'Failure of Democratic Nation Building' profiled in new book

December 02, 2005

A Penn State Harrisburg professor asserts in a new book that the rising costs of Iraq and Afghanistan interventions make it increasingly imperative that the United States abandon its proclaimed policy of bringing democracy to the nations of the Middle East. With rare exceptions, the policy of "democratic nation building" has been unsuccessful in the past; it is unsuccessful today; and almost surely is certain to be equally unproductive in the foreseeable future, Steven A. Peterson said.

In their new book, "The Failure of Democratic Nation Building: Ideology Meets Evolution," Albert Somit of Southern Illinois University and Peterson, director of Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs, argue that democracy requires very special "enabling conditions" before it can be supported by a state, conditions that require decades to evolve. As a result, attempts to export democracy through nation-building to states without these enabling conditions are doomed to failure.

The major thesis of "The Failure of Democratic Nation Building: Ideology Meets Evolution," just published by Palgrave MacMillan, runs as follows: Viable democracies require the conjunction of very special material and social "enabling conditions." As the relative rarity of democracies and the overwhelming predominance of authoritarian governments throughout human history testify, that conjunction happens infrequently. These special conditions are necessary because men are social primates and evolution has endowed the social primates with an innate proclivity to hierarchically structured social and political systems and an innate tendency to dominance and submission behaviors. In short, authoritarianism is the "default option."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 25, 2016