Before approaching the issue of authoritarianism, andthus the relationship between oppressors and oppressed, one should, first ofall, clarify some things that might otherwise be taken for granted, but are sorarely mentioned in theoretical discourse that they easily drown in the veryspecific scope of the field of comparative politics. First and foremost: thatauthoritarianism is primarily authoritarian.Violence against dissenters is its central characteristic and the violence ofthe authoritarian state is executed mainly by political actors and their stateapparatus. Structural conditions can at best provide more ideal or less idealpreconditions for the movement of these actors in the social space. “Gunsdo not kill people,” says the weapon-affine American, “peopledo”.

And while the general availability of weapons may, under certaincircumstances, lead to a higher homicide rate, there is a great deal of truthin this saying that must never be lost in the eager debate about thestructures. Although they all seem to be related to democracy, ourresearch topics in the social sciences are not primarily money, nor naturalresources or the geographical arrangement of the land masses, but our object ofinvestigation is primarily that of humanbeings. In this context, I was always surprised by how frequently thequestion was being asked in recent discussion whether and to what extent culture had an influence on democracy.

This is, in general terms, a question just as meaningful as the question ofwhether physics have an influence on a football flying though the air after agood kick: the whole procedure is in its very definition already a physicalprocess – just as well as democracy in itself is, by the whole definition ofculture, a cultural process. And so,of course, in trying to explain democratization, we must always be vigilantthat we do not give in to the temptation to end up describing democracy in alternate terms. Due to all respect towardsthe empirical political sciences, the crucial question, in democratizationtheory, must still be what we can dofor freedom and democracy – where the leversare which we can tackle. The question, to once use a quite striking, but marginallylittle scholarly formulation, is: ‘how do we get the damn ball into the goal!?’


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