Democratic Rural Development: Leadership Accountability in Regional Peasant Organizations 1
This chapter analyzes the social foundations of democracy by focusing on the internal dynamics of building scaled-up, democratic counterweights under authoritarian rule. It takes up the challenge posed by Michels' classic political sociology puzzle of ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’, asking which factors make it possible for members to hold their leaders accountable. The case study traces the history of a broad-based regional agrarian membership organization to identify ebbs and flows of leadership accountability. An inductive, ethnographic, and longitudinal approach documents how the power relationships between leaders and members change over time. Though the organization held regular elections, in which elected agrarian community leaders voted for regional representatives, the electoral process was not the principal determinant of leadership accountability. Instead, the existence of other kinds of checks and balances — participatory subgroups and pro-democracy external actors — turn out to be more important factors in favor of leadership accountability.
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