Article from ROAPE Volume 24 Number 73
Liberal vs. Popular Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa

‘For Fear of Being Condemned as Old Fashioned’ : Liberal Democracy vs. Popular Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa
Vol.24 No.73 (September 1997), pp339-353
This article is a theoretical companion to an essay on the ‘transition to democracy’ , which we published in our previous issue, ROAPE 72. Here John Saul contrasts two approaches to the understanding of democracy and democratisation, both of which see. democratic transition as part of a larger political and economic process, which for one limits the possible scope and sustainability of democratisation, and for the other both threatens but also enhances its scope and strength. The latter approach, older and currently less fashionable, sees democracy and democratisation (and our analysis of them) as rooted in processes of imperialism, class struggle and state-society relations. This ‘political economy of democratisation’ approach, characteristic of the work of Issa Shivji and of John Saul, is contrasted with a larger and more pessimistic body of work, which Saul labels as the ‘political science of democratisation’ . Thus Diamond, Huntington, Przeworski, Di Palma and others, while stressing the necessity of democratic institutions and values, at the same time argue that only a highly attenuated version of these is feasible under current (African) conditions, and that ‘if reform is to be adopted without provoking a crisis’ (Diamond), then it must be reform consistent with the demands of capital and the neo-liberalism of the IFIs: ‘thin’ democracy.