Constitutional Inertia and Regime Pluralism in Asia
Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? (Mark Graber, Sanford Levinson & Mark Tushnet eds., Oxford University Press, 2018)
20 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2018 Last revised: 18 Aug 2018
Date Written: May 18, 2018
Many fear that constitutional democracy is under threat from democratic backlash and losing ground to illiberal constitutionalism. Discussion of this supposedly global trend, however, often takes relatively little account of East Asia, if not Asia more generally, which is deeply problematic given both the intrinsic importance and the heterogeneity of the region. This essay draws on Asian experience over the last three decades to evaluate three hypotheses that might explain the prevalence and stability of constitutional democracy: (1) the contagion hypothesis, (2) the constitutional inertia hypothesis, and (3) the regime performance hypothesis. Comparison of such jurisdictions as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Thailand is sufficient to cast doubt on (1) but suggests that (2) and (3) are both plausible. On the whole, this vast region is characterized more by regime stability than either backsliding or hegemony of any particular regime type. What the future appears to hold for Asia is more of the same—namely, regime pluralism.
Keywords: regime pluralism, constitutional inertia, contagion, regime performance, first-order needs, constitutional democracy, bureaucratic authoritarianism, Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Japan
JEL Classification: P37, P48, P51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation