6 May 2009

Negotiated Revolutions

Sitting in the cafeteria of the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva yesterday I was discussing the parallels between South Africa and East Germany, and mentioned that the other symbolic transition to democracy taking place was in Chile, where in December 1989 an election marked the end not only of the Pinochet area but can also be seen drawing a line under the era of military dictatorships in Latin America that ruled from the mid-1960s to the 1980s. George Lawson in his book, "Negotiated Revolutions", has focussed on the parallels - and differences between South Africa, Chile and, if not the GDR then the Czech Republic. His conclusion is that:
Over upcoming years, we will see whether negotiated revolutions traverse the recalitrant line between idealism and realism, avoiding the perils of an overly optimistic, naive altruism on the one hand, and the crudeness of a raw struglle for power on the other. That is both the ultimate question and the fundamental challenge to come.
Still, I wonder whether "negotiated revolution" is an adequate category for describing the East German (or Czech) experience. True, there was a Round Table bringing together both the "old" and the "new" forces - but was it a revolution that was negotiated, or a revolution that led to negotiations? And if so, what sort of negotiations? Georgina Waylen, in "Engendering Transitions" has focussed on the role of women's organizing in the breakdown of non-democratic regimes - again she makes comparisons between South Africa, East Germany and Chile. Using empirical material drawn from eight case study countries in East Central Europe and Latin America as well as South Africa, she explores the gendered constraints and opportunities provided by processes of democratisation and economic restructuring. Her conclusion is:
To be most effective the newly important political arena and the transition itself has to be relatively accessible to women actors. From our case studies it appers that pacted and relatively drawn out transitions with negitiation processes are more likely to be accessible to women actors. Powerful participants in those negotaitions, particularly within the opposition, have to be open to gender concerns and feminists have to be already present or have access to those arenas.


Jane said...

Very interesting all of this - you must show me how to do the things with quotes sometime.
I find it very challenging that "feminists have to be already present" for gender concerns to be taken up in the new structures. Given what a great press feminists generally get (i.e. not!) that's quite a tall order!

Kristine said...

I am delighted to see the reference to our noon-hour conversation in the cafeteria. I've read your blog entries with great interest. Thanks to Jane for sending the link.

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