Since 1974, more than thirty countries around the world have democratized. The fall of dictators on both sides of the Cold War divide was triggered by regional economic crises and compounded by different political problems: the death of a dictator, defeat in war, or popular protest. The civilians who replaced dictators, juntas, and one-party regimes extended power to people long excluded from politics. They also set about restoring civil society and reviving moribund economies. Power to the People, after documenting the emergence of a new interstate system and the Cold War that divided it in the postwar period, examines the factors that led to the process of democratization in countries around the world, including regimes in southern European countries in the 1970s and those in Latin America and the Philippines during the 1980s. During the late 1980s, Schaeffer documents how communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe struggled with stagnant economies, inflation, and mounting debt. Soviet efforts to reform the economy triggered a crisis first for dictators in Eastern Europe and then a crisis in the former Soviet Union itself, developments that in 1989 led to rapid democratization throughout the region. In South Africa, economic problems related to debt and divestment, as well as the political turmoil caused by black protest, created a crisis for apartheid, leading to black majority rule by 1994.While economic crises contributed to political change in many cases, it did not result in democratization everywhere. Power to the People explains why regimes in Mexico, Cuba, China, Vietnam, and North Korea survived despite shared economic crises, and why democratization in the former Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the former Soviet Union led also to division. Schaeffer contends that even though after taking power, democratic leaders around the world rewrote constitutions, held multi-party elections to restore civil society, and made economic reforms, these solutions may not solve problems that had different regional origins. He concludes this fascinating and readable book by looking ahead to the future and assessing the prospects and problems of democratizing states.
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