Paul E. Sum
Originally broadcast: July 12, 2009
“Democracy assistance” has become ever more important to U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Its goal is to help
usher in or encourage democratic practices amongst the world. But these attempts raise many philosophical questions
including whether it is possible to “export” democracy at all. Paul E. Sum is a political scientist whose research
explores the effectiveness of such democracy assistance programs in the post-communist world. In late July,
he will travel to Romania for one year to investigate that country’s transition to democracy. With this episode
of WHY?, we will catch up with him before he goes and ask a range of preliminary but related questions: What is
a democracy? What conditions are necessary for a transition to this form of government? What method most effectively
delivers democracy assistance? And, what has the track record of the US attempt to foster democracy been so far?
We hope, when he returns, to revisit these questions and discover what new information he can provide about the
process of democratization in Romania and around the world.
Please share your thoughts on this episode with other listeners:
Paul Sum is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Dakota. His interests were shaped through
his experience during an earlier trip to Romania as a Visiting Scholar and Fellow at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj
(1996-1998). He has worked with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State
(formerly the U.S. Information Agency), the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the U.S. Agency for International
Development, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Democracy International, and the
International Research & Exchanges Board. His work includes monitoring elections and campaigns, assessing pre
and post-election voter surveys, and evaluating the impact of various democracy assistance programs in Albania,
Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Romania among other locations. He remains on staff as a Visiting Professor at Babeş-Bolyai
University in Romania and has taught at Tulane University and Northwestern University. He is particularly interested
in the background and motivations of civil society activists in the post-communist world. He has been widely
published, but work in this specific area have appeared in East European Politics & Societies and the Romanian
Journal of Science and Politics.
Why?'s host Jack Weinstein says, "Paul is one of those people who teaches you new facts about the world every time you
engage him in conversation. His ability to understand the practicalities of democratic behavior has opened
up, to me, an entirely new understanding as to how and why politics operates as it does. We are truly fortunate
to get to talk with him on the eve of a whole new project, and to share with him the power of the unknown
-- the excitement of the unanswered question."
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