Quick Transformation to Democratic Middle East is a Fantasy. Seattle Post Intelligencer. March 16, 2003.

Crighton, Elizabeth. Martha Abele Mac Iver. The Evolution of Protracted Ethnic Conflict: Group Dominance and Political Underdevelopment in Northern Ireland and Lebanon. Comparative Politics, Volume 23, Issue 2 (Jan., 1991), p.127

Duncan, Benjamin. US Security Linked to Peace in the Middle East. October 29, 2003.

Hawthorne, Amy., ed. Arab Reform Bulletin. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. November 2003, Vol. 1, Issue 5.

Kriesberg, Louis. Constructive Conflicts: From Escalation to Resolution. 1998. Rowman & Littlefield.

Lawlor, Alison. Personal Interview. December 5, 2003.

Lipset, Seymour Martin. The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited: 1993 Presidential Address. American Sociological Review, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Feb., 1994), 1-22.

Maktabi, Rania. The Lebanese 1932 Census Revisited. Who Are the Lebanese? British Journal of Middle East Studies.Vol. 26, No. 2 (Nov. 1999), 224.

Mehta, Kora. Personal Interview. December 9, 2003.

Ottaway, Marina. Thinking Big: Democratizing the Middle East. Boston Globe. Jan. 5, 2003. Robinson, William. Globalization, the World System, and ?Democracy Promotion? in US Foreign Policy. Theory and Society, Vol. 25, No.5 (Oct., 1996), 615-665.

Vitalis, Robert. The Democratization Industry and the Limits of the New Interventionism. Middle East Report, No. 187/188. Intervention and North-South Politics in the 90?s. (Mar. ?Jun., 1994), 46-50.

Waltz, Kenneth. Globalization and Governance. PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 32, No.4, (Dec. 1999), 693-700.

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...Globalization Globalization is the shift towards a more integrated and inter-dependent world economy (Hill, 2009). Due to falling barriers to cross-border trade and investment companies are able to move goods, services, and investments faster and more consistent to consumers located in many parts of the world. International Trade Theories Some of the traditional international theories that support the concept of globalization are the Absolute Advantage Theory and the Comparative Theory. The Absolute Advantage Theory was created by Adam Smith in 1776 (Hill, 2009) and stated that a country that produces a product efficiently has an absolute advantage over other countries and should trade the product. Smith also argued a country that can purchase a product at a lower cost should never produce at home. According to Hill (2009), the Comparative Advantage Theory was developed by David Ricardo in 1817. However, Ricardo expanded on Smith’s theory of comparative advantage and suggests that although a country is efficient in producing a good or services, it will be cost effective to purchase the same goods/services from another country at lower opportunity cost. The theory also suggested that unrestrictive free trade increases world production. Drivers of Globalization The two macro factors that are major drivers of globalization are declining trade barriers and changes in communication, information, and transportation technologies. Falling trade barriers make it easier for...

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