17:24 PM

Dr. Yao-Yuan Yeh Co-Pens Prescient New Book, Presidentialism, Violence and Prospect of Democracy

book coverA new book co-written by Associate Professor and Chair of International Studies and Modern Languages Yao-Yuan Yeh titled "Presidentialism, Violence, and Prospect of Democracy" was recently published by Rowman & Littlefield. Yeh and co-author, Charles K.S. Wu, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University, created a work that is strikingly timely in light of the recent violent uprising on Capitol Hill.

Yeh’s Motivation to Write This Book

Yeh said his motivation for the book was his “long-held interest in the relationship between political institutional designs and how they alter citizens' behavior. Being born and growing up in a relatively new democracy (Taiwan), and experiencing authoritarian rules first-hand during my childhood, I wanted to determine the best institutional structure a new democracy should adopt if they want to sustain their democratic systems in the future. This book brings a tentative conclusion to my intellectual query. I am happy to see it in print, and will certainly work on furthering its scope,” he said.

Synopsis of the Book

The book tackles the perennial debate about whether presidentialism is associated with democratic breakdown. The authors integrate institutional and behavioral arguments to discuss how the former’s rigidity in changing executive power would stimulate citizens to adopt relatively violent means to address their grievances, leading to democratic crises. This book finds presidential democracies are more likely to encounter crises than either parliamentary or semi-presidential systems. However, once a crisis occurs, presidentialism does not trigger a higher likelihood of a breakdown. The conventional wisdom is thus only half correct.

"When we contend that the conventional wisdom is only half correct, we mean that presidentialism is indeed harmful to democratic consolidation,” Yeh said. “However, presidentialism is not the critical determinant of authoritarian rehearsal. Multiple factors need to be taken into consideration. Take the recent democratic crisis on Capitol Hill for example. The long history of American democracy, various political institutions supporting democratic practices, and strong bi-partisan support for democratic rules and values all helped the United States endure this crisis. This event actually demonstrated how solid American democracy is. For those who lose their faith in American democracy, our book is a perfect example to show them the following: Even though presidentialism may attract more democratic crises, American democracy is strong and solid enough to sustain those crises, for now and the future, he said."

Authors are Trail Blazers

One reviewer, Christopher H. Achen, of Princeton University, wrote, “In an era of democratic instability, the question of whether presidential systems like the U.S. contribute to domestic political violence and to potential democratic breakdown could not be more timely, yet it is too little asked. This book combines a deep knowledge of the literature with two new ideas about how presidentialism encourages both violent political protest and the onset of regime crises. I learned a great deal from it.”

Coincidental Timing on the Book

Yeh says the timing of the publication is a coincidence. They didn't write the book with the presumption of an impending Capitol Hill crisis.

This book is currently used in UST’s MDSA 5303 Advance Seminar in Diplomacy & Strategic Studies: Democratic Transition and Consolidation. He will use it in other relevant courses as well.

Yao-Yuan YehMore on Yao-Yuan Yeh

Yeh received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from National Taiwan University in 2008 and his doctorate in political science from Texas A&M in 2014.

Yeh joined UST in 2016. His areas of research include comparative politics, international politics, East Asian studies, Chinese studies, Taiwanese studies, political violence, terrorism, public opinion and statistics and quantitative methods. In particular, he investigates political attitudes and behavior in East Asian countries such as Taiwan, China and Japan. He also specializes in studies of the onset of domestic and transnational terrorism across the world.

The book is now available on the Rowman & Littlefield website here.