The Role of Moral Value in Political Change: Explaining Democratic Transition in Taiwan





Published date: 

December, 2000


Naiteh Wu


Democratic transition has been one of the most researched topics in the American political science in the past several decades. As Taiwanese politics was transformed in the late 1980’s to democracy, the case also gained wide attention from both the American and local scholars. This paper points out that the literature on democratic transition in Taiwan case, some have followed too closely, or applied indiscreetly, the arguments of American political scientists in explaining Latin American cases. Secondly, others have given too much credit to the role of the dictator Jiang Jing-guo. These two flaws resulted in a distortion of historical reality and also the overlook of an important factor: the role of political idealism and the effort motivated by that idealism on the part of the mass and activists in democratic struggle.

This paper also discusses the problems of an assumption about human Political behavior in the mainstream American political science, namely the rational choice model. The model by giving no place to the role of value and idealism in human political behaviors fails to explain the pivotal role of human agency in many political and social transformations. Taking the case of Taiwan as an example, this paper shows how the idealism on the part of the common people and activists in the democratic movement has contributed to the great political transformation. After the severe repression on the democratic movement In 1979, the unexpected growth of the movement has removed the option .of repression by the authoritarian regime. A deJ110cratic compromise thus was achieved.