Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule

Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule

by Shanthi Kalathil, Taylor C. Boas
     
 

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As the Internet diffuses across the globe, many have come to believe that the technology poses an insurmountable threat to authoritarian rule. Grounded in the Internet's early libertarian culture and predicated on anecdotes pulled from diverse political climates, this conventional wisdom has informed the views of policymakers, business leaders, and media pundits

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Overview

As the Internet diffuses across the globe, many have come to believe that the technology poses an insurmountable threat to authoritarian rule. Grounded in the Internet's early libertarian culture and predicated on anecdotes pulled from diverse political climates, this conventional wisdom has informed the views of policymakers, business leaders, and media pundits alike. Yet few studies have sought to systematically analyze the exact ways in which Internet use may lay the basis for political change.

In O pen Networks, Closed Regimes, the authors take a comprehensive look at how a broad range of societal and political actors in eight authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries employ the Internet. Based on methodical assessment of evidence from these cases China, Cuba, Singapore, Vietnam, Burma, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt the study contends that the Internet is not necessarily a threat to authoritarian regimes.

Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
It is said that the Internet promotes democracy in authoritarian states. This book reports more mixed findings.

The Internet can indeed frustrate state rule, but authoritarian regimes can also control virtual content to promote state-defined interests. Based on case studies, this book explores the Internet's impact on civil society, economic openness, and ties among transnational human rights and democracy groups. China is a particularly illuminating example. Committed to economic liberalization, Beijing has promoted the Internet while attempting to control its political impact by filtering and monitoring content and encouraging self-censorship. In some instances, the regime sees the Internet as a tool to fight corruption and promote local reform and development of poor areas. In contrast, Cuba has rejected this approach in favor of strengthening government control. Other authoritarian states have looked to Singapore as they try to balance a corruption-free and technology-friendly society with political and social controls. The authors do not offer an argument about the sources of change in authoritarian regimes, but their cases suggest that the Internet's role will be indirect and long term.

From the Publisher

"[A] fascinating and extremely useful new book..." —Nicholas Thompson, New America Foundation, Washington Monthly, 1/1/2003

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870033315
Publisher:
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Publication date:
11/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
218
File size:
1 MB

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