Monday, March 27, 2006

Is Democracy a Western Thing ?

This is a question Amartya Sen posed in his WSJ oped, read it here. Sen answered negative to the question.

I am basically in agreement with his argument until he wrote:

"When it is asked whether Western countries can "impose" democracy on the non-Western world, even the language reflects a confusion centering on the idea of "imposition," since it implies a proprietary belief that democracy "belongs" to the West, taking it to be a quintessentially "Western" idea which has originated and flourished exclusively in the West. This is a thoroughly misleading way of understanding the history and the contemporary prospects of democracy."

I beg to differ. To me, "imposition" means something different from what Sen suggested above when applied in the debate on exporting democracy to other non-democratic country.

"Imposing democacy" means introducing democracy to a non-democracy countries without first taking local conditions into account. It is a criticism of the means through which democracy is introduced, not the end it self ie whether democracy should or should not be introduced in the first place.

That is, I suppose, the main lesson that one can draw from Bill Easterly's "The White Man's Burden" as well.

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