By Eigil Bragstad - International Relations degree student
“An enduring tenet of the post-Cold War era is that globalization can be a catalyst for democratization. In one formulation, when democratic ideals sweep (or even trickle) across borders into authoritarian states, globalization makes democratization inevitable” (Dalpino, 2001).
If you assume that it is human nature to seek self-governance and authoritarian regimes are always a result of power imbalance, and not some Hobbes esq voluntary surrendering to a leviathan, globalization will mean that democratic ideals will reach those who currently are denied.Given that globalization leads at minimum to the spreading of democratic ideals and values, what is stopping a global popular uprising in the currently undemocratic countries? And if it is the power of authoritarian leaders that hold over their people, why won’t the democratic powers help them overthrow their suppressors when they spend a lot more on their militaries the undemocratic powers?
“In countries (whether authoritarian or democratic) that emphasize modernization and economic growth based in part on foreign trade and investment, two developments are reshaping elite political culture. The first is the rise of technocrats… In China, for example, technocrats are gradually assuming greater responsibility in the bureaucratic structure.” (Dalpino, 2001).
“A more noteworthy trend is the rise of new commercial elites in the power structures of many authoritarian and democratizing societies. Many made their fortunes in modern commercial sectors that benefited greatly from globalization… In applying new communications techniques (and portions of their fortunes) to connect with voters, they have inspired a modern push for grassroots politics. Although generally considered reformers, they may also epitomize globalization’s lack of regulation. As these new elites have assumed power, indictments for political corruption have increased.” (Dalpino, 2001)
Globalization also leads to interdependence; specifically, interdependence between the opposing forces in the world. China and USA. The EU and Russia. Where western imperialist could exert their will over their world without suffering short term consequences back home, this simply is not the case in the world any longer. Even if you are under the impression that if the democratic forces of the world could band together and vanquish in a single, short war, the consequences would be catastrophic. Disregarding the immeasurable loss of human life, economies in every single part of the world would plummet as supply chains break. The world is already so integrated that even softer approaches like trade sanctions have sever repercussions when they devolve into trade wars between the large actors.
Here, Singapore is an interesting example. Singapore is a parliamentary republic, but with The People´s Action Party as its sole dominant party since Singapore gained its independence. While world stage doubted Singapore’s viability as an independent state, they aggressively adapted to a globalizing world, and are today leading in the region on most development metrics. Their GDP per capita is the highest in the region, and the astounding economic and social development has left the population loyal to The People’s Actions Party. But even with this jump way of life standards and education levels, Singapore is considered semi-authoritarian. Contradictingly, they are “rated as “most global” on the A.T. Kearny/Foreign Policy magazine Globalization Index, in terms of cross-border contact between people”, but only ranks 151st on the 2018 worldwide press freedom index.
Given all similar situations were authoritarian regimes keep a population satisfied and complacent with economic growth, globalization is neither a contributor to democracy nor dictatorship, it is a catalyst that expedites progression in any direction.
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Dalpino, E. (2001). Does globalization promote democracy? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/articles/does-globalization-promote-democracy-an-early-assessment/