[Hybrid Book Talk] From Development to Democracy: The Transformations of Modern Asia
Join us for a talk by Dan Slater on his new book with Joseph Wong, “From Development to Democracy: The Transformations of Modern Asia”
Why some of Asia’s authoritarian regimes have democratized as they have grown richer―and why others haven’t
Over the past century, Asia has been transformed by rapid economic growth, industrialization, and urbanization―a spectacular record of development that has turned one of the world’s poorest regions into one of its richest. Yet Asia’s record of democratization has been much more uneven, despite the global correlation between development and democracy. Why have some Asian countries become more democratic as they have grown richer, while others―most notably China―haven’t? In From Development to Democracy, Dan Slater and Joseph Wong offer a sweeping and original answer to this crucial question.
Slater and Wong demonstrate that Asia defies the conventional expectation that authoritarian regimes concede democratization only as a last resort, during times of weakness. Instead, Asian dictators have pursued democratic reforms as a proactive strategy to revitalize their power from a position of strength. Of central importance is whether authoritarians are confident of victory and stability. In Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan these factors fostered democracy through strength, while democratic experiments in Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar were less successful and more reversible. At the same time, resistance to democratic reforms has proven intractable in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Reconsidering China’s 1989 crackdown, Slater and Wong argue that it was the action of a regime too weak to concede, not too strong to fail, and they explain why China can allow democracy without inviting instability.
The result is a comprehensive regional history that offers important new insights about when and how democratic transitions happen―and what the future of Asia might be.
Dan Slater specializes in the politics and history of enduring dictatorships and emerging democracies, with a regional focus on Southeast Asia. He is the director of the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, the Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professor of Emerging Democracies, and a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. He previously taught at the University of Chicago, where he served as Director of the Center for International Social Science Research (CISSR), Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, and associate member in the Department of Sociology. His book examining how divergent historical patterns of contentious politics have shaped variation in state power and authoritarian durability in seven Southeast Asian countries, entitled Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia, was published in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics series in 2010.
Diana Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a core faculty member of the Asian Studies Program. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago (2013) and held a Postdoctoral Prize Fellowship in Economics, History, and Politics at Harvard University (2013-2016).
Diana’s research and teaching focuses on the transnational politics and history of markets and commodities across Southeast and East Asia, with particular interest in the regulation of vice, illicit economies, and legacies of Empire and colonialism. Her first book, entitled Empires of Vice, develops a comparative study of the rise of opium prohibition in British Burma, Malaya, and French Indochina since the late 19th century. Diana has worked as a consultant for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and her scholarship has been awarded prizes from the American Bar Foundation and the Social Science History Association.