Asian Democratization Explored: A Book Discussion with Professor Dan Slater

July 24, 2023

Contributor: Magello Fenis | Editor: Supriyono

A book discussion was held on June 17, 2023, at the Faculty A Theater Hall of Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII), showcasing Professor Dan Slater and his newly published work titled "From Development to Democracy: The Transformation of Modern Asia," co-authored with James Wong from the University of Toronto.

Prof. Dan Slater is a prominent political scientist known for his expertise in comparative politics and the history of dictatorship and democracy with a regional focus on Southeast Asia. He is currently a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies (WCED) at the University of Michigan.

The discussion commenced with the opening remarks by Dr. Sirojuddin Arif, the Head of the MA in Political Science Program, followed by Prof. Komaruddin Hidayat, the Rector of UIII, who extended a warm welcome to all the attendees and participants of the event.

In introducing the book, Prof. Slater presented an overview, explaining that it delves into twelve uneven and clustered democratization cases in "Developmental Asia." These countries display relatively lower levels of democratization despite significant economic development.

Furthermore, Prof. Slater showcased diverse examples of how authoritarianism comes to an end. For instance, in the Philippines, democracy emerged as the Marcos regime weakened significantly, while in South Korea, former army general Roh Tae-woo led the country towards democratization with a strong approach.

The book focuses on the concept of democracy through strength, highlighted in case chapters exploring Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China, as well as in cluster chapters covering Developmental Militarism, Developmental Britannia, and Developmental Socialism.

According to Prof. Slater, "Developmental Asia is not uniquely ill-suited for democratization," challenging cultural accounts that suggest democracy is solely a Western concept and might not thrive in Asia. Instead, he suggests that if we shift our focus from culture to institutions, "Developmental Asia is very well suited for democracy through strength."

"Places like China, Vietnam, and Singapore are excellent candidates to pursue democracy through strength, as it has occurred previously in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Indonesia," he added.

To conclude the book discussion, the author emphasized that while acknowledging democracy is essential, it is not the ultimate value, and it remains vulnerable unless it effectively addresses issues of stability and development.