Will the Internet Lead to Convergence of Dictatorship and Democracy?

Stephen Walt thinks this is a distinct possibility:

[P]erhaps the most likely possibility is that we will see a partial convergence between authoritarian systems like the People’s Republic of China and open democracies like Britain and the United States. Instead of empowering individuals and forcing monarchies and dictatorships to liberalize, the connectivity revolution could cause democracies and dictatorships to move somewhat closer together. Dictatorships will be less able to prevent new ideas from circulating and may even be vulnerable to collective action facilitated by social media (see under: Arab Spring). So they will become somewhat more open. But at the same time, previously open societies that privileged privacy and strictly limited government monitoring will be unable to resist the temptation to collect lots of private data, whether from surveillance cameras or from your laptop. Authoritarian states may get somewhat weaker, while liberal governments become somewhat more intrusive and authoritarian.

My own view has been somewhat more optimistic (see the summary here) but recent events seem to support the latter half of Walt’s argument.

One thought on “Will the Internet Lead to Convergence of Dictatorship and Democracy?

  1. Pingback: The road we’re on and where it leads… | FiWeBelize

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