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The Grim Prospects Of Tilly Style Democracy In Modern Africa

1118 words - 4 pages

Political scientist Charles Tilly popularly theorized that the formation of modern democracies had come in the context of war. For Tilly, the financial expenses of war inevitably gave rise to the institution of complex bureaucracies capable of taxing the people efficiently. These bureaucracies would then remain in the post-war context, primarily with the intent of conducting campaigns to reconstruct war-torn political entities; thus, a “ratchet effect” that allowed for greater taxation and bureaucratic expansion of what would become the modern democratic state. And, while scholars such as Herbst (1990) hold that Tilly's thesis is merely characterization of the formation of modern democracies and not a universal imperative, the mechanisms for a peaceful transition to democracy continue to elude world leaders and political scientists alike. It is on this premise that the present essay posits Tilly's path to democracy as the one most likely to be pursued by states in Africa hoping to accomplish the imposition of a democratic mechanism from governments. Ultimately, the essay concludes that the prospects for African nations' transition to democracy are grim.
Perhaps most apparently limiting to African nations' transition to democracy is the existence of international norms that appear to inhibit such a transition. Central to Tilly's thesis was the presence of an existential threat to the polities of early Europe; that is to say, by means of war, smaller states would consistently be annexed by larger ones, and would simply cease to exist. This was the case, for example, in the Acts of Union that served to consolidate Great Britain as a single kingdom before that state's transition democracy (commonly regarded as the establishment of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act). The same was true in the case of the United States, although the annexation was arguably more peaceful: what were previously independent states joined together under the Articles of Confederation to form a more centralized, powerful government. However, this sort of threat (or, indeed, any international norm that would encourage the consolidation of states) does not seem to face modern-day Africa, as state that would otherwise have been forced to relinquish their sovereignty to another are today protected under the “norm of statehood.” That is to say, the international scene accepts that, when states face such a threat, the United Nations or other international organizations will intervene by means of “stabilizing” missions designed to reinvigorate these states. One prominent case of this was when the United Nations intervened to prevent the Turkish annexation of North Cyprus in 1974, respecting international law and accepted norms dictating the maintenance of that state's sovereignty. This norm prohibits the Tilly-style political aggrandizement that appears necessary to the formation of large and thriving states. And, what is more, even the peaceful consolidation of polities does not...

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