Michael Bernhard holds the Raymond and Miriam Ehrlich Chair in Political Science at the University of Florida. His work centers on questions of democratization and development, both globally and in the context of Europe.
Among the issues that have figured prominently in his research agenda are the role of civil society in democratization, institutional choice in new democracies, the political economy of democratic survival, and the legacy of extreme forms of dictatorship. His latest book (coedited with Jan Kubik) is the volume Twenty Years after Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Revolutionary violence has two distinct impacts that need to be theorized on different time horizons. Comparative historical research will benefit from recalling the distinction between the short-run, retarding effects of violence for democratic change and its sometimes unintended salutary long-run impact. Revolutionary change predicated on violence is by its nature highly anti-democratic. It destroys interpersonal trust and paves the way for dictatorial regimes whose behavioral and institutional legacies pose an impediment to future attempts at democratization. At the same time, it also creates forms of socio-structural, institutional, and cultural change that work in the long-term and whose impact on future attempts at democratization need not be only negative. Conceptualizing, disentangling, and illustrating these mixed legacies is the main contribution of this paper.
We explicitly connect the two dimensions--short and long run effects--and tease out the conditions under which the second can have a positive impact on democratic regime building. The history of Western liberalism is inextricably caught up in violent transformation; where this violence is absent, revolutionary breakthroughs at the social level rarely occur. At the same time, violence on its own is no guarantor of long run democratic consolidation. The paper extends the empirical analysis from the West to that of the communist and post-communist world in order to illustrate how political development and violence relate to each in the wake of different pre-democratic legacies.