"Third Wave"-Democracies in Latin America. The impact of socio-economic development on democratization

Term Paper, 2013

21 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Conceptualization
a. Definition of the relevant terms
b. Theoretical basis: main theories, corresponding hypotheses and
additional concepts
c. Research design

3. Operationalization
a. Independent variables
aa. Existence of market economy
ab. Democracy of the “Third Wave”
ac. Status of transformation: “institutionalized democracy”
ad. Cultural and religious component: Roman-Catholic affected 9 civilization as the dominating tradition within Latin America
and an indicator for democracy and freedom
ae. Confounding variable: Social disparity
af. Explanatory variable: socio-economic development
b. Dependent variable: democratization

4. Case selection

5. Analyses of the country-specific dates
a. Analysis of country 1: Brazil
b. Analysis of country 2: Uruguay
c. Analysis of country 3: Peru
d. Comparison and typologization

6. Conclusion

7. Annotations

8. Literature

1. Introduction

The debate of Seymour Martin Lipset's modernization theory with its involved main claim of a strong correlation between democratization and socio-economic modernization is discussed on a deepened level by the pioneers of transformation studies. Tatu Vanhanen appositely clarified that - at the best case - developing countries are passing through a political modernization process by achieving the final stage of democracy at the same extent as their socio-economic development (Vanhanen 2003). Based on this thought the transformation scientists do widely agree: by all means, there has to be an evident interdependence between the level of socio-economic development and the ability for democracy. But is this causality a necessary or even a sufficient condition? If we want to go further into this question, Latin America might be a fruitful area. Especially in the presently proclaimed “century of globalization and power shift” there is a considerable research interest on developing global areas such as Latin America1. According to the assignment's title my research question is: how meaningful is the impact of socio-economic parameters for the democratization of post-authoritarian countries of the “Third Wave” in Latin America?

For a precise investigation in this much discussed scientific field there has to be a clear conceptualization and structured approach. At the beginning central terms are subject to be defined. These are: socio-economic development, social disparity, transformation, embedded democracy, defect democracy, modernization theory, democracy, democratization, “Third Wave” of democratization and authoritarianism.

As Eberhard Sandschneider remarked in his habilitation dissertation there is a need of interdisciplinary and poly-theoretical approach for research projects in the area of transformation studies (Sandschneider 1995, p. 18). Therefore the research theme targets the question, whether socio-economic development variables have to be involved in a more extensive theory that probably copes better with the complexity of transformation processes as the modernization theory does. Because of having limited resources available I am using the addressed system-theoretical approach of modernization theory as the conceptual basement in the present case which is complemented with cultural and religious parameters. Latter are considered for making the analysis more evident.

The aforesaid concept of “embedded democracy” assists to have a structured insight of democracy's embedding in a socio-economic environment. Furthermore, the conceptual advancement of Wolfgang Merkel et.al. - named “defect democracy” - is helpful for getting more specific typologies (Merkel 2007, p. 28 ff.).

Because of the system-theoretical perspective the sociological area of analysis is a macro-one. The investigation period starts with the institutionalization of the democracies and ends up with the present (limitation: in case of provided data). My chosen research method is the so-called “most similar systems design” (MSSD) which comes with more variables than investigated countries. Hence the approach is more qualitative than quantitative, but surely the below-named numerous indicators are essentials for the survey.

The area of independent variables is divided into five systemic variables and one main explanatory variable. The explanatory variable named “socio-economic development” is expected to explain the potential dependent variable “democratization”.

As one can guess the operationalization both of the independent and the dependent variables will be measured with the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) and its detailed country reports. Additional indicators like GINI Index will be used as well as the reports of Freedom House, Fischer Weltalmanach and the like.

The three countries I chose for the analyses are: Brazil, Uruguay and Peru. More cases would blast the extent of a student's assignment and would not fit snugly into the research method of MSSD.

2. Conceptualization

2a. Definition of the relevant terms2

Of course there are more possible terms that could be defined. But for the work at hand, there are the following terms lending itself to be explained.

Socio-economic development means the development of economic activities at the rate of social processes. In comparison to “mainstream-economy” the social economy is focusing on the collectivity of rational choice. This multiple science field implies the assumption that every actor is cross-linked with each other (Langthaler 2009). Because of the networking character this description might be an appropriate one.

Social disparity clarifies the fact, that societal positions, anybody's standing within a society and resources like property, income, prestige and power are dissimilarly distributed. This distribution is connoted as bad and therefore it is merit driven (Andersen a. Wichard 2003).

Transformation or even system transformation is the generic term for all aspects of a system change including a change of the subsystems. This term is a semantically broader one than transition which only describes the political crossover from autocratic to democratic systems. In contrast, transformation stands for political, societal and economic elements of change, what lends this term to be used in the given scientific work (Sandschneider 1995, p. 38 f.).

To know what democratization explains, we have to define democracy. Democracy badges the method which is “that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people's vote” (Schumpeter, 1942). Dahl is going further and identifies seven must-have criteria as democratic essentials: control over governmental decisions about policy constitutionally vested in elected officials; relatively frequent, fair and free elections; universal adult suffrage; the right to run for public office; freedom of expression; access to alternative sources of information that are not monopolized by either the government or any other single group; freedom of association such as foundation of a political party (Dahl, 1971).

Democratization describes the reduction of (strictly) hierarchical leadership up to a separation of legitimated powers, civil participation and therefore a change up to democratic leadership. It is another word for democratic transformation by taking into account that transformation – in theory – could be also a change vice versa: from democracy to authoritarianism.

The “Third Wave” of democratization is a term that Samuel Huntington postulated in one of his pioneer works, probably the most popular work he wrote ever: “The Clash of Civilizations”. This term describes the third big wave of democratization which had started in 1974 with a military putsch in Portugal and continued to Greece and Spain in the same year. At the beginning of the 1980ies “The Wave” has caught Latin America, in which military regimes fell down or introduced a course of liberalization and democratization. After catching East and South East Asia, the democratization wave captured the post-soviet states in Eastern Europe at its culmination point (Huntington 1991).

Authoritarianism is a system of rule in which the results of political decision-making are not that open and transparent as in democracies, and the principles of decision-making are not determined a priori. They are legitimated by single values or mentalities like patriotism or nationalism and the like, but not by democratic patterns. In such systems the societal and political pluralism is strictly limited by the government3.

2b. Theoretical basis: main theories, corresponding hypotheses and additional concepts

The modernization theory has been developed by Seymour Martin Lipset, based on the thoughts of the system-theorist Talcott Parsons. According to this, the most important conditions for successful democratization are economic development and the overcoming of affliction and poverty. Normally the main variable – the level of economic development – is measured with the GDP/capita. But, taking into account that the criticism on this parameter arose in the past, I will use the probably more suitable BTI Index and its corresponding reports too. The advantage of using the BTI mainly is that there are much more criteria being integrated than socio-economic variable(s), what gives us the possibility to analyse the influence of socio-economic parameters in comparison with others like political participation or societal integration. The normative benchmark of the BTI-analyses is the existence of a constitutional democracy and a (socio-political) market economy. Both research dimensions deal strongly with each other, but there is no development automatism. That leads us to the incipient question, whether one can determine the causality between socio-economic development and democratization as a necessary or even as a sufficient condition: at least it is no necessary condition. If there is a sufficient one, especially related to the “Third Wave”-countries of Latin America, the analyses want to show.

First main hypothesis: the more a country is classified as wealthy the more likely its political system can be identified as a democracy4.

To know how significant the explanatory strength is, we have to answer this question: Which social circumstances are internalized in the socio-economic indicator of BTI? According to the BTI method transcript the Status Index, which is meant to explain the level of democracy and (social) market economy, is divided into 5 criteria of political transformation and 7 criteria of economic transformation. One of the 7 economic criteria is the socio-economic development status with internalized parameters like urbanization, internal migration of people, technical instruments of information and communication, education level, level of participation and societal or voluntary organisation (Bertelsmann Stiftung 2012d).

Causal hypothesis: Samuel Huntington accurately mentioned that poverty is probably the principal obstacle to democratic development. And if the future of democracy depends on the future of economic development the following is essential: Obstacles to economic development are also obstacles to a positive democratic development (Huntington 1991, p. 311).

Second main hypothesis: on the one hand, there are few religious cultures, that have a positive democratic perception and on the other hand, there are others with a sceptic or even hostile attitude towards democracy5.


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"Third Wave"-Democracies in Latin America. The impact of socio-economic development on democratization
University of Hagen  (Institut für Politikwissenschaft)
Modul P2 - Demokratisches Regieren im Vergleich
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third, wave, latin, america
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Benjamin Weiser (Author), 2013, "Third Wave"-Democracies in Latin America. The impact of socio-economic development on democratization, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/273456


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