William A. Douglas

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William A. Douglas, Ph.D is Interim Director of the International Development Program and Professional Lecturer at John Hopkins University.

"An educator trained in the field of international relations, specializing in democracy in developing countries, international labor affairs and international ethics. He has taught university students at SAIS, adults in a mid-career graduate program at Georgetown University, foreign visitors to the United States, U.S. Foreign Service officers and Latin American, African and East European trade unionists. He has more than three decades of pratical experience in international labor affairs, and has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, Latin America, where he has twice been a Fullbright Lecturer in Korea.

"Dr. Douglas received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University." [1]

Faculty member of the SAIS International Development Program.

"Promoting Democracy"

"Those arguing for the introduction of political aid, including a commission supervised by the NSC under Project Democracy to create the NED, made broad reference to the conclusions of a 1972 book by William A Douglas, Developing Democracy. (23) In his study, Douglas reviewed the debates in US intellectual and policy-making circles over whether authoritarianism or `democracy’ is best suited to meeting US interests. Douglas coined the term regimented democracy to describe the type of political system the US should promote in place of authoritarianism. (24) Comparing the populations of developing nations with `children’, and calling underdevelopment a result of their `traditional attitudes’, Douglas argued that the peoples of the Third World required `tutelage’ , `regimentation’ and `social control’ , but that `democracy’ could achieve these goals more effectively than authoritarianism. `That a firm hand is needed is undeniable’, but `democracy can provide a sufficient degree of regimentation, if it can build up the mass organizations needed to reach the bulk of the people on a daily basis. Dictatorship has no monopoly on the tutelage principle.’ (25) Douglas went on to develop detailed recommendations on how `political aid’ programmes should be introduced. Just as economic aid addressed economic underdevelopment, reasoned Douglas, political aid `should address political underdevelopment’. (26) He emphasised: `We should undertake an active policy of political aid, for both developmental and security reasons’. (27)”

“The trick, said Douglas, was to devise the correct `transplanting mechanisms’ for establishing polyarchy in the Third World. (28) Included among the recommendations were the establishment of a specialised agency (later to become the NED); the participation of the private sector in democracy promotion abroad; and the modification of existing government institutions and programmes so as to synchronise overall foreign policy with `political aid’ . Two decades after his study, the `transplanting mechanisms’ and `insulating devices’ which Douglas called for became embodied in the new democracy promotion programmes. Douglas himself went on to become a senior consultant to the NSC’ s Project Democracy, which led to the creation of the NED. The operation and concrete mechanisms of democracy promotion operations in countries in (p.654) which the USA has intervened have been well-documented in a growing body of empirical studies. (29) The point here is that political aid, administered through the NED, USAID, and other channels, has become a sophisticated instrument for penetrating the political systems and civil society of other countries down to the grassroots level.” (Robinson, 1995, pp.654-5)


  • 23 William A Douglas, Developing Democracy, Washington, DC: Heldref Publications, 1972.
  • 24 Ibid, p 122±123.
  • 25 Ibid, p 16±22.
  • 26 Ibid, p 16.
  • 27 Ibid, p xiii.
  • 28 Ibid, p 43.
  • 29 Among numerous works which document US democracy promotion programmes in diverse countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and countries of Eastern and Southern Europe, see Robinson, US Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections; Sklar & Berlet, `NED, CIA’ ; Farmer, The Uses of Haiti; Cooley-Prost, Democracy Intervention in Haiti; Council on Hemispheric Affairs, National Endowment for Democracy; and Beth Sims, Workers of the World Undermined, Boston, MD: South End Press, 1993.

External links

  • William I. Robinson, "Pushing polyarchy: the US-Cuba case and the Third World", Third World Quarterly, Vol 16, No 4, 1995.
  • "Biography", SAIS, Accessed January 2007.