Peksen, Dursun, ed. Liberal Interventionism and Democracy Promotion.

Author:Coelho, Joseph
Position:Book review
 
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Peksen, Dursun, ed. Liberal Interventionism and Democracy Promotion. Lanham: Lexington, 2012. xiv + 233 pages. Hardcover, $70.00.

Since the US military invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the nation-building intervention that followed, there has been renewed scholarly interest in the transformative potential of democracy promotion. In particular, the notion that external actors can directly shape, induce, or even introduce a democratic transition by importing western institutions and liberal values is a contentious proposition that largely defies conventional wisdom. Democratization is generally viewed as a homegrown process entailing struggles that can only succeed through the painstaking negotiation and consensus-making efforts of domestic political forces within a given country. Indeed, the recent literature on the topic of democracy promotion has painted an overwhelmingly pessimistic picture about the ability of external actors to plant the seeds of democracy in societies recovering from war and in those making the difficult transition towards democratic consolidation.

Liberal Interventionism and Democracy Promotion, edited by political scientist Dursun Peksen, offers a light at the end of the tunnel for those policymakers and practitioners involved in the business of democracy promotion. According to Peksen, the literature on democratization up to the early 1990s paid nominal attention to the nature and extent of external factors on the impact of democratic transitions. Moreover, it largely focused on the actions of individual countries engaged in democracy promotion and thereby overlooked the growing importance of non-state and transnational actors. Since the late 1990s, however, there has been a steady flow of books and articles exploring both theoretically and empirically the record of democracy promotion and the underlining assumptions of liberal interventionism. Peksen also correctly notes that since the end of the Cold War democracy promotion has become the centerpiece of western foreign policies and the guiding normative agenda for international institutions and organizations. Based on Kantian and Wilsonian assumptions about the transformative potential of liberalism and democratic governance, policymakers for quite sometime have viewed democracy as key to providing the "promise for greater human freedom, economic prosperity, and lasting peace within and among democratic polities" (p. 4). Yet the growing scholarship on the...

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