forward by several international organisations, such as the United Nations33 and (indirectly) the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) through the promotion of “good governance.” The argument is that introducing democratic institutions will encourage a culture of accountability in governance and that this in turn will result in governments being pressured to deliver needed goods and services to their citizens, at the risk of being voted out of office if they fail to do so. Furthermore, as succinctly stated by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, democracy is seen to promote creative citizenship: “In fact, democracy is a prerequisite to economic growth, which only flourishes when minds are encouraged to produce, invent, and explore.”34
However, this cause-and-effect reasoning has been contested by some academics in the field who argue that this was not how Western democracies achieved development.35 One of their arguments is that economic growth and the expansion of civil society are needed before any successful transitions to democracy can take place. In his explanation of the process of democratic consolidation in Britain, John Garrard emphasises the levels of economic and social development which had been achieved prior to the introduction of universal suffrage and what would be contemporarily classed as liberal democracy:
Widespread membership of...civil organisations substantially pre-dated political inclusion for the groups concerned, was rising rapidly at the time of inclusion, and continued doing so for many years afte ...Britain was fortunate in having a capitalist market economy in place
commercial expansion generated sufficiently
democratisation economic cycles
u k / r e s o u r c e s / d o w n l o a d s / F P 2 P / F P 2 P _ D e m o c r a c y _ B l d g _ P o l _ V o i c e _ % 2 BP_ENGLISH.pdf (accessed 11 August 2008). 0
UNDP, Human Development Report 2002, chapters 2 and 3.
Madeleine Albright, “We Must Keep Freedom Alive,” http://www.
html (accessed 21 April 2011).
Ha-Jun Chang, Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in
Historical Perspective (London: Anthem, 2002).
Deconstructing “Democracy” in Afghanistan
while democratisation was underway to ensure that it was never associated with economic failure...[T]here are problems in trying to create liberal democracy alongside capitalist take-off in situations where other economies have long since undergone this process and are present to set often-impossible standards of expectation.36
This latter point is particularly relevant to newly democratic contexts in which economic growth has been minimal for many years. This paper does not suggest that functioning capital market economies in particular are necessary pre-requisites for democracy. However, the simple assumption that the promotion of democracy automatically promotes growth (and that this growth will trickle down immediately to those who need it) does not hold true during the process of democratisation in resource-poor states—even if democratic institutions in their ideal state do encourage the transparency, accountability and trust needed to ensure a more equal distribution of resources. This assumption is especially problematic if it raises citizens’ expectations of rapid improvements in goods and service delivery to unrealistic levels. If not met—for example in the case that structures are not in place to ensure the trickle-down of any growth that does occur—these can lead people to associate “democracy” with economic decline and broken governmental promises. In Afghanistan, such high expectations have gone largely unmet over the past nine years, and there is a very real sense among Afghans that democracy has contributed to a more unequal distribution of wealth.
The third assumption—that democracy is wholeheartedly desired by the Afghan populace— will be discussed throughout the remainder of this paper on the basis of qualitative research into perceptions of democracy and democratisation in Afghanistan. Democratisation has become global best practice for international state-building interventions, and yet in Afghanistan, democracy now carries negative connotations for many people. For some Afghans the term is linked to the Soviet
36 John Garrard, “Democratisation: Historical Lessons from the British Case,” History and Policy, www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/ policy-paper-21.html (accessed 21 April 2011).