Comparing Approaches in Democratization Theory


Term Paper, 2001

8 Pages, Grade: A


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I. Introduction:

In this paper I would like to defend the theories of those political scientists who emphasize the importance of socio-economic, socio-structural (including structural- functionalism) and cultural (pre-)conditions (i.e. civic culture - the eagerness to participate) for democracy and democratization and I would like to argue that they are more useful due to several reasons. With those approaches I have selected a wider perpective on the process of democratization. The advantage of those macro-approaches is that it is easier to use them as tools in order to make predictions for future developments. Of course, most of these broad approaches have failed to predict the breakdown of the Soviet Union1, but this does not mean that they will also fail to predict the future outcomes of the current democratization processes in Central and Eastern Europe. Predicting that the Soviet Union would breakdown, would have been a really hard one because this was a unique one of authoritarian regime that had now counter-parts and that had never existed before.

I further prefer these theories because they make a clear distinction between the independent (explaining) and dependent (what is aimed to be explained) variable. It uses socio-economic, socio-structural and cultural factors in order to explain why a democratization got started or why it is or is not functioning. It thoroughly distinguishes the correlate from its cause.2

The other approaches looking at processes (such as elections, establishing new institutions, (re-)establishing the rule of law etc.), ways (economically seen i.e. gradualism or shock therapy; presidentialism or parliamentarism) and types of transition (importance of élite change) and the role of the human being (“chelovecheskiy faktor “, i.e. the importance of the public) use more coincedential factors in order to explain the third wave of democratization and therefore they do not have the capacity to make long-term predictions. These approaches have though made us learn that parliamentary systems are preferable to presidential systems3 and that has been a crucial step. But, of course, these are not iron-law rules and the emergence of “Meciarism“ in Slovakia has shown that there are always exeptions to the rules and that a parliamentary system with a strong prime-minister can also be very dangerous4. Therefore analyzing this category certainly shows its weaknesses.

But I do not think the those two categories of theories exclude each other, they actually have to be seen together and therefore I suggest some kind of model-fitting. Civil society i.e. plays an important role within the culturalist approach5 and within the second category as a way of democratization. If one sees those two categories of theories in the scheme of Karl Deutsch’s three level system:

1st level: International System

2nd level: (Nation-)State

3rd level: Individual

Then the first category of theories (socio-economic factors etc.) would be situated on the first as it considers external factors as well, but mainly on the second level looking at the behavior and development of states, or at the influence of the economy on the state. The second category of theories (processes etc.) on the second and third level as it also considers the importance of élites and élites change or even the influence of the leader’s charisma on the state’s democratization process.

In my point of view they represent theories on different levels. The first category I would count as describing and analyzing macro-developments and the second one looks more at development at the micro-level (i.e. domestic policies, changes in in society, civil society and political culture) even though these two levels can get mixed or can be forced to interact in the wake of globalization (or glocalization).

II. Main Part:

As the framework of this paper is quite limited, I chose to pick out some certain theories and to discuss those. I know that their are a lot more theories and approaches, but I decided to discuss those that seem to be important to me.

Modernization Theory

I would like to outline in the following what I understand by this first category of theories. One of the main theories that has to be seen in this social-economic category is the modernization theory (i.e. represented by Karl Marx and Daniel Bell) including the processes that the modernization theory sees as preconditions for democratization: industrialization, prevalent urban residence, widespread literacy, high per capita income6, secularization (or at least a shift from traditional to secular-rational values7 ) and economic progress. In their comparative study of the United States and the USSR Huntington and Brzezinski i.e. found converging political tendencies in terms of the common impact of industrialization and modernization8. Modernization theory is based on the core concept that industrialization produces pervasive social and cultural consequences, leads to occupational specialization, it rises educational levels, changes gender roles, attitudes towards authority and sexual norms, fertility rates decline, political participation becomes broader and publics are less easily led.9 What makes modernization theory superior to other theories is that it has systematic and to some extent predictable cultural and political consequences10. Modernization theory i.e. predicted a decline of the significance of religion. Nowadays many scientists view this as a failure of modernization theory, but actually in many countries resembling some kind of democratization process i.e. in the Arab world I find that for the state-building process religion has become less important and is being shifted from public life into the private sphere (secularization). Good examples for developments supporting modernization theory are the economic prosperity (attaining the world’s highest rate of economic growth11 ) and following that the political opening and starting of a democratization proccesses in East-Asia.

I argue that on the one hand economic openness and growth can promote democratization as in East-Asia and on the other hand democratization and democracy can promote economic prosperity, “because it [democratization] is informationally efficient in the sense of punishing bad rulers and rewarding good ones.“12 This fact makes this theory become a genetic theory assuming a “two-way flow of democracy, or some kind of circular interaction, between politics on the one hand and economic and social conditions on the other“13. The culturalist approach also includes such a two-way flow of democracy. This is also supported by Huntington14 saying that most wealthy countries are democratic and most democratic countries are wealthy.

Many scholars have recently been emphasizing the significance of the globalization process. The modernization actually points into the same direction. Both emphasize the convergence of values worldwide. Przeworski even says that modernization becomes synonomous with internationalization15. “This strategy [the one of modernization] opens local markets to foreign penetration, abolishes cultural barriers, and seeks to model political institutions on patterns developed elsewhere.“ This perspective might at first sight seem to be quite simplistic, but one has to keep in mind that theories are there to reduce the reality, but this is actually what modernization theory is about and it helps to trace why i.e. Gorbachev chose certain procedures (i.e. glasnost and then perestroika) when the Soviet Union was falling apart. As being focused onto the macro-level the success of measures according to this theory will also occur on this level. The winner will be the overall- economy of a nation-state and on the micro-level there will be losers, such as certain regions, sectors or particular social groups16.

The model of the modernization theory comes quite close to realitiy. It implies that there are many ways to democracy i.e. depending on the various ways of economic reform. Further it implies that the process of democratization is not a steady one staying homogenous over time as social and economic factors change constantly17. Democracy is based on conflict and so are social and economic factors the products of conflict in the society and the economic system.

Rational Choice

Another economic approach in democratization theory is rational choice. This approach assumes that a consequence out of economic development is a shift away from authoritarian rules of the game towards values that are increasingly rational (élites making rational decision based on expected outcomes). Therefore this approach could be located within the first as well as within the second category where élites, the public18 and other “actors“ play an important role.

Turning to culturalist approaches one sees that these approaches go hand in hand with modernization theory as modernization can be defined as the “overwhelming economic and political forces that drive cultural change“19.

Culturalist Approaches

Another part of this theory is the culturalist view (represented by Max Weber, Samuel P. Huntington and Francis Fukuyama). Its supporters “have claimed that cultural values are an enduring and autonomous influence on society.“20 It explains the stagnation of democratic developments with cultural factors. One of its most important representatives Samuel Huntington goes that far as saying that some cultural or even more religious constellations (Islam and Confucianism) are simply not unitable with democratization and democracy as such. Within this culturalist approach legacies and path-dependencies of course play an important role and are expected to have a significant impact on future developments of cultural change. Thinking in these terms Gorbachev can simply be seen as an “above-average product of the nomenclature system“21 acting according to his socialization. The culturalist approach further assumes that postcommunism is in many ways unique. This assumption can become dangerous when the uniqueness of postcommunism is being exaggerated.22 Culturalist approaches as modernization theory emphasize the importance of external factors provoking cultural change and making democratization easier: i.e. influence of the USA (tying credits onto progress of democratization), of the European Union23 only excepting democratic states in its rows, NATO, IMF and so on in order to provoke cultural change.

These macro-theories also consider external factors and that gives them an advantage over the smaller theories. This is so extremely important because “in no other region of the world has the impact of international factors on democratization been as apparent as in Central and Eastern Europe.“24

Only considerung that i.e. external factors are the same in Latin America and Middle and Eastern makes the comparative perspective worth it. Out of my point of view there is still a lot of work to be done in order to bring the democratization theories that have been developed separately for either Latin America, East-Asia, Africa or Middle and Eastern Europe together25, but I think it makes a lot of sense and will bring us a lot further. Into this category one must also add a certain need for beliefs or one might call it psychological attitudes among the citizens.26 If there is i.e. no understanding for the fact that for a democracy at least two political parties are needed, the system will not work even if the socio-economic and socio-structural conditions that are needed for a democratization or democracy, exist. Therefore in the culturalist approach a change in culture is the independent variable and the dependent variable is the begin of a transition in this context towards democracy.

III. Conclusion:

Modernization theory has so far provided a rich framework for analysing post-socialist politics explaining the rise of Gorbachev due to a new middle class and a rising civil society and educational attainment. But conditions are constantly changing and therefore the models explaining those realties should adapt to these circumstances and change with the time. Modernization theory has to be modified because it does not follow a linear path how it was assumed before.

Therefore scholars should create a neo-modernization approach focusing on the nature and legacy of the “modernization“ process carried out by the Soviet regime27 and focuse more detailed on the question not only how a democratization process got started, but also on how can its sustainability be insured.

Even though modernization theory has quite a big capacity of making predictions, it still has to be modified due to the fact that all phases of the modernization process are assumed to have the same consequences. This is not true and so the different stages of modernization have to be seen as more independent ones and i.e. it has to be kept in mind that secularization is simply a consequence of the period of industrialization28.

Today we find the rise of the service sector and the emergence of a knowledge society. These developments have occured due to different causes not directly tied to the industrialization process. Following a two-way flow logic an economic regression can reverse the effects of modernization.29 This would mean a return to traditional values and could explain the process of de-democratization and return to an authoritarian regime in the former Soviet Union.

Resulting out of the globalization process and having a significant impact on democratization theory the question occurs whether the nation-state remains the framework par excellence of democracy. If it does not what will be the subnational and what the supranational dimension of democracy?30. Therefore modernization theory remains strong just needing some kinds of changes witht he time.

Literature:

Bunce, Valerie: Comparative Democratization: Big and Bounded Generalizations, in: Comparative Political Studies 33, 6-7 (August/September 2000)

Bunce, Valerie: Comparing East And South, in: Journal of Democracy, Vol. 6, N3, 1995

Fish, Steven: The End of Meciarism, in: East-European Constitutional Review 8, 1-2 (Winter/Spring 1999)

Fleron Jr, Frederic J. & Ahl, Richard: Does the Public Matter for Democratization in Russia? What we have learned from “Third Wave“ Transitions and Public Opinion Surveys, in: Eckstein, Harry: Can Democracy Take Root in Russia?, Lanham, MD, 1998

Fukuyama, Francis: The Primacy of Culture, ch.26, in: The Global Resurgence Huntington, Samuel P.: Democracy’s Third Wave, ch.1, in: The Global Resurgence Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, Wayne E.: Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values, in: American Sociological Review, 2000, Vol.65 (Feburary)

Roselle, Laura: Model Fitting in Communism Studies, in: Almond, Gabriel A.: A Discipline Divided. Schools and Sects in Political Science, London

Rupnik, Jacques: Eastern Europe: The International Context, in: Journal of Democracy, vol.11, N2, (April) 2000

Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, in: Comparative Politics 2, 3 (April 1970)

Rutland, Peter: Sovietology: Who Got It Right and Who Got It Wrong? And Why?, in: Rethinking the Soviet Collapse by Cox, Michael, 1998

Przeworski, Adam: The Neoliberal Fallacy, Journal of Democracy 3, 3 (July 1992)

Urban, Michael & Fish, Steven: Does Post-Sovietology have a Future?, in: Cox, Michael: Rethinking the Soviet Collapse: Sovietology, the Death of Communism and the New Russia, London, 1998

[...]


1 Rutland, Peter: Sovietology: Who Got It Right and Who Got It Wrong? And Why?, page 32 & also Urban, Michael & Fish, Steven: Does Post-Sovietology have a Future?, page 165

2 Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, page 342

3 Bunce, Valerie: Comparing East And South, page 97

4 Fish, Steven: The End of Meciarism, pages 47-55

5 Fukuyama, Francis: The Primacy of Culture, ch.26, page 320 & 321

6 Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, page 337

7 Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, Wayne E.: Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values, page 49

8 Roselle, Laura: Model Fitting in Communism Studies, page 79

9 Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, Wayne E.: Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values, page 20 & 21

10 see above, page 20

11 see above, page 19

12 Przeworski, Adam: The Neoliberal Fallacy, page 52

13 Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, page 344

14 Huntington, Samuel P.: Democracy’s Third Wave, ch.1, page 21

15 Przeworski, Adam: The Neoliberal Fallacy, page 55

16 Przeworski, Adam: The Neoliberal Fallacy, page 55

17 Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, page 346 4

18 Fleron Jr, Frederic J. & Ahl, Richard: Does the Public Matter for Democratization in Russia? What we have learned from “Third Wave“ Transitions and Public Opinion Surveys, pp.287-327

19 Huntington, Samuel P.: Democracy’s Third Wave, ch.1, page 20

20 Huntington, Samuel P.: Democracy’s Third Wave, ch.1, page 19

21 Rutland, Peter: Sovietology: Who Got It Right and Who Got It Wrong? And Why?, page 33

22 Bunce, Valerie: Comparing East And South, page 87

23 Huntington, Samuel P.: Democracy’s Third Wave, ch.1, page 4

24 Rupnik, Jacques: Eastern Europe: The International Context, page 115

25 Bunce, Valerie: Comparative Democratization: Big and Bounded Generalizations, page 703-734

26 Rustow, Dankwart A.: Transitions to Democracy. Towards a Dynamic Model, page 337 6

27 Urban, Michael & Fish, Steven: Does Post-Sovietology have a Future?, page 178

28 Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, Wayne E.: Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values, page 49

29 Inglehart, Ronald and Baker, Wayne E.: Modernization, Cultural Change, and the Persistence of Traditional Values, page 49

30 Rupnik, Jacques: Eastern Europe: The International Context, page 128 7

8 of 8 pages

Details

Title
Comparing Approaches in Democratization Theory
College
European University at St. Petersburg
Grade
A
Author
Year
2001
Pages
8
Catalog Number
V106832
File size
451 KB
Language
English
Tags
Comparing, Approaches, Democratization, Theory
Quote paper
Gunda Wiegmann (Author), 2001, Comparing Approaches in Democratization Theory, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/106832

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