Liberation movements and stalled democratic transitions: reproducing power in Rwanda and South Africa through productive liminality

Alexander Beresford, Marie E. Berry, Laura Mann
2018 Democratization  
The lack of convergence towards liberal democracy in some African countries reflects neither a permanent state of political aberration, nor necessarily a prolonged transitional phase through which countries pass once the "right" conditions are met. Examining the cases of two ruling parties, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the African National Congress in South Africa, we develop the concept of productive liminality to explain countries suspended (potentially indefinitely) in a status
more » ... ixt and between" mass violence, authoritarianism, and democracy. On the one hand, their societies are in a liminal status wherein a transition to democracy and socio-economic "revolution" remains forestalled; on the other hand, this liminality is instrumentalized to justify the party's extraordinary mandate characterized by: (a) an idea of an incomplete project of liberation that the party alone is mandated to fulfil through an authoritarian social contract, and (b) the claim that this unfulfilled revolution is continuously under threat by a coterie of malevolent forces, which the party alone is mandated to identify and appropriately sanction. For decades, political scientists have debated whether democracy is spreading or receding on the global stage. On the one hand, a growing number of scholars have argued that some form of global "democratic recession" is underway, characterized by a combination of corroding democratic norms within established democracies 1 and the "resilience" of authoritarian regimes. 2 On the other hand, Levitsky and Way have pushed back against these arguments, drawing on prominent democracy indices to argue that "claims of a worldwide democratic downturn lack empirical accuracy" and that overall "the big picture of the last decade ... is one of net stability". 3 For them, gloomy analyses of democratic recession stem from flawed understandings of the
doi:10.1080/13510347.2018.1461209 fatcat:xc6jpwba5bachoknndrbyugxym