Explaining democratic transitions: a critical realist analysis with a case study of Japan

Walia, A., 2005. Explaining democratic transitions: a critical realist analysis with a case study of Japan. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This research raises two interrelated questions. Firstly, what makes democratic transitions possible. Secondly, what purchase can 'critical realism' afford in this enquiry. Previous studies on the first question are essentially predicated on an 'event-ontology', i.e. atomistic events, actions, or empirical indices. Whilst they have furthered understanding, it is contended here that they are nevertheless inadequate. Contrastively, the thesis prefers a 'non-event' ontology which facilitates focus on social structures and underlying mechanisms, without subordinating or denigrating agency. Pursuing a non-anthropocentric approach, the research begins by addressing the neglect of structure, agency, space and time from democratic accounts. These are brought centre stage from what will be shown to be their current peripheral status. In a parallel move, the hypostatization of democracy-treating democracy as a hallowed entity over and above social practices-is impugned. Correlatively, the tendency in some current literature for universalistic models of democracy, which underestimate the diversity of experience of different geo-historical regions, is also interrogated. Thus the research gravitates away from describing democratic transitions in 'splendid isolation' to scrutinizing them as a sub-set of social transformation. Recognizing that conditions of social change too change over a period and the explanandum itself undergoes change, a case is made for a new explanans, viz. critical realism (CR). CR enables employing 'non-event' ontology and illumes the structural agential relationship, which is crucial in the process of democratic transitions. The exploratory exercise is developed into realist modelling of democratic transitions. Japan, as a case study, serves to demonstrate the viability of realist modelling. The methodological precepts of some alternative models of democratization are also applied to Japan. By contradistinguishing them, the deficiencies of the non-realist models are revealed. Although the research stresses particular geo-historical regions and their unique social patterns, the concern is not with historicism, i.e. isolated or unique patterns. Rather, the aim is to provide a broad theoretical framework which is applicable to non-democratic societies in understanding their endeavours towards democratic transition. In this pursuit, the research develops a scientific approach to studying democratic transitions. It employs a realist analyst's (Margaret Archer) model of social morphogenesis and then applies it distinctively to democratic transitions. The results of the research affirm the profitability of realist modelling in explicating democratic transitions. This is due to the consideration that democratic transition is an intricate process and any attempt at oversimplifying it may result in misattribution of its causality. Thus the central claim to originality in the thesis lies in three main arguments; for a critical realist approach, in general, to the understanding of issues such as democratic transitions; against approaches which lack the concepts and explanatory power of critical realism, and for a very specific set of arguments as to how critical realism can and should proceed in understanding this kind of issue. The thesis is therefore original in advancing both the methodology of international or comparative politics and its substantive content. In addition, it also distinctively applies Archeir's model of morphogenesis to democratic transitions.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Walia, A.
Date: 2005
ISBN: 9781369316322
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 28 Sep 2020 14:10
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2023 09:41
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/40986

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