Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho
Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho The terms ‘democracy’ and ‘democratization’ have been subject to much use and abuse by scholars, politicians, the media, non-governmental organizations and the public inside Asia, as indeed they have been elsewhere in the world. Numerous political parties and even some countries around Asia incorporate the word ‘democratic’ into their official titles, but the usage and implications differ from country to country. As Guillermo O’Donnell has argued, ‘beneath the overarching institutional setting of executives, legislatures and judiciaries, several forms of democracies, some based on individualistic conceptions and others in more collective or communal ones’ do exist (O’Donnell 2006). While the diversity is not at all surprising, reflecting different cultural backgrounds and stages of development (Licht et al., 2007), and historical legacies with their randomness as well as intrinsic forces, there do appear to be similar aspirations across different countries and cultures. In particular, Asians appear to espouse the ideals of governments being responsive to people’s needs and being held accountable to them as much as do Westerners. It also appears to be a universal truth that ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Thus our central conclusion in our survey of the experiences among Asian countries is that we all need effective mechanisms of governance, to ensure that the rule of law is upheld, to prevent the abuse of publicly vested power for private gains, and to ensure accountability. In allowing people to change a government when it fails to satisfy, democracy does provide one...
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