Religious Organizations and Democratic Consolidation: East Asian Exceptionalism
Many religious organizations in East Asia (Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia) have been involved in the arduous process of democratic transition. Ironically, as soon as a democratic breakthrough was achieved, often these organizations' "proper" role in the political realm became debatable both within their own memberships and in society. Some religious organizations retreated into their spiritual universes and attempted to redemarcate the borderlines between the domains of the sacred and those of man and politics, much like the military returning to its barracks and keeping out of the mess and uncertainty of democratic processes. The ethnical dimension of democratic politics makes it difficult if not impossible for religious organizations to completely disengage from democratic politics; 'ipso facto', they will play some role in consolidating the newly-democratized polities. The literature on democratic consolidation focuses mainly on institutional designs and the legal infrastructure that can help to bring forth good and effective governance. Often resource-rich (especially when it comes to nontangible assets), and frequently under charismatic or enigmatic leadership, religious organizations loom particularly large whenever political processes and the judiciary system show their limitations in solving fundamental problems in newly-created democracies.
Keywords: Religious organizations, Democratic consolidation, East Asia
Prof. Tun-jen Cheng
Prof. Deborah A. Brown
Affiliation not supplied