Friday, February 7, 2003

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Clarifying the Zakaria critique

Stanley Kurtz over at NRO's The Corner has taken issue with my critique of Fareed Zakaria's next big idea. To respond/clarfy:

1) Kurtz says, "Drezner dismisses Zakaria's thesis as an essentially worthless idea". Not true. I said I thought Zakaria was wrong. Wrong ideas are often useful because of the effort required to refute or disprove them. Both Fukyama and Huntington might be wrong, for example, but the debates they inspired were certainly valuable in thinking about the future of international relations and U.S. foreign policy. This is how I feel about Zakaria.

2) My problem with Zakaria's preconditions for democracy are that they are sufficient but unnecessary conditions -- and he treats them as both necessary and sufficient. In other words, Zakaria is probably correct that countries with decentralized forms of commercial, political and religious authority will be stable constitutional democracies, but there are other ways this outcome can come about. The result is that Zakaria presents an overly stringent criteria for how stable democracies emerge, which produces an overly risk-averse policy of democracy promotion.

3) I agree with Kurtz that "Zakaria's warnings against democratizing optimism need to be taken very seriously indeed". I believe they will be, which is the reason I blogged about Zakaria's talk. However, my warnings against the democratizing pessimism that both Zakaria and Kurtz embrace also need to be taken seriously.

UPDATE: Noah Millman has some thoughts on the myriad paths of democratization.

posted by Dan on 02.07.03 at 01:35 PM


Interesting to see Mokyr's book in your list. I used it as a source in writing a medical history. It gives very useful information about when and why technological change occurred. Also, of course, about why it didn't happen in some places. Medicine tended to follow the same trends.

posted by: Michael Kennedy on 02.07.03 at 01:35 PM [permalink]

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