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Lessons for Democratic Transitions: Case Studies from Asia

Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago


In an era when democratization is stalled or in retreat in many parts of the world, it is important to highlight the successful democratic experience of East and Southeast Asia in recent decades. Five consolidated democracies have emerged since the mid-1980s; only Thailand has seen some backsliding with the 2006 coup. The Asian cases provide insights into several major debates in the democratization literature, including the relative importance of culture, history, economic structure, and the optimal sequencing of political and economic reform. This article reviews these issues, with particular attention to the role of outside powers in underpinning democratization. Ultimately, the Asian cases offer evidence for optimism about the prospects of a Fourth Wave of democratization.

Suggested Citation

Tom Ginsburg. "Lessons for Democratic Transitions: Case Studies from Asia" Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs 52.1 (2007).
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