A Clash of Civilizations or a Clash of Perceptions? Divergent Views

on Democracy between “The West and the rest”


Tracey O’Reilly


The paper will challenge the End of History thesis by asserting that the divergent perceptions on democracy between the West and “the rest” combine with other factors to result in a resistance to democracy, rather than an embracing of it, in this border region.

The paper also offers prescriptions for moving forward, including consideration of a new Western approach to supporting democracy promotion and democratic transitions, hinged on long-term strategies incorporating relationship-building and capacity-building. These approaches, coupled with an adjustment in Western expectations for speedy and smooth democratic transitions in places with no tradition of democracy, could produce goodwill, understanding, and true progress in encouraging democracy. Ultimately, the paper challenges the notion of a Clash of Civilizations, by suggesting that the clash is a clash of perceptions, rather than a structural, lasting gulf between cultures, religions or ethnic groups.  The objective of imposing democracy must be replaced by an approach that not only recognizes the “dignity of diversity”, but accommodates it.


Tracey O’Reilly holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political science from Memorial University of Newfoundland.  Since joining the Alberta Public Service in 2002, Tracey has worked in policy analysis and development in the ministries of Advanced Education, Executive Council, and most recently, the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations, where she is a currently a Senior Policy Advisor.  She has been nominated twice by the Government of Alberta for a national award sponsored by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) for leadership in public policy. Since 2007, Tracey has also been a part-time instructor political science part-time at Grant MacEwan College.

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