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The Democracy Establishment

Posted on March 9, 2015

A Global Currents Lecture Discussion with:

Sarah Bush Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Temple University

Tuesday March 31, 2015, 12:15 p.m.
Tinkham Veale University Center, Senior Classroom A
Case Western Reserve University

When U.S. government democracy assistance was launched three decades ago, it fostered real change, as in Poland and Chile, by supporting dissidents. Since then, democracy promotion has grown into an international industry. But assistance from both the U.S. and other donors normally finances programs that are not in the least threatening to authoritarian regimes. Instead, it finances technical assistance programs that considerable evidence suggests are ineffective. Or, it focuses on quantitative outcomes, such as the number of women in parliament, on which it is easy to show success but that do not threaten autocratic governments. Professor Bush argues that these results fit the incentives for organizations that must have permission to operate in countries in order to be funded, and that must compete with each other for donor support. In short, the rise of a “Democracy Establishment” has “tamed” democracy promotion.

Professor Bush’s talk will be based on the research for her book with Cambridge University Press, The Taming of Democracy Assistance: Why Democracy Promotion Does Not Confront Dictators, scheduled for release in February.Dr. Bush earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from Princeton University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the International Security Program of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

This program is made possible by the generosity of Ms. Eloise Briskin.

About Our Guest

Profesosor Sarah Bush’s research and teaching interests include international relations, democracy promotion, non-state actors in world politics, gender and human rights policy, and Middle East politics. Her book, which is forthcoming at Cambridge University Press, explores how how and why the United States and other developed countries turned to democracy promotion at the end of the Cold War and what the impact of doing so has been. The book combines large-N analysis of new and existing data sets of democracy assistance projects with case studies that draw on field research in Jordan and Tunisia. Other ongoing projects examine the effects of American democracy promotion on public attitudes in the Middle East. Her research has been published or is forthcoming in the journals International Organization and International Studies Quarterly and has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, among others.

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