Politicized Society

The Long Shadow of Taiwan's One-Party Legacy

Mikael Mattlin

320 pp., illustrated
Governance in Asia # 1
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

Hardback - 2011, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 061 4, £50.00
Paperback - 2011, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 062 1, £18.99

Key points

  • Focuses on an under-explored area of democratic transitions, the empirical study of intensely politicized transitional societies.
  • Argues that the continued strength of the old dominant political party following the transition from one-party rule carries the risk of structural politicization.
  • Asks how we should grasp a situation where the political practices commonly associated with democracy, such as election campaigning and political media debate, jeopardize the sustainability of democratic politics by the way they are pursued.
  • Describes how extreme politicization is the main internal threat to the sustainability of Taiwan’s democratic politics.


This book explores a relatively uncharted area of democratic transitions: the empirical study of intensely politicized transitional societies. In particular, it addresses the problems of protracted democratic transitions that occur when a one-party state has been incompletely dismantled.

Due to an initially smooth political transition from one-party authoritarianism to multi-party politics, Taiwan’s gradual process of democratization has been celebrated as one of the most successful cases of political transformation. However, this political transition was not completed and, especially since 2000 when the first non-Kuomintang president was elected, Taiwan has been marked by protracted political struggles together with an intense politicization of  society that persists to this day.

In Taiwan, rather than supporting democracy, many of the political practices associated with representative democracy, such as election campaigning, political demonstrations, vote mobilization and political debate in the media, can appear to undermine the future sustainability of democratic politics through the ways in which they are pursued.

However, the book maintains that institutional flaws are not enough to explain the shortcomings of Taiwan’s democratic politics or those in other transitional democracies. The practices established before the political transition continue to affect politics after the transition. Thus, when an old dominant party like the Kuomintang continues to thrive even after the end of one-party rule, the process of political liberalization and transition contains within itself the seeds of structural politicization.

As such, not only does this study have empirical value – warning that extreme politicization is the main internal threat to the sustainability of Taiwan’s democratic politics – but also its analysis is pertinent to the situations of many other transitional democracies around the world. It will be of interest to scholars and students of Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese and East Asian politics, as well as to those concerned with political developments in other transitional societies.

Press news

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    Carol Ann Boshier's book 'Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society,1910-1935' has been shortlisted for the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2019. Congratulations!

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