Exchange: The Vain Hope for “Correct” Timing

Issue Date July 2007
Volume 18
Issue 3
Page Numbers 14-17
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Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder worry about democratization in countries that lack the “right” preconditions because they believe that political development is path dependent. I see fewer dangers in “premature” democratic experiments and am skeptical about trying to hold off democratic change until conditions are ideal. West European political development was a series of false starts, failed liberalizations, and temporary regressions. Indeed these cases seem to show that problems and failures not only did not preclude later democratic success, but were instead integral parts of the long-term process through which non-democratic institutions, elites, and cultures were delegitimized and eventually eliminated and their democratic successors forged.

About the Author

Sheri Berman is professor of political science at Barnard College. Her works include Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day (2019) and The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe’s Twentieth Century (2006).

View all work by Sheri Berman