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Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy

Democratizing the Developmental State

Dan Slater

Dan Slater (Ph.D. Emory, 2005) specializes in the politics and history of dictatorship and democracy, with a regional focus on Southeast Asia. Before coming to Michigan University in 2017, he was at the University of Chicago, where he served as Director of the Center for International Social Science Research (CISSR), Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, and associate member in the Department of Sociology. His latest book is entitled From Development to Democracy: The Transformations of Modern Asia (Princeton University Press, 2022), which explores why rapid economic development has led to democratization in some Asian countries but not others. His published articles can be found in disciplinary journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, American Journal of Sociology, Annual Review of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Democratization, Government & Opposition, International Organization, Perspectives on Politics, Social Science History, Studies in Comparative International Development, and World Politics, as well as Asia-oriented journals such as Critical Asian Studies, Indonesia, Journal of East Asian Studies, South East Asia Research, Taiwan Journal of Democracy, and TRANS. Before commencing his doctoral studies at Emory in 1999 he received a B.A. in International Relations and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an M.A. in International Studies from the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and spent ten months as a Fulbright scholar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1998. Beyond Southeast Asia, he has done international consulting work on challenges related to democratization and demilitarization in cases such as Ethiopia, Fiji, and Pakistan. He has also recently worked as a consultant and nonresident fellow with international policy organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Freedom House, OECD, and World Bank.

Most recent relevant publications

Slater, D. (2023). What Indonesian democracy can teach the world. Journal of Democracy, 34(1), 95-109. 

Slater, D., & Wong, J. (2022). From development to democracy: the transformations of modern Asia. Princeton University Press.

Tudor, M., & Slater, D. (2021). Nationalism, authoritarianism, and democracy: Historical lessons from South and Southeast Asia. Perspectives on Politics, 19(3), 706-722.

As the convenor of your hub, how do you perceive the general topic in relation to your hub?

In my own work, I primarily concentrate on Indonesia and the broader Southeast Asian region. I believe that my contribution to this project lies in the historical aspects and the historical evolution of states, and how this evolution influences the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion. I also explore the various factors that shape the development of states. While my perspective is firmly rooted in Southeast Asia, I am excited to observe how these issues manifest for other scholars and in their respective countries. The diversity of perspectives, methodologies, theories, and the presence of a range of scholars in each hub will culminate in a comprehensive understanding of the intricate relationship between democracy and development.

As the convenor of your hub, how do you perceive the general topic in relation to your hub?

A crucial aspect we should collectively consider is the identification of common themes and threads that can interlink our hubs. Two specific points I wish to address are:

First, the centrality of coalitions. Coalitions play a pivotal role in all four hubs and the thematic pursuits they engage in. Whether it pertains to the dynamics of populist versus anti-populist coalitions, mobilization in Latin America, which also encompasses the historical mobilization of the left and counter-mobilization of the right, or the enduring conflict between exclusion and inclusion, it often boils down to the intricate interplay of different coalitions with diverse visions of democracy and the nation’s direction. In the context of the developmental state, democratizing it requires the reconfiguration of the coalition that came together to drive development and aims to foster a more democratic approach to governing the economy. Consequently, exploring the role of coalitions emerges as a unifying theme that links our hubs.

Secondly, the role of world history deserves attention — how we can incorporate this perspective across our hubs. None of the contemporary processes we examine occur in a historical vacuum. They are all embedded in specific historical contexts with distinct historical memories that influence the things that the political actors bring into the battles over the future of democracy and national politics. It’s crucial that we study particular cases, even as we contemplate theories that connect our hubs and the overarching questions we address. This necessitates an awareness of diverse national histories, colonial legacies, and the enduring impact of independence struggles, even if they may appear distant in the past. These historical factors continue to shape contemporary politics. While populism may seem like a recent phenomenon, it invariably has historical roots, as does mobilization.