Challenges to the theory and practice of polyarchy: the rise of the political left in Korea

Gray, Kevin (2008) Challenges to the theory and practice of polyarchy: the rise of the political left in Korea. Third World Quarterly, 29 (1). pp. 107-124. ISSN 0143-6597

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This paper provides an analysis of the development of democracy in Korea since the transition from authoritarianism in 1987, and its implications for critical analyses of Third World democratisation. Accounts of 'low intensity democracy' or 'polyarchy' have noted Third World democratisation for its constrained and elite-centred nature, and as an outcome of US foreign policy, which has sought to demobilise restive popular movements and extend the reach of global capital. However, the Korean general elections of 2004 saw the historic entry of the explicitly socialist Korean Democratic Labour Party (kdlp) into the National Assembly. A re-examination of post-authoritarian politics in fact shows a process of continuous contestation that belies the claims made by the polyarchy literature. Formal democratisation has by its very nature allowed for a counter-movement to be mobilised. The paper also examines the relationship between the kdlp and the mass labour union movement and argues that, while democracy has provided opportunities for participation by previously marginalised social forces, concomitant neoliberal restructuring has limited the development of the mass movements from which such political projects draw their strength. Thus, inquiry into the implications of democratisation for a progressive challenge to neoliberal capitalism must also extend beyond 'politics' to mass movements in the socioeconomic sphere.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Depositing User: Kevin Gray
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 15:28
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2012 14:49
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