Friday, 13 May 2016


A nation’s higher education system reflects the ideological and political institutional mainstream as a whole. This has been the case since the founding of universities in the late Middle Ages (University of Bologna, 1088; University of Paris, c.1150; University of Oxford (1167); even earlier for Arab universities (University of al-Qarawiyyin, 859; Al-Azhar University, 970). To this day, universities reflect society’s value capitalist system, prevalent ideological and political trends rooted in neoliberal thinking that dominates the political economy. The question is whether the neo-liberal model of higher education best serves individual students and society collectively or merely large businesses. 

Based on the cosmopolitan ideals of the Age of Reason, the Humboldtian Model of Higher Education - named after Prussian philosopher and diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt, 1767-1835 - endeavored to forge teaching and research in the arts, sciences and humanities for the broader purpose of general knowledge both theoretical and applied. The Industrial Revolution necessitated education at all levels including university level in order to expand. Therefore, the modern university became a necessary instrument to serve industrial capitalism’s needs (drivers of innovation where basic research and development took place).

 It stands to reason that the most thriving capitalist country, the United States with the world’s largest economy in nominal value at least, would have the best universities both private and public, especially land-grant colleges that started in 1862 under the Morrill Act. Although such schools started with the purpose of indeed buttressing the economy by creating an educated work force, they reflected an apartheid society considering that it was not until the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Education Amendment of 1972 that minorities, women and lower income whites had access to these institutions that were mostly for white middle class males. 

In the early 21st century the problem is not one of access based on race and gender but rather class because of the commoditization of higher education model prevalent in the US and exported worldwide. Considering the number of US-affiliated colleges and university extensions overseas, but the degree to which non-US universities try to emulate the commoditized model, many around the world accept the commoditized neoliberal model of American higher education as the very best possible.  

It is indeed true that the US has some of the world’s best universities, especially graduate schools if not so as much at the undergraduate level. It is just as true that since the end of the Vietnam War American higher education has become increasingly unaffordable and divided into the top tier schools with many at the bottom providing low-quality in-class or online education at a very high cost. This too is a reflection of broader societal trends such as downward socioeconomic mobility and good education as a commodity reserved for wealthy families. 

Excluding loans, the federal government provides a mere 2% of the budget for higher education, despite a sharp decrease in spending by states since 2008. If we consider the federal student loan program estimated at $170 billion in the next ten years, the cost is still negligible given that the US has proposed foreign military aid of $40 billion to Israel for that same ten-year period; money devoted to continue the repression against the Palestinian people. Two-thirds of American college students graduate with college debt that currently stands at$1.3 trillion. In an economy of $17.5 trillion GDP, this is an enormous burden that has been rising commensurately with the average household debt over the last three decades.  Approximately 43% the student debt is not paid in regular payments and it is estimated that because of the absence of jobs about 20% will probably never repay the loans. This would then leave the federal government with the burden of the guaranteed bank loans. Because the US economy has been experiencing downward socioeconomic mobilization concurrently with the massive rise in student debt and household debt in the last ten years, the problem was inevitable. 

The position of the majority of the politicians is to do nothing, other than have universities raise endowments for scholarship money and force universities to depend even more on tuition and the private sector. However, as Warren Buffett recently noted, the university where he serves as a board member raised its endowment from $8 million to $1 billion but kept tuition at high levels instead of lowering it and it did nothing about improving. As we will see below, doing nothing about the current neoliberal model has many negative consequences for society both domestically and globally.

Another option to fix a broken system is to cut the multi-million dollar costs of the top-heavy administration in universities where presidents, vice presidents, chancellors, vice chancellors, and deans have compensation packages as though they are executives in the private sector. The salary gap between a university president and an adjunct English professor is almost as wide as a worker and a corporate CEO. Clearly, the overhead costs of the bureaucratized universities entails that student tuition is unaffordable for the working class and the weakened middle class.

Another option to fix the costs in higher education is to go tuition free. This is a proposal that Senator Bernie Sanders floated as part of his neo-Keynesian presidential platform that includes free health care for all Americans. This of course means putting an end to the neoliberal model. His reasoning is that students are punished for going to college. They come out with massive debt to start their lives in a job market that is hardly favorable to the majority of them. Considering that a college degree is roughly equivalent today to a High School degree in the 1950s-1960s when the US economy was growing and there was upward socioeconomic mobility, what purpose does the unaffordable tuition serve other than to keep college the domain of the wealthy or those willing to go deep into debt? 

This is a question not just about economics and raising taxes of the rich to pay tuition of the poor. The fact is that the system already favors the wealthy and it is stacked against the lower class. This is an issue of social justice considering that the federal government and states have no problem providing billions of dollars in corporate subsidies and tax breaks for the richest Americans and setting aside a massive budget for defense, intelligence and homeland security and very little for human welfare. This is an issue of values, just like the blatantly racist criminal justice system that punishes the petty thief or small time drug dealer in the inner city, but rewards the bank executive whose bank had been laundering drug money, fixing rates, engaged in inside trading, etc.      

The Rising Cost of Higher Education

From 1978 until 2012 the increase in tuition and fee was 1,120%. An increase far above the level of inflation that generally ranges in the single digits represents a crisis in the cost structure of colleges and universities. Assuming a rise of just 7% between 2016 and 2030, the average annual cost for a public university will be $58,000, or $232,000 for a four-year degree. For a family with two children, this means the cost will be around the half-a-million dollar mark, and the difference between owning a home or sending the children to college and sinking them into debt when they graduate. 

Since the Great Recession of 2008 states have slashed spending on higher education to raise corporate subsidies and provide more tax breaks for upper income groups. The result has been college affordability in 45 out of the 50 states has decreased for the average household which has seen a drop in its income during the same period. This means that households under $30,000 must devote 60% of their income to educate a college age teenager at a two-year college, while those between $40,000 and $100,000 (middle class) need 76% for a four-year college. In short, a very difficult choice for the average American family that must ask whether an undergraduate degree really means much in the workforce of today.

One could argue that a college education is well worth investment not only in terms of securing higher paying jobs in the future but because the quest for knowledge about the world and self discovery are very basic to human nature and society. Moreover, education goes to the core of a society’s claim to maintaining a merit-based system by developing the most creative minds that benefit the totality through the individual.  If higher education is a mirror of society as well as the source for progress, is it time to consider new models other than the existing corporate one that will best serve society and not just a very narrow segment linked to the corporate structure? A few voices including that of Bernie Sanders and his supporters agree the time has come for a new model of higher education. However, the entrenched business, political and media elites are adamantly against change. Interestingly enough, these elites are allies among highly paid administrators who have a vested interest in maintaining the existing system. 

Political Resistance to Changing the Neoliberal Model of Higher Education 

The neoliberal ideology that took hold during the Reagan administration in society impacted higher education because government at all levels adopted a policy of transferring income from social programs, mental hospitals and education to corporate welfare through various subsidies and tax reductions. At the state level, governors and legislatures began seeking ways to reduce their allocations to public colleges and universities, forcing them to seek funds from the private sector. This entailed that they would have to emulate the private sector in everything from ideology to structure and at the same time serve its needs rather than carry out work independently. 

Not just the governance structure of higher education, but endowed chairs and entire departments or even colleges would be created to reflect the millionaire or billionaire donors’ wishes.  Everything from hiring faculty to reflect the neoliberal ideological orientation to setting priorities that link the institution to local and national businesses changed because of the inexorable relationship between university and the donors. Most college presidents and university top administrators serve on boards of local and national businesses, and they are as themselves business people and politicians rather than academics. In some cases, top administrators are as alien to academia as the local bank executive hobnobbing with the mayor, governor and congressmen. 

Higher education has been reduced to a business and the administration views itself as such and students as customers as thought they are shopping for a new cell phone. No candidate of either party has dared to go along with Sanders’ proposal, although there is no shortage of those on the Democrat side promising “something must be done” but within the neoliberal corporate model that exists today. Politicians who raise money from wealthy donors for election and reelection are not interested in facing their benefactors to explain higher taxes to fund higher education. Higher education is a political issue in so far as politicians decide where it fits in as far as a national priority. It is hardly a secret that both political parties have national defense/terrorism/homeland security as a top priority followed by retaining the corporate welfare system.

Between 9/11 and the end of 2015 the US had spent $4.4 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, various interventions in Libya and Syria, the war on terror and homeland security. During that same decade-and-a-half, the corporate tax subsidies from state and local governments cost $80 billion annually, while Export-Import subsidies cost an additional $112 billion. The combined corporate welfare program costs $1.5 trillion annually, but both political parties are committed to it as a national priority whereas higher education is a low priority. Just as the state government in Michigan had as a priority providing a tax break of $1 billion to the richest residents even if that meant cutting costs in the Flint water supply, similarly state and federal government have corporate welfare as a priority over higher education.

The Media and the Corporate Model of Higher Education

All of the mainstream media came out against the Sanders proposals of reexamining the neoliberal model of higher education, including the Washington Post and the New York Times promoting themselves as “liberal”. Every day their pages are promoting neoliberal economic policies and neoconservative foreign and defense policies, but they continue to project the fake image of a liberal media. No matter where one looks in the mainstream media, there is no support for making higher education a national priority, and certainly not at the expense of cutting defense and the generous corporate welfare programs that benefit the richest Americans.;

Although the Sanders plan would cover about 70% of college students, and it would cost an estimated $75 billion annually split between the federal government and the States, Republicans and most Democrats find this plan reprehensible because it calls for a new tax on Wall Street speculation. It must be stressed that the Federal government makes an estimated $11 billion profit annually from student loans. In short, the media has no problem with Wall Street speculation, higher defense costs and higher corporate welfare costs, but it decries free tuition for public colleges and universities. A number of prominent university professors on the payroll of corporations including media companies have come out in opposition to ending the neoliberal model arguing that free tuition would: a. stifle innovation and creativity; b. undermine private colleges and universities; c. too much government involvement in higher education would impede entrepreneurship in higher education; d. deprive people of “freedom of choice; and e. free tuition will necessarily mean that quality suffers. ;

Presenting itself as America’s premier newspaper and supposedly liberal, the New York Times came out against free tuition because: “free tuition means fewer resources to teach students. Unintended consequences could include reductions in need-based financial aid, which would harm the low- and middle-income students free tuition is meant to help.” Oblivious to the current $1.3 trillion in student debt expected to rise sharply by 2030, the media insists that higher education must not become a national priority. After all, the majority of both Republicans and Democrats agree with Wall Street that the economy cannot afford free tuition when it has already set its priorities in the domain of defense and corporate welfare. Along with politicians, the media is silent when it comes to the for-profit online unaccredited colleges and universities that government subsidizes by providing subsidies for low-quality to dubious educational experience for students.

It makes sense that corporate and business opposition in general would be forthcoming on this issue for a number of reasons. First, the businesses would lose the influence they currently enjoy over universities in every matter from curriculum to faculty and top administrators running the university on the existing commoditized model. When the most important function of its administration is to raise money rather than deliver a good education the question arises about the hold that the wealthy donors have on the university either by request or because the university is obligated to cater to the corporate ideological framework.
Just as millionaires and billionaires have a hold on the political arena because they finance campaigns and control the media that provides coverage to politicians, similarly hundreds of millions have been flowing into universities from Koch brothers and other billionaires and millionaires wishing to influence what is otherwise academic freedom. 

Most of the donations to universities go to the already wealthy private institutions, but almost always with conditions that determine everything from curriculum to hiring and program development. “In Kentucky, Papa John’s pizza founder John Schnatter teamed up with the Koch Brothers Foundation to fund business school programmes at the University of Louisville and at the University of Kentucky. Both donations came with the caveat that the donors can stop funding if they do not feel that their mission – the teaching of free market economics and business practices – is being carried out to their satisfaction. To some, such stipulations imply that students will be taught by professors sympathetic to the political and economic views of the donors.”

In the past forty years, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained about the same, although the corporate model has meant relying increasingly on part time faculty. This reflects the corporate model of relying of low-paying part time employees and avoiding the costs of fulltime people. During the same forty-year period of a rise in part-time faculty, there has been an astronomical rise in the administrative bureaucracy that deals with the university as a business and injects a corporate ideology into an otherwise non-profit institution of higher learning. The least educated and most opportunistic elements invariably wind up in administration positions that pay much higher than any faculty position. Administrators identity and self-interest is not with the students but with the business community and they in turn project that value system into the university.  (Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and why it Matters. 2011);

Corporatization of the University and College Administration

It makes sense that private colleges would object to ending the neoliberal model and supporting Sanders because they would have to reduce tuition and costs. Of course, the wealthy that would rarely consider a public school in the first place will continue to attend private colleges. Moreover, the free tuition of public schools would permit the private schools to promise they are the elite. Representing 1000 private universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) opposes Sanders’ proposal despite its acknowledgement that costs are very high.  

“But one of the things we very firmly believe is that as it has been for the last 50 years or so, that federal aid money must follow the student, and stay with the student.” In other words, do what you will with public schools, as long as federal and state funds also flow into private schools based on student choice. “There is no trend we can discern yet that suggests schools are going to start cutting back on the amounts of money that they need for the expanding services they offer. There may be a decrease in growth if tuition increases, but nobody is decreasing tuition, nobody is decreasing the number of services offered, and therefore schools are continually getting more expensive.”

In every state where there is a major corporation its influence is heavily felt very clearly on the state institutions. Whether it is Eli Lilly in Indiana or 3-M in Minnesota, the influence of the long arm of the corporate world in ubiquitous in universities that fight amongst themselves to secure corporate funding no matter the cost to academic freedom.  Not just humanities and social sciences faculty, but those in the “hard sciences” are constantly fighting to secure grants for their research and as government slashed National Science Foundation money (16% cut proposed for 2016), faculty look to corporations. Scientists depend on the agrichemicals, pharmaceutical and biotech industry for research funding, so they structure their research around what the corporation expects.;

In his article entitled “Higher Education or Education for Hire? Corporatization and the Threat to Democratic Thinking”, Joel Wetheimer writes:  “The effects of corporatization on the integrity of university research – especially in the sciences – has been well-documented elsewhere. Readers of Academic Matters are likely  familiar with the many cases of scientific compromise resulting from private commercial sponsorship of research by pharmaceutical and tobacco companies. Indeed, faculty throughout North America are already deluged with requests or demands to produce research that is “patentable” or “commercially viable.”

A land grant school, the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana campus is one of many public institutions heavily indebted to the private sector. Upon accepting massive grants from agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, the university caters to the wishes of the donors to hire faculty in the field of expertise the company dictates, namely in genetically modified seeds and agrichemicals that would have a direct impact on its multinational business. In other words, this is just another very cheap way of outsourcing research and development. On the surface, there appears to be nothing wrong with this, expect that this is a public tax-supported institution whose work is geared to serve the corporation. In short, the general taxpayer is indirectly subsidizing corporations.

As Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch put it: “Sound agricultural policy requires impartial and unbiased scientific inquiry, but like nearly every aspect of our modern food system, land-grant school funding has been overrun by narrow private interests….Private-sector funding not only corrupts the public research mission of land-grant universities, but also distorts the science that is supposed to help farmers improve their practices and livelihoods,” said Hauter. “Industry-funded academic research routinely produces favorable results for industry sponsors. And since policymakers and regulators frequently cite these university studies to back up their decision-making, industry-funded academic research increasingly influences the rules that govern their business operations.”

The highly paid university administrators urge faculty to forge closer ties with the corporate world. They bring with them a corporate value system and worldview intended to make the university an institution that models itself after the corporate world. These leaders of the universities are among the most adamant opponents of doing away with the neoliberal model. Catharine Bond Hill, Vassar College president, a Clinton backer argued that Sanders is wrong to propose free tuition for public colleges. There is a vast administrative bureaucracy handling everything from loans to scholarships with layers of vice chancellors and vice presidents in the larger universities. One concern that college administrator have if the Sanders proposal goes through is the inevitable cuts in the administrative bureaucracy that will not be needed to deal with student loans, scholarships, and fundraising for student aid. From 1985 to 2005, the number of administrators rose by 85% and their attendant staff by 240%. People assume that tuition goes for the direct educational experience of the student. “This is no longer the case. Instead, a large chunk of a check made out for tens of thousands of dollars is feeding the burgeoning administrative staff on college campuses.  

The cozy relationship between the corporate world and college administrators illustrates that the neoliberal model is not a theoretical construct but a sinister reality.  To university administrators and board of trustees invariably serve on the boards of businesses large and small. It may surprise the reader to discover that 42% of the Board trustees at public universities come from large corporations and they make the decisions about university governance and direction. 

One reason Sanders has captured the vast majority support of voters under 30 years of age, especially college students is because they agree with him on free college tuition, among other issues such as addressing Wall Street control of politicians. Having lost confidence in the neoliberal model of the university system, the majority of people under 30 have lost confidence in the neoliberal political economy.   A Harvard University study recently shows that 51% of people between 18 and 29 oppose capitalism and 33% stated they support socialism.;; The youth in America is moving farther to the left of its neoliberal political, business and academic establishment, showing the entire societal structure of which higher education is an integral part is not working for the benefit of most citizens. Despite this reality, the neoliberal establishment has deep institutional roots.


There are those who insist that there is nothing with taxpayers subsidizing the rich and the coprorations any more than there is anything wrong with taxpayers subsidizing tax-exempt churches at a cost that some estimate between $70 to $80 billion annually. While many see no problem  of the taxpayer subsidizing the lavish lifestyle of some of the wealthiest ministrers, they have a problem with free tuition. While many see no problem of the government paying between 15% and 350% in cost overruns to defense contractors, money that runs into the billions, excluding the corruption that is associated with such contracts. No matter the cost to society, who would dare propose ending the subsidies of churches and of corporations?

It is indeed amazing that the US model of higher education with all of its problems is actually one that other countries are trying to emulate. Although it has been cultural diffusion, especially the contributions of a global academic talent that has made American Higher Education as productive as it has since the end of WWII, many around the world and here in the US confuse this catalyst to success with the neoliberal governance and operational structure. The fact that high school students in Japan and many European countries actually score at par with US college graduates is indicative that the high cost of US colleges does not translate to better education. Graduation rates across the board are in the mid-50s, and for the lower tiered schools in the low 20s and high teens. Why is it that graduation rates are so low across the board, although tuition and fees keep going higher and grade inflation is a reality driven mostly by an administration that views students as paying customers? If the neoliberal model of education is the best one possible why do we have such grim results?

Billions of dollars in endowments and funding for research from the federal government and states allows the top universities mostly private to buy the best academics in their respective fields. However, the pyramid structure of American higher education suggests that the very few at the top, mostly private with some public schools, enjoy the big money and reputation. Despite a second tier with good departments in all fields from humanities to business, the bottom of the pyramid is where most students attend and where the system shows its cracks. It is at the bottom of the pyramid – The following are all for profit mostly online mostly low-quality education that does not compare favorably to a state university and does not have commensurate weight in the job market.

University of Phoenix at $35.5 billion
Walden University - $9.8 billion;
DeVry - $82 billion;
Capella University - $8 billion;
Strayer University - $6.7 billion
Kaplan University - $6.7 billion

The schools listed above have graduation rates in the low 20s compared with mid-50s for the national average. In short, these places take the students’ money but fail to retain them. The burden of very low graduation rates and such high level of debt falls on students that come mostly from working class backgrounds without the usual social/professional connections that the upper middle class students attending private universities enjoy. As more people find it difficult to afford the cost of public universities, they will turn to the degree mills mostly online that will result in high debt and low prospects for a rewarding career. The results of doing nothing with the current neoliberal corporate model of higher education will be the following: 

1.      Higher student debt as many studies have indicated considering the six-fold rise between 2008 and 2016.

2.      A New elite class will emerge of college graduates with advanced degrees that will become increasingly unaffordable to the majority of American families.

3.      Convergence of costs between public and private universities will make higher education increasingly unattainable for the majority of Americans.

4.      Second and third tier low-quality for-profit schools will continue to prop up marketing themselves as the alternative to a solid college education.

5.       Blacks, Hispanics and poor whites will be the worst to suffer the elitist neoliberal system of higher education.

6.      Lower number of students that attend four-year colleges, choosing instead the bogus online universities and corporate institutions that are in essence degree factories taking the money and providing very little in return.

7.      Rich-poor gap widening in society owing to lack of opportunity for a college education as the ticket to upward social mobility.

8.      More jobs will be exported with the rise of the educational level in other countries while the US will assume increasingly characteristics of a Third World society.

9.      A less educated citizenry may serve the interests of the political, financial elites and those in academia and media whose careers are linked to the elites, but it is a reflection of an autocratic society that deliberately prefers backwardness for the majority of its citizens.

10.  US competitiveness with the rest of the world will diminish over time, although this does not appear to be a problem today because of the chronic “brain drain” from many developing nations coming to the US. 

America’s neoliberal model of higher education will not change because the political economy is based on the neoliberal model and the entrenched elites support it. Among those that view college students as customers and universities as a business, there have been many who argue that higher education will become obsolete in the future. Considering that higher education has existed for nealy 1000 years, an considering the need for an even more highly education population in our post-digital era, why would anyone even think to do away with colleges and universities? 

Who needs Princeton, the University of Illinois, or the California Community college system when you have computers and cell phones at your ginertips? Besides, the employer will train the employee-candidates for the specific job. This thinking assumes two things. First that technology is not a vehicle for facilitating learning but a substitute for it and that technology can teach critical thinking even better than a university professor. Second, higher education is narrowly defined by the specific perimeters of one’s work tasks, for as long as those last of course. Never mind that a person entering the work force today will probably change not only jobs but careers an average of seven times in a life time. The larger issue here is the very narrow utilitarian definition of higher education that reduces human beings to extensions of the cell phones and laptops, all so that private sector can use them and dispose them just as readily as commodities.      

There are Republicans, including Trump, that are interested in privatizing Veterans affairs health care system, thus indicating the course of neoliberal policies will continue not diminish. This privatization craze is at the core of neoliberal ideological framework, and this is one reason they oppose free tuition for public universities. The success of higher education in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, among some of European countries offering college-free tuition, as well as Brazil and Argentina means nothing to the neoliberal defenders of the system. Only a crisis deeper and wider in society would bring about change in higher education and that will come with the next inevitable contracting economic cycle that may be much deeper and longer lasting than the Great Recession of 2008.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Modernization Theory and “Third Wave Democracy”: Internal and External Impediments to Democracy and Development


Known mostly for The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996) Samuel Huntington, like Francis Fukuyama (End of History and the Last Man, 1992), caught the interest of apologists of Western capitalism’s triumph over Soviet Communism during the 1990s and early 2000s. The quest to articulate a unifying theory that explained the demise of the Cold War ‘bi-polar world order’ based on the two superpowers and the emergence of the new multi-polar order led many Western scholars right back to Cold War assumptions about the importance of maintaining Western global hegemony in every area from determining the balance of power to the political economy.

This became especially important after 9/11 when the US institutionalized a counter-terrorism regime with Homeland Security, followed by a US-NATO war against Afghanistan and US war in Iraq. A permanent global war on terror, that replaced the old Cold War became the new rationale for perpetuating Pax Americana despite the realities of a US economy that could not possibly sustain such costs in the absence of downward socioeconomic mobility for its middle class and an unwinnable campaign focused on military solution to a political problem.

If jihadists carrying out unconventional attacks against US and its allies were the new enemies instead of Communists, then the US and its allies needed to construct a new ideological justification for an imperial reach. In this respect, a number of scholars, including Huntington provided the ideological ammunition Washington needed.   Because globalization under neoliberal policies had been in effect already since the Reagan administration, the only question was to forge domestic and international political and a modicum of popular consensus for such policies.

At the same time, however, there was the question of the degree to which developing nations would be able to develop economically and democratize politically under a world order of Western imperial hegemony carrying out neoliberal policies to accommodate large capital at home and existing as well as new foreign investment. Globalization apologists promised that neo-liberalism would deliver these goals for the world, while at the same time they threw their support behind the war on terror as though it is just another conventional war with soldiers in a defined geographic location rather than dispersed in more than fifty countries.  

This essay briefly examines how “Modernization theory” and the “Third Wave Democracy” thesis explain the evolution of the world political economy and how the empirical evidence in developing nations do not support the theory. I will analyze the inherent contradictions between the West publicly pledging to modernize and democratize the world when history has demonstrated that its imperial policies preclude both development and democratization. The essay concludes with the question of the degree to which modernization theory and the “Third Wave” democracy thesis explain the decline of democracy in the Western World and the concomitant decline of the middle class as the popular base of bourgeois democracy. In the interest of full disclosure, the theoretical framework of my scholarly work is based in part is the dependency school of thought and the structuralist interpretations usually associated with the UN Commission on Latin America.(1)  

The “Third Wave” and the Modernization Theory as “Cold War Democracy”

Huntington’s, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1993) analyzes the transition from authoritarianism to 'democracy' in Portugal, Spain and Greece during the mid-1970s, in Latin America, Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan during the 1980s, and Eastern Europe after the Soviet bloc in the 1990s. The study is a theoretical attempt to analyze global trends and to attribute credit to the success of America’s transformation policy applied across the world since the end of WWII. Transformation policy as a means of integrating the world economically, politically and geopolitically under the aegis of the US as the Western superpower in a struggle against its rivals Russia and China marks its triumph at the time that Huntington was writing his “Third Wave” study.

The “Third Wave” thesis as an integral part of the post-WWII Modernization theory developed in the US amid the early Cold War to justify Pax Americana’s global reach. In practice, US global reach has precluded democratization and development in periphery countries because of their economically dependent and politically and militarily subservient relationship with the advanced capitalist countries led by the US under a patron-client integration model. Even in traditional societies where Islam dominates such as those in the Middle East and North Africa had uprisings during the first half of the 2010s, the chance of their success was severely limited. This is because of opposition from the domestic elites including the military and the small capital class linked to Western interests, but also the US and its northwest European partners determined to impose their economic, political and military influence and deny national and popular sovereignty that would entail greater autonomy and less dependence on the West. (2)

It is important to emphasize that the definition of democracy by those embracing the “Third Wave” and Modernization theories is based on assumptions of American-style democracy equated with socioeconomic inequality and marked absence of social justice. This has been evident in the US socioeconomic structure historically with problems ranging from institutional racism and xenophobia to gender inequality, from the wealthy elites financing elected officials to political party establishment conducting policy to perpetuate an unequal and socially unjust society. (3)

Of course, this is not the case only in the US but across the developed nations where capitalism is equated with bourgeois democracy where citizens select among the competing elites presented to them by the established political parties inexorably linked to the socioeconomic elites. This is the position that Joseph Schumpeter argued in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942) where he advanced the “elite model of participatory democracy”. 

American and European scholars conducting research during the Cold War accepted without much criticism the Modernization theory using to explain the transition from traditional preindustrial societies to the modern industrial world. After all, if the non-Western areas did not industrialize and adopt Western liberal-bourgeois institutions it must be because the obstacles to development and democracy are internal and not because the West imposed colonial control, or divided them into spheres of influence. One reason that Modernization theory became popular immediately after WWII was that Westerners were encouraged by the defeat of the Axis Powers and the decolonization movements that followed after the end of the war.  Condemning Stalinist Russia and its satellites, the same scholars, and along with them journalists and politicians assumed that democratization flows from the modernization development model, thus equating democracy with industrial and finance capitalism and its social order of inequality. 

Like William McNeill (The Rise of the West, 1964) who embraced the modernization theory, Huntington believed that the different parts of the world democratize as they modernize in stages. This is a theory that assumes their integration into the American-dominated world economy, political and military network whose goal throughout the Cold War was to bring down the Soviet Union and perpetuate Pax Americana. Walt Rostow (Economic Stages of Growth, 1960) was an advocate of modernization and implicitly the “waves” theory that Huntington later articulated. Influential not just during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations throughout the second half of the 20th century among politicians, Rostow’s thesis was part of the mainstream in media and academia. 

Like the paternalistic assumptions of Modernization theory with its categorical political goal, Rostow’s stages of growth theory implied that development entails diffusion emanating from the core (advanced capitalist countries) to the periphery (less developed); in other words, an endorsement of imperialism justified in the name of anti-Communism and a single path to development and democracy. Included in Rostow’s stages of economic growth and Huntington’s 'Third Wave' thesis is the transition from traditional society to democracy only in theory. 

In reality, the transition has been from corrupt clientist authoritarian regimes to corrupt semi-democratic ones under integration into the US-dominated economic and geopolitical global framework. In all cases without exception, countries falling into the “Third Wave” and Modernization theory framework in their political institutions became even more thoroughly dependent economically. This is as true for Latin America under US hegemony since the Spanish-American War as for Africa, Asia and Eastern and southeastern Europe under northwest European dominant influence.  Post-Cold War regional economic blocs have been dominated by the US, German-dominated Europe Union, and Japan and more recently China competing with the core countries in the world economy for spheres of influence and market share. (4)

If we accept the Modernization and Third Wave theories, then we accept the assumptions of Joseph Schumpeter (“Democratic Method”, 1947 and Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy) that democracy does not entail popular sovereignty and social justice, but it is simply an institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions – presumably through consensus by the socioeconomic and political elites in which individuals acquire power to determine who captures the popular vote. In other words, this is a top down process not very different than corporations competing for a consumer base where the consumer is able to choose corporation A vs. B.

Even if we accept this definition and Huntington’s argument that the “First Wave” of ‘minimal democracy’ in the 19th century to the second wave after WWII and the defeat of the Axis Powers, elements of authoritarianism existed within Western Democracies, especially the US that excluded minorities from the institutional mainstream. Unless one invokes the doctrine of “American Exceptionalism” both in foreign affairs as well as US apartheid practices with regard to Native Americans and Africa-Americans, democracy explained by Modernization theory provides a distorted picture of what has actually taken place throughout history.(5)

Studies carried out by scholars and institutions such as the World Bank on the correlation between high income level countries and democracy, and low-income level countries and authoritarianism throughout the Cold War contend that the catalyst to democracy is a viable middle class, not social justice and equality. Of course, it is possible to have an ascendant middle class without democracy as has been in the case of China, thus proving the “middle class-democracy” correlation is not necessarily true. (6)

It is interesting to note that the same studies linked traditional societies, especially Islamic ones where religion was at the core of the value system and institutional structure, as less compatible with democracy while secular societies much more so.Western scholars assume compatibility between Christianity and democracy while rejecting the same when it comes to Islam and Eastern religions, despite the empirical reality if India where Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam are the main religions. (7) 

When it comes to the most populous Muslim nations of Indonesia, Western critics praise the compatibility of Islam and democracy because the country has embraced globalization and Westernization. Along similar lines, the West has historically embraced Turkey, a NATO member and candidate for the EU, despite its Muslim heritage and traditions.

The Third Wave, Arab Revolution and Counter-Revolution
At the cultural level and to a degree social level, there has been greater 'pluralism' in societies that transitioned during the 'Third Wave' because of decolonization following WWII. However, this has not translated to greater popular sovereignty and social justice comparable to what the Scandinavian countries enjoy, and after the austerity of 2010 there has been a decline both in democracy and living standards in countries that were part of the “Third Wave Democracy” trend.

During the “Third Wave” with Portugal’s Carnation Revolution 1974, women and minorities acquired more rights; human rights became a basic component of government, freedom of the press and assembly was a reality. From the 1980s until the Great recession of 2008 there was upward social mobility in southern Europe. Largely because living standards needed to be raised for the periphery countries to qualify entranced into the euro zone after under Maastricht Treaty conditions as established in 1992, northwest European countries adopted an interdependent integration model rather than the patron-client model the US pursued in its relationship with Mexico under NAFTA.(8)

After the austerity that the EU and IMF imposed on the periphery in 2010, it also imposed the patron-client model of integration that reduced the southern and eastern European members of the zone into subservient status serving the interests of the northwest core. This new model has meant decline not just in living standards but in social mobility for college graduates most of whom are unable to find employment in their fields of study if at all; weaker welfare state and trade unions, and weaker democratic institutions as there has been a transition from the welfare state to corporate welfare under the advocacy of neoliberals that includes the IMF and the European Central Bank. The benefits of the “Third Wave” in the periphery countries of Europe accrued mostly to those in the upper income groups and not across the board, and certainly there were not sustainable as the post-2008 recession crisis has proved. (9)

Whether part of the “Third Wave” or not, developing nations have compromised their sovereignty by surrendering to the globalized market economy to a much greater degree than they had in some cases under authoritarian regimes that tended to support 'national capitalism' more than international capitalism. This is as true of Eastern Europe as it is of Latin America. The people of Portugal, Greece and Spain, all previously under authoritarian regimes that were part of the 'Third Wave' continue to elect their national leaders who only follow and execute policies in accordance with the rules of the market economy and under considerable pressure from the US and EU directly or indirectly through the IMF, World Bank, OECD, European Central Bank.

To what degree do Portugal, Greece and Spain enjoy national sovereignty when the monetary and fiscal policy that impact living standards and result in social engineering comes as a result of what the IMF, central banks, and the domestic and foreign financial elites? The ballot box gives the illusion of freedom of political choice and popular sovereignty when all aspects of the citizen’s life are surrendered to an institutional structure under the control of the financial elites whose interests the political class serves. The national economy and public finances are surrendered to national and global finance capitalism that operates with comprador bourgeoisie at the national level. This is especially true in Greece, one of the “Third Wave” countries reduced to a virtual semi-colony under IMF-German imposed austerity since 2010. (10)

If the 'Third Wave' did not result in the type of social justice that one would associate with a Norwegian model of democracy but rather with a Latin American one, why would the imaginary 'Fourth Wave' be any different taking place now in the Middle East, especially after the failed uprisings that NATO countries and regional players like Saudi Arabia subverted as part of a counter-revolution that followed? Furthermore, the suggestion that modernization can come solely or primarily as a result of diffusion of 'ideas' from the West to the rest of the world is in many respects a reflection of Western imperialism, merely another version of Kipling’s White Man’s Burden thesis. 

The assumption among many Westerners arguing that Muslim countries are or ought to be undergoing democratization is based on the Western model of “liberal bourgeois” democracy under the neoliberal economic model that favors international finance capital. Even the “Third Wave” is not based on assumptions of social, economic, and political equality or grassroots democracy, any more than it is based on self-sustaining horizontal economic and social development. Considering the assumptions of “Third Wave” about democracy of limited popular and national sovereignty, then the Afro-Arab Spring uprisings were probably more successful than it may appear on the surface. (11)

There are several hundred books dealing with Afro-Arab Spring uprisings, as well as counter-revolution leading to even greater political instability, polarization and socioeconomic inequality than before. This is not only the case in Libya and Egypt, but across all countries that tried to have genuine grassroots revolts. Most authors agree these were indeed unfinished revolutions and subverted by forces other than the grassroots participants who were themselves ideologically and politically divided on what kind of regime they wanted. The democratization wave was never given a chance to evolve because domestic elites, neighboring states among them Saudi Arabia fearing any spillover impact of political change as well as the US and its European allies played a role in undermining the popular movements through various means including NGOs posing as friendly democratic entities. (12)

The grassroots movement to democratize Egypt failed after former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi muscled his way into power. Despite the veneer of the electoral process, the reality since 2013 has been repression of the Muslim Brotherhood and secular Egyptians wishing popular sovereignty rather than a military-dominated state. Nevertheless, President al-Sisi insists his government is democratic, despite ruling by decree. Western governments back him despite Human Rights Watch and other independent organizations condemning the regimes as repressive. Not much different than Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, Sisi is following an existing pattern of cronyism. Because Sisi has cooperated with the West on geopolitical issues and is not confrontational toward Israel like Iran, and because he has worked with the IMF and is open to foreign capital and neoliberal policies that have resulted in sharp cuts in subsidies and other welfare state measures, Western politicians, media and pundits view Egypt more favorably as democratic than Iran that has only recently agreed to economic integration with the West and cooperation on the nuclear weapons development issue; this despite the fact that Iran has been fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS. (13)

Regardless of how Western powers view social movements in Islamic countries and how they try to manipulate them so they could exert hegemonic influence, Islam as a coherent ideological force is an integral part, but not the only one, of societal issues intertwined with the faith, especially in Egypt where the Islamic Brotherhood played a key role. This was also the case in Yemen, Tunisia and everywhere where grassroots movements took place during Arab Spring. In the absence of a secular political ideology, religious doctrine is what the masses rally around, Islam played a catalytic role, although various religious factions – sectarian politics especially Sunni vs. Shiite - were engaged in a struggle for dominant influence and control.  

The Arab Spring uprisings were heterogeneous in their ideological orientation, as much as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that the Shiite clergy eventually dominated and used to create an Islamic Republic. Precisely because of the heterogeneous nature of opposition to authoritarian regimes in Islamic countries reflecting largely the urban-secular middle class vs. the rural and some urban traditional masses clinging to Islam as the unifying force in society it became easier for the armed forces as in Egypt or comprador bourgeois class linked to foreign interests to prevail over the disparate masses. The question for the advocates of Modernization theory is whether revolution inspired by Islam intended to bring about social justice to society fits the theory, a question that a number of scholars raise as they try to place Arab Spring into a theoretical framework.  (14)

By August 2013 the counterrevolution was in full swing with the backing of the US northwest Europe, and reactionary Arab regimes. In Egypt the duly-elected government of Mohammad Morsi was toppled and the Raaba Massacre took place resulting in more than 1000 people dead all in an effort to crush the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. Although this massacre was far worse than Tiananman Square (1989), there was hardly the US or European outcry against it because the West and its regional Middle East allies did not want democracy in Egypt any more than they did in the region as a whole. Whereas the Western media, politicians, pundits, and various apologists of Western capitalism vociferously condemned the Chinese government for crushing democratic protests in 1989, the reaction in 2013 by the same sources was one of outrage for the massacre but support for law and order against Egyptian democratic protesters because they Muslim Brotherhood elements viewed with suspicion as potential jihadists. (15)

Using the “jihadist” theme, implicitly intertwined with the war on terror, as the explanation for siding with the new elites that emerged from counterrevolution, analysts argued that there must be an alternative to jihad as the opposition force to regimes – authoritarian or elected - closely integrated with Western interests and policies.  Crony capitalism that existed before Arab Spring continued after the dust settled, just as the Western influence that existed before remained very much alive in geopolitical and economic domains.  Post-Islamism manifesting itself in the rise of urbanization and youths embracing the new communications technology as a means of grassroots organizing and consciousness-raising was just one factor in the revolts during the first half of the 2010s. This does not mean that there is a shortage of hypocrisy on the part of leaders in the opposition embracing the uprising in the name of Islam any more than on the part of rulers claiming to defend the faith. Piety has its limits when it comes to political goals as much in the Islamic Middle East, as in the Christian West. Nevertheless, there is no stigma of “jihadist terrorism” attached to Christianity and Judaism. Whereas the identity of a Muslim emanates from the faith as well as the nation-state, social status and lesser factors, the identity of a Christian in France or US is rooted in multiple institutions mostly secular, that may or may not include nation-state and faith.

Accepting some of the theoretical assumptions of the Modernization theory, French-Moroccan author Rachid Benzine emerged in Europe as a representative of the Arab Spring generation to articulate the events and dynamics in North Africa and the Middle East in the early 21st century. Following a long-standing tradition started by Bernard Lewis, Fazlur Rahman, and Edward Said who was a critic of conventional scholarship, Benzine argued that the failure of the Arab world, and more widely the Islamic world, to undergo an intellectual revolution (Renaissance and Enlightenment like Europe), invariably linked to social development, owed to a 'misreading' of the Koran and in failing to recognize and respond to specific historical situations? (16)

As a traditional society that has not undergone a Renaissance, a Scientific Revolution, an Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution, and in addition it has been subject to foreign conquest that imposed monocultural economic structures (export-oriented economies), the Arab world finds itself confronting the contradictions of wanting to preserve its cultural identity on the one hand, keeping up with the western world on the other in order to lessen exploitation of its resources and labor, and strengthen national sovereignty, while finding it impossible to avoid integration into the world-system of the market economy which entails dependency at some level. Embracing Modernization theory as a framework to understand Arab Spring in essence suggests trying to fit Islamic institutions and society into a secularized Western-dominated world is not revolutionary, but actually conservative. 

Is Egypt and the entire Islamic world  part of a 'Fourth Wave' toward democracy and development merely another dream designed for the convenience of those who want to make sense of events and be optimistic that the modernization theory works - equating modernization  with Western concepts of bourgeois capitalism. 'Transformation policy' that the US began implementing after WWII as a means to integrate the rest of the world into the global system of capitalist institutions was inevitable not just for Egypt, but the entire Arab world, as the counterrevolutions proved once the dust settled and regime change took hold. (17)

In the absence of a regional (Middle Eastern-North African) economic bloc, in the absence of some revival of Nasser's dream for Afro-Arab solidarity with a multilateral foreign economic policy as leverage in the international arena, Egypt along with the rest of the Islamic world will remain thoroughly integrated into the capitalist system as it was under Mubarak who had set up his own fiefdom and made billions in the process. The only question is what leverage does Egypt or any Islamic countries have?  As much the US, as the Europeans and Chinese demand that Islamic nations conform to the rules of the marketplace, to the IMF and World Bank, to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and that they observe all of its foreign treaty and other obligations; exactly as the US demanded from the Egyptian army under Sisi so that the foreign aid can continue pouring in under Obama, despite human rights violations.(18)

Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, and the entire Arab world, will remain Western dependencies in most cases worse off than before Arab Spring, with the possible exception of Tunisia despite more than 6000 Tunisians joining ISIS in a nation with about 16% unemployment rate and per capita GDP average of just under $11,400 or 65% of the world’s average in PPP terms. External dependency on the core countries entails few changes in the status quo throughout the Arab world; merely enough to satisfy those that have fought to end authoritarianism in some countries, while disappointing to the vast majority. 

While it would be a great development to have greater social justice, more respect for women and broader observance of human rights in general, the trend for the Middle East is westernization through commercialism - consumer products and services, pop cultural influences, telecommunications, media and technology - which entails influencing the value system so that gradually Islamic countries becoming more like Turkey that seeks full membership in the European Union and Indonesia inviting foreign capital investment. This subtle form of infringement on Muslim sovereignty to which Arabs object for economic, political and cultural/religious reasons comes slowly, and it contributes to popular uprisings. Along with the broader recognition that the Muslim world is made up mostly of poor people, while the Christian West is prosperous, immersed in materialistic, hedonistic values and lifestyles, there needs to be a realization that the Christian West has been profiting off the Muslim Middle East since the Treaty of Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774). The closely integrated globalized economy entails withering cultural identities and that is the case in the Muslim world where just beneath the relative calm a new wave of social uprisings is brewing and will explode eventually.

Undermining Self-determination and Popular Sovereignty in Traditional Societies

According to the Modernization theory obstacles to democracy and progress are all internal, resting within national borders. The US government, politicians, media and pundits have been claiming ever since Wilson’s Missionary Diplomacy (denying recognition to Mexico and Latin American government if their policies were antithetical to American interests) that the goal is to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. The record of US foreign policy especially toward developing countries since the Spanish-American War has demonstrated that the US accomplishes the exact opposite of the stated goal because democracy in less developed countries minimizes US economic and geopolitical influence in those countries. As the following list of CIA operations that undermined democracy indicates, the US was hardly a promoter of democracy as the advocates of Modernization theory and those claiming the only goal is freedom and democracy claim.

1. Italy 1948 elections sabotaged by CIA to make sure that the pro-US Christian Democrat Party;
2. Iran 1953 CIA-engineered coup that results in the overthrow of duly-elected Mohammed Mossadeq;
3. Guatemala 1954 CIA-engineered coup that results in the overthrow of duly elected Jacobo Arbenz and the installation of a pro-US military dictatorship;
4. Dominican Republic 1961 CIA assassinates a formerly-backed pro-US dictator Rafael Trujillo,
5. Congo (Zaire) 1961 the CIA assassinates democratically-elected president Patrice Lumumba.
6. Ecuador 1961 CIA forces democratically-elected president Jose Velasco to resign.
7. Brazil 1964 CIA-backed military coup if democratically elected Joao Goulart ;
8. Indonesia 1965 the CIA helps overthrow democratically elected President Sukarno and replaces him with the dictator Suharto who went on a reign of terror against his political opponents;
9. Greece 1967 the CIA helps to remove the duly-elected government of George Papandreou and back a military Junta for the next seven years;
10. Chile 1973 the CIA overthrows democratically-elected Salvador Allende.

The above list includes only the most blatant cases of US intervention and does not list military interventions or countries where the US backed authoritarian regimes, including South Africa under apartheid regimes.(19)

Even in cases where there have not been counterinsurgency operations but direct or indirect military intervention, from Vietnam to Nicaragua, from Iraq to Afghanistan, from Libya to Syria, the net result is greater destabilization under a new type of authoritarian regime. Just two days after Vice President Joe Biden visited Iraq to announce an additional 250 US troops, mass demonstrators stormed the fortified Green Zone on 30 April 2016 in a show of popular anger against the corrupt, unrepresentative and ineffective regime that the US set up. Although these were backers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who has been calling for sweeping reforms, the reality is that US invasion and occupation left the country utterly devastated and it will take decades for it to recover, let alone become free and democratic as the US government argued it was there to deliver.  Despite Washington’s shallow claims that its goal is freedom and democracy, its actual goal is economic, political and economic integration under American aegis in an era of intense global competition owing to China’s ascendancy. (20)

Considering that there has been a long-standing policy of subverting national and popular sovereignty abroad because it clashes US and more broadly Western corporate and geopolitical interests, how do we reconcile the Modernization theory with the empirical reality of American foreign policy record?  Under the aegis of the US, Wall Street, and international finance capital, IMF austerity programs since the early 1950s have been responsible throughout the developing countries of undermining democracy by lowering living standards for the working class and the middle class. If external economic and financial intervention thwarts economic development and democracy, how can advocates of Modernization theory argue that all obstacles to development are internal? (21)

Because Modernization theory advocates accept the capitalist political economy as “natural”, they do not analyze how austerity policies result in downward socioeconomic mobility and polarized sociopolitical conditions that either takes place under authoritarian or semi-authoritarian conditions or result in such regimes. IMF austerity is intended to concentrate capital among the domestic elites and foreign corporations, thus resulting in diminished democratic commitment of regimes that carry it out. In the process, the middle class and workers become disillusioned and often turn to right wing or left wing political parties or movements, abandoning the bourgeois consensus of the liberal center. This is as much the case in the EU’s periphery countries since 2010 as it has been the case in developing nations from the 1950s to the present.(22)

In addition to monetarist austerity that results in further capital concentration and weaker middle class and working class, the neoliberal policies of weakening the welfare state to strengthen corporate welfare while strengthening defense have also accounted for increased political orientation toward the politics of illiberal democracy. In an integrated world dominated by core countries led by the US as the world’s largest military power compelling both allies and foes to spend more on defense that deprives the civilian economy of resources it is simply naïve to claim that the sources of undemocratic regimes are archaic traditions and non-Western religions when it is in fact Western governments and the considerable power that multinational corporations enjoy over governments. (23)

Neo-liberalism and the Decline of Democracy in Core Countries

The triumph of the capitalist West over the Communist bloc coinciding with the global economic ascendancy of China has actually delivered less democracy, greater socioeconomic and political polarization, fewer human rights, and decline in social justice under the neoliberal model of development. How do we then reconcile the Modernization theory that assumes a Hegelian model of steady economic development and democratization under capitalism and the “Third Wave” that assumes developing countries emulate the Western political economic model when the same is showing very clear signs of fracture?  Even if one accepts Modernization theory and Huntington’s “Third Wave Democracy” as theoretical frameworks to explain development and evolution toward bourgeois democracy, how do we explain the decline of democracy in the advanced capitalist countries since the end of the Cold War? On the 25th anniversary of Fukuyama’s “The End of History”, The Atlantic published an article arguing that “history isn’t over, and neither liberalism nor democracy is ascendant”. (24)

As much in Europe as in the US, right-wing populist demagogues are challenging bourgeois political elites that come from the business elites, or become wealthy in the process and join the business elites in the pursuit of neoliberal policies that concentrate wealth? While a handful of billionaires own most of the world’s wealth, the corporate owned media has moved to the right as much in the US as in Europe, paying only lip service to political correctness regarding racism, xenophobia, while hammering at the rights of workers and all issues pertaining to social justice while defending neo-liberalism. This has in turn emboldened extreme right wing groups whose differences are not so distinct from mainstream conservative political parties.(25)

According to a State Department public opinion poll in 2000, Europeans and Americans generally favored globalization.  By 2014, things had changed largely because the Great Recession (2008) resulted in massive income transfer from the middle class and workers and into the pockets of the top one percent income earners. A Pew Research poll in 2014 found that only 17% of Americans believed that (free) trade leads to higher wages, and only 28% believed that foreign companies buying US companies was good for the country, thus reflecting a sharp rise in economic nationalist sentiment. (26)

Anti-globalization from the right in the US as well as Europe comes in the form of opposition to trade agreements favoring large multinational corporations at the expense of the national economy. Just as the right wing is split on the issue of globalization, it is so split on the issue of regional military blocs, especially NATO and the burden of its costs. The neo-isolationist foreign policy agenda of a number of Republicans in the US, including Donald Trump reflects exactly this trend. Although it is unlikely the US will isolate itself from military blocs any more than it will retreat from globalization despite the costs to its public debt and shrinking middle class, these matters will only become more pronounced as Asia assumes an increasingly dominant role in the world economy and outcries about costs and benefits become louder. (27)

With a history of fascism and authoritarianism, Europe has extremist political groups that emerged on anti-Islam, anti-foreign, anti-progressive platforms designed to attract the masses guided by fear, ignorance, and insecurity about the future as well as assertion of cultural/ethnic identity myths. Right wing populist demagogues tend to become increasingly part of the mainstream. With each cyclical economic crisis that leaves people questioning the present and longing for 'the good old days' of 'traditionalism' when the masses obeyed authority and the social order worked just great as far as the elites were concerned, Europe and the US will become more right wing because this is where the media and the elites will lead the masses. The debate not just among Americans but also European political elites regarding isolationism and economic nationalism reflects a concern that globalization increasingly favors China and other non-Western countries rather than the West that enjoyed global economic hegemony from the end WWII until the end of the Cold War. (28)

Many in the West were caught up in the enthrallment of the moment when the Soviet bloc came down and George H. W. Bush proclaimed the New World Order in his State of the Union address. The media and pundits were predicting the “end of history” and the end of ideology. Twenty-five years after Bush’s New World Order speech, these same people cannot explain why Europe and the US have been taking a turn toward the politics of the “illiberal democracy” and a quasi-authoritarian system has emerged. Why is it that so many scholars are convinced that not just the US has lapsed into a surveillance regime spying on its own citizens and increasingly relying on police state methods that violate the Constitution, but Europe has become much more rightist in its ideological and political orientation? (29)

Much is defaulted to the ‘war on terror’ and Muslim refugees that the ‘war on terror’. Some blame the interventionist Western foreign policy toward Syria, Iraq and the entire Muslim World at a time that the Western economies were less competitive with those of Asia. As much in Eastern Europe as in Western that claims greater tolerance and democratic commitment, public opinion polls indicate a sharp rise in xenophobia directed especially at Muslim migrants and viewing Islam in general as a threat. Perceptions are not much different in the US especially among Republicans voters considering the media’s demonization of Muslims as the new existential threat that replaced Communism. (30)
Waning of democracy in a socio-politically polarized society is a reality throughout the Western World, thus obviating not just the “End of History” thesis that so many have criticized but also the Modernization theory and Huntington’s “waves of democracy” thesis. In the next contracting economic cycle, there will be further erosion of what people associate with 'bourgeois democracy' and a greater tilt toward authoritarianism concealed beneath the facade of democracy. What happens to the social fabric if during the next contracting cycle Western democracies will need to spend more than half of the GDP to bailout corporations while still maintaining high defense spending? What signal does this send to the rest of the world about the Western political economy and institutions? Western democracy as the world knew it in the second half of the 20th century is rapidly sinking toward quasi-authoritarianism while maintaining a façade of freedom and democracy. (31)

Will greater social justice and popular sovereignty evolve as a result of the contradictions that develop within the market economy and the emerging social structure to which such a political economy gives birth? Social discontinuity is unfolding before our eyes so slowly so cannot see it. All empirical evidence indicates that the neoliberal model is leading toward varieties of authoritarianism. The irrelevant vacuous theoretical rhetoric of the Modernization theory, Third Wave Democracy, End of History are intended to obfuscate the empirical realities of peoples’ material lives when history has proved Joseph Schumpeter correct. Democracy is simply an electoral process where citizens have the right to select competing elites whose goal is to perpetuate their economic, social and political privileges.


1.      Jon V. Kofas, The Sword of Damocles: US Financial Hegemony in Chile and Colombia. 2003; Jon V. Kofas, Independence from America: Global Integration and Inequality, 2005.
2.      Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America, 2007; Edward D. Gonzalez-Acosta, CENTRAL AMERICA - CAFTA and the U.S. Patron-Client Relationship with Dominican Republic and Central America. 24 May 2007,; Rhoda H. Halperin, Cultural Economies Past and Present, 1994.
3.      G. Williams Domhoff, Myth of Liberal Ascendancy: Corporate Dominance from the Great Depression to the Great Recession, 2013.
4.      Raymond Lotta, “World Economy and Great Power Rivalry: The Challenge to U.S. Global Dominance.”
5.      Michael Kennedy and Miguel Centeno, Internationalism and Global Transformations in American Sociology” 680-85, in Sociology in America: A History ed. by Craig Calhoon, 2007.
6.      Jie Chen, A Middle Class Without Democracy: Economic Growth and the Prospects for Democratization in China, 2014.
7.      Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East, 1958; Hermant Shah, The Production of Modernization: Daniel Lerner, Mass Media and the Passing of Traditional Society, 2011.
8.      F. A. Lopez, et al eds, Transitions from Dictatorships to Democracy, 2016.
9.; James Wickham, Unequal Europe: Social Divisions in an Old Continent, 2016.
11.  Said Amir Arjomand, ed. The Arab Revolution of 2011: A Comparative Perspective, 2015, 233-35.
12.  M. A. Mohamed Salih, Economic Development and Political Action in the Arab World, 2014; Fatima al-Samak, Islam and Democracy: An Obscure Relationship, in
13.  Rula Jebreal, It’s Time for the US to Support Democracy, Not Dictatorship, in Egypt. (June 5, 2015 );
16.; Rachid Benzine, Les nouveaux penseurs de l'islam,2004.
17.  Ahmed Bensaada, Arabesque$: Enquête sur le rôle des États-Unis dans les révoltes arabes, 2015.
21.  Shaun Ferguson, “Diagnosing Constraints to Industrialization in the Arab World” and Alfredo Saad-Silho, “Transcending Neoliberalism through Pro-Poor and Democratic Economic Development Strategies” in Development Challenges and Solutions After Arab Spring, ed. Ali Kadri, 2016).
22.  S. B. Kaplan, Globalization and Austerity Politics in Latin America, 2013; Lorenzo Smaghi, Austerity: European Democracies Against the Wall, 2013.
25.; T. Akkerman, et al., Radical Right-Wing Parties in Western Europe: Into the Mainstream? 2016.
28.  Marcos, Ancelovic, “Organizing against Globalization: the Case of ATTAC in France”.
29. Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world (83% vs. 53%) and in the U.S. (65% vs. 38%), according to a December 2015 survey. That survey also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (68% vs. 30% of Democrats) and that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than people of other religions (49% vs. 20%).  
30.  Tom Engelhrtd, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World, 2014;
31.  Ernesto Gallo and Giovanni Biava, “Democracy in the Asian Century” Open Democracy, 18 February 2014,