chapter  1
28 Pages

Political systems and processes

The 1980s and 1990s have witnessed a remarkable transformation in the very fabrics of politics and society in the developing world. Politically, numerous tyrants and autocrats have been overthrown in popular, democratic revolutions, while the few remaining ones, still found primarily in the Middle East and in parts of Africa, have had to devise new strategies for survival and for placating demands for political reform. Socially, constant advances in information technology – from satellite television to facsimile machines, computers and the internet – have made it all but impossible to keep societies politically isolated and unaware of the larger currents under way globally. Late into the 1990s, the Third World political formulas of the 1960s and the 1970s seem simplistic and rudimentary in comparison, relics of an era in which dictatorships reigned supreme, ‘underdevelopment’ was a universal Third World attribute, and democracy was only a distant ideal for many and a farcical gimmick for others. Today, however, the rules of the political game have changed in many developing countries, complicated by the onslaught of democracies and all they entail: free elections, parliamentary politics, independent judicial systems, social autonomy and the rule of law.