Added to that, the information which people may retrieve from the Internet can very well incite rebellion against dictatorship and authoritarian regimes by motivating the citizenry to demand their rights. Due to these and several other considerations, the overriding assumption is that the Internet is a direct and immediate threat to authoritarianism and is a democratizing and liberalizing force. Shanthi Kalahil and Taylor Boas, however, forward an alternative thesis in their book, Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule, as this book report shall illustrate.
Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule is a concise study of one of the more important of the contemporary global political issues: the effect of the Internet on authoritarian rule and whether or not it has the potential to undermine such governments. Despite the relative shortness of the study, especially when contrasted against the complexity and the vastness of its topic of exploration, the precise and concise way with which the authors deal with it, effectively contributes to their successful exploration of the potential of the Internet to undermine authoritarianism. In other words, rather than engage in abstract discussions and embark upon theoretical discourse, the authors immediately outline their intent and do not stray from it. That intent, as explicated by Taylor and Boas, is to explore the actual, rather than assumed or potential, usage of the Internet in eight semi-authoritarian regimes and the political impact that the Internet has had on each one of these regimes. The countries selected for inclusion in this study are the People's Republic of China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the /united Arab Emirates, Singapore, Cuba, Vietnam and Burma. Each of these countries, as Boas and Taylor, point out have authoritarian governments, although the degree of authoritarianism varies from one country to the other. By pointing this out, the authors acknowledge the distinctiveness of each of the countries they are going to discuss and signal their awareness of the fact that they cannot be treated as a collectivity.
The conciseness with which the authors present their study is matched by the clarity with which they present their argument. Their thesis is articulated from the outset. That thesis, contrary to popular assumption, maintains that the Internet is not, necessarily, a force for democratization and, indeed, can even function to solidify semi-authoritarian/authoritarian rule. The assumption that the Internet is a democratizer is not, according to the authors, evidenced by any empirical support and, indeed, facts indicate that the Internet may be exploited for the service of authoritarianism. While this thesis may come as a shock to many readers insofar as it contradicts popular discourse, the fact is that Boas and Taylor support their thesis.
Support for the above-mentioned thesis is partly predicated on disputing the popular assumption that free market economics and democracy are inextricably related, and that the first immediately gives rise to the second. It is necessary to dispute this relationship because, as they deal with the case of China, the authors have to concede to the fact that globalization, partly spearheaded by the Internet, has given rise to