Theories of Democracy in Comparison: The Russian Case. Output-oriented Legitimacy, Defect Democracy, Political Culture, Path Dependence and Public Opinion

Bachelor Thesis, 2013

82 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

List of Figures

Part 1 Introduction
1.1 State of Affairs
1.2 Hypothesis
1.3 Structure

Part 2 Theory
2.1 Democracy
A western view on the concept of democracy: Robert Dahl’s Polyarchy
2.2 Legitimacy
2.2.1 Glaser: Three-Criteria Theory
2.2.2 Scharpf: Dimensions of Legitimation
2.3 Lippmann: Public Opinion
2.4 Path Dependence
2.5 Berg-Schlosser: Input/Output-Dualism and indicators of Democracy

Part 3 Case Study Russia
3.1 State of Inquiry
3.1.1 Result 1: “The Russian Political System is defect and dysfunctional”
3.1.2 Result 2: “A majority of Russians support President Putin’s presidency”
3.1.3 Result 3: “Russians are in favour of democracy, respect democratic values and hope for further democratization”
3.1.4 Contradiction: Russians are fully aware of the intrinsic systemic dysfunctions and undemocratic inconsistencies, and support President Putin, although they yearn for democracy
3.2 Russian Peculiarities
3.2.1 Presidential legacy
3.2.2 Russian path dependence: The Trauma Path
3.2.3 Dubin: Dimensions of Identity – The Personal-Social Gap

Part 4 Explaining the contradiction
4.1 The Triple-S Pattern (S3P)
4.1.1 Stability
4.1.2 Security
4.1.3 Sovereignty
4.2 Legitimation through S3P
4.3 Lippmann’s tools of Public Opinion shaping in the Russian context
4.4 Huntington’s Development Theory and Institutionalization

Part 5 Results and further Research
5.1 Summary of Results
S3P applied to the Pussy Riot incident
5.2 Reflection and free Association
Is Democracy promotion a form of Paternalism?

Annex I
(I) Bibliography
(II) Index of graphics, charts and image
(III) Statutory Declaration

List of Figures

1: The Axes of Polyarchy (R. A. Dahl 1972, 7)

2: Interactive Model of Democratic System

3: Triade of Progress

4: Aspects of Institutionalization

5: Political Capitalism

6: Illiberal Features of Russian Democracy

7: Index of Indices

8: Security - What is it made of?

Part 1 Introduction

1.1 State of Affairs

Russia is an enigma. In the western hemisphere, respectively the countries of the European Union and USA, it produces a lot of suspicion and resentments. Its vast spatial dimensions, in terms of size; its controversial history and its stubborn focus on sovereignty, when it comes to foreign policy and the international community, are the most prominent sources for difficulties of understanding. In addition, the Russian people like to sustain a hint of mystery themselves, in claiming that no other nationality can understand them. Apart from stereotypes and prejudices about typical Russian people and characteristics, there are a handful of assumptions one encounters that cling to public opinion about Russia’s political landscape:

(1) Political opposition does not exist, civic opposition is marginalised.
(2) The independence of the judiciary system is a façade and de facto does not effectively monitor the executive.
(3) The Soviet imprint on Russian people led to a mentality of subordination, inflexibility and obedience to any kind of authority.
(4) The Russian media are corrupted and controlled by the Kremlin.
(5) Putin only won the election due to massive vote manipulation.

In line with the mentioned assumptions, Western media coverage tends to be polemic and jaundiced. As Russia is perceived as a watchdog of Sovereignty in the international community and in that sense with a tendency to veto humanitarian missions1, criticism is very easily formulated.

This work will treat the Russian political system as a contemporary phenomenon. Let us assume all of those assumptions are held true; why does the Russian population still accept those deficits? The fact that the circumstances can be that unpromising, and not many people try to change something, leaves many spectators speechless. Where does the popular support of society for President Putin come from? Which is the source of stability? Why were the civil opposition movements in 2012/2013 mostly ignored by the majority? What are the reasons for the lack of proneness to protest? Do Russians perceive the political system differently; do they maybe put another focus? Or do they simply fear oppression?

It seems that the value catalogue of the Russian population contains other priorities than meets the eye: Order and stability, common identity and solidarity, self-determination and sovereignty seem to be preferable to freedom and democracy, transparency and compliance, pluralism and power balance. This study presents a critical confrontation with this assumption and offers a contrasting explanation.

The central question, which will be answered, is Why does the Russian population supports Putin’s political system and regime?

As a point of departure, the following study negotiates four theoretical paradigms: democracy, legitimacy, path dependence and public opinion. The question, where the support for President Putin and his policy stems from will be illuminated. Concerning the academic background they originate from political and social science and sociology. Several surveys will be taken into account. With regards to other sources, the body of references will mainly consist of journal entries, completed by handbooks, monographs and a few internet sources. The time scope of the articles lies between 1990 and current times.2

1.2 Hypothesis

The academic debate among political scientists and sociology scholars3 treating Russia as a unique political actor and former superpower come up with three major diagnoses: 1) Russia is not a full-fledged democracy and features several deficiencies. President Putin is part of the problem. 2) Russians would like to have a more democratic system, they yearn for democratization. 3) President Putin enjoys wide-spread support and back-up by the Russian population.

If those three results are valid, a paradox arises. Why do the Russian people support a key figure of the democratic demise, if they are aware of the intrinsic intricacy of the system and actually hope for political progress?

After introducing the key concepts with the geneses of democracy and legitimacy, it is dealt with this question with a novel contribution to the debate:

The author claims that President Putin is widely support by the population because he manages to take concrete political issues to an ideological level: He cross-refers those issues to Security, Stability and Sovereignty, which thereafter is called the Three-S Pattern (S3P). He is overcharging his actions with abstract content and thereby, creates legitimation. In doing so, he diverts the people’s dissatisfaction with the economic and political conditions on the individual level, stressing the achievements in the realm of the three S’ on the national level.

The Russian people‘s receptivity to this strategy is traced back to its origin. To develop the thesis on the basis of S3P, the author refers to Lippmann’s Public Opinion, Scharpf’s Output-oriented legitimation, David’s Path Dependence and Dubin’s identity-split.

The author wants to challenge the wide-spread opinion that the Russian mind-set is prone to authoritarianism per se, and that Russians are undemocratic by culture. Instead, it is argued that the people attribute efficiency to President Putin on the basis of the three S and thus grant legitimacy to his authority.

1.3 Structure

To approach the reasons for support, I will introduce some basic concepts in Part 2. Firstly, the understanding of democracy, referring to Dahl’s work Polyarchy, will be introduced.

Secondly, attempting to understand the Russian attitude towards politics, a key concept is legitimacy. Two notions of legitimacy are to be differentiated. Glaser (2.2.1) looks at the aspects and characteristics of legitimacy in general, combining three understandings from different disciplines into the Three-Criteria-Theory, looking at Legality, Conformity and Acceptance. She looks at the extent political systems institutionally function in a democracy, and whether the sovereign is elected by the public. Scharpf introduced the separation between Input- and Output-oriented legitimacy. He examines the fact that legitimacy is not only based on input in the sense of a constitution, consolidated institutions, a common mind-set and identity. Legitimation can be created and Legitimacy evaluated on the basis of efficiency.

Thirdly, as media coverage is a key issue in the development of my thesis, Walter Lippmann’s scheme of Public Opinion will be presented as a toolbox to approach Public Relations as a necessity to influence the public.

The fourth concept which has to be introduced in Part 2 as 2.4, is the concept of Path Dependence; simplified, a version of the idiom “history matters”, to be able to understand the Russian framework entirely, where memories and traumata play a considerable role.

In 2.5, Chapter 3.1, three results are distilled from articles of the academic realm of political and social sciences, which treat Russia as their object of inquiry. On the bases of analyses and surveys, the following results are obtained:

Result 1: “The Russian Political System is defect and dysfunctional”

Result 2: “A majority of Russians support President Putin’s presidency”

The opinion polls related to Result 3 in the following will prove that Russians are indeed unsatisfied with the status quo and wish for systemic change.

Result 3: “Russians are in favour of democracy, respect democratic values and hope for further democratization”.

Claiming that those results possess an intrinsic paradox; this paradox will be analysed and interpreted in Part 4: If the people envision and hope for a more democratic Russia, why do they support Putin, who is striving to conserve the current system?

Special features of the Russian nation, which are essential for the comprehension of the system, are the core of the next Chapter 3.2. To be able to apply Russian history through Path dependence to the query, the next two chapters will focus on the presidential chronicle, the 3.2.1 Presidential Legacy, so to speak, and the development of Russian path dependence as a kind of 3.2.2 Trauma Path.

Part 4 contains the major contribution to the current discussion of this work. The S3P will be unfolded, using examples from political culture, identity formation, history and policy-making to underline the importance of the three abstract constructs in Russian daily life. The staging of the S3P via Legitimacy and media is put into perspective via 4.2 Scharpf’s Output-Legitimacy and 4.3 Lippmann’s Public Opinion.

In Part 5 the results are summarised and future implications are formulated. Possible prospects for further research and deepening are outlined.

Part 2 Theory

2.1 Democracy

Democracy is a systematic concept, which sees the population of a country as the sole sovereign of power. The participation of the electorate can be assured directly through plebiscitary votes as in today’s Switzerland or through elected representatives in parliaments as in representative democracies. The power can be mainly confided to the parliament as in parliamentary democracies like in Germany or to the president as in presidential democracies as in the USA. The system should be protected from abuse of power through a system of Checks and Balances via a bicameral system and/or the separation of powers between judiciary, executive and legislative system, which is specified in a constitution-like document. Theoretically this will ensure abidance to the rule of law and the creation of a civil society. A constitution regulates the political system and the cooperation of organs and individuals. Freedom of speech, identity and assembly – as manifested constitutionally – complete the normative catalogue in a functioning liberal democracy. Huntington refers to Schumpeter as the forefather of the theoretical tangibility and makes the shift of dimensions very concrete:

Schumpeter advanced what he labelled ‘another theory of democracy’. The ‘democratic method’, he said, ‘is that in institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote” (Huntington 1993, 6)

But are all democracies really as pure as they claim to be? Which flaws can be found and how can understanding of democracy vary? Which steps have to be taken to arrive to a Democratic system? A brief look at the development of democracy in the 20th century shows the complexity of the process of democratisation.

Clearly, the USA emerged as the winner from the ideological battles and the systemic duel of the Cold War. The bipolarity of the democratic USA and the communist Soviet Union culminated in that breakdown and capitalist democracy was perceived as the better option. But this was only the final combat. Already before that, democratization processes all over the world could be observed. Beginning in Latin America, spilling over to Africa, the third wave (Cf. Huntington 1993) ended with the democratic shift in the post-Soviet realm.

A western view on the concept of democracy: Robert Dahl’s Polyarchy


Robert Dahl is the founder of the new school of complex democratic theory. The complexity of his approach differs from his academic predecessors in the sense that he did not limit his viewpoint to philosophical systematizations, but analysed contemporary facts and circumstances, utilizing statistical investigation. Looking at existing types of democracies, he attempted to come to realistic conclusions instead of developing Weberian ideal types.


To arrive at this empirical dimension, he introduces the concept of ‘Polyarchy in contrast to an ideal model of democracy: ‘Polyarchy’ is a conceptually and ideologically downgraded version of democracy. It only considers political opposition and suffrage. The fact that a democracy is an ideal type, wherein the population disposes of all political powers, which in real world systems does not exist, makes this specification necessary. (Dahl 1956, 75 In: Krouse 1982, 443)

He coins the term ‘Polyarchy’ for a country, which is consolidated on the axes of contestation and inclusiveness:

“Polyarchies … may be thought as relatively (but incompletely) democratized regimes, or to put it in another way, polyarchies are regimes that have been substantially popularized and liberalized, that is, highly inclusive and extensively open to public contestation.“ (R. A. Dahl 1972, 8)

Central to his argument is the existence of legitimacy, a term he employs, but does not specify (Cf. Chapter 2.2). The only specification he offers is the fact that a government, to ensure legitimacy, has to provide responsiveness. To be responsive, the population of a given state, in his understanding, needs “unimpaired possibilities” in a threefold manner:

1) They have to be able to develop opinions and express preferences
2) To make their opinions count and listened to from fellow citizens and the government through individual and collective action
3) The content or origin of the suggestion or bid cannot be source for discrimination, so that it is treated equally in the conduct of the government. (Cf. R. A. Dahl 1972, 2)

To establish these premises, a set of civic and public freedoms is vital, namely: freedom of assembly, freedom of opinion, freedom of information (freedom of media), privacy rights and the right to vote. Provided that all liberties are ensured, the development to a full-fledged Polyarchy can be achieved.

The dimensions he coins as corresponding variable to the preconditions are liberalization (public contestation) on the one hand and participation (inclusiveness) on the other. Reducing the variables to two, he conceptually separates his term ‘Polyarchy’ from the common notion of democracy. Democracy and democratisation usually include other aspects which are essential, so that the paradigms needed for the achievement of the label ‘democracy’ cannot be reduced to two. He introduces the term Polyarchy only to represent the greatest possible achievement of the two qualities he focuses on. (R. A. Dahl 1972, 8)

Liberalization (Political Contestation)

As the goal of a liberal democracy is the achievement of full representation of all citizens of that state, diverging interests and opinions have to be reflected by the representative body. Therefore Dahl defines Liberalization in the sense of political contestation as a key aspect of a polyarchal state structure. This implies equal rights for all of those representations, mostly in the shape of a party, to seize power through democratic means, namely elections. Confronted with the possibility to be replaced, a government is more likely to consider the voter’s interest and well-being. This pressure is only created when the opposition is active and a serious competitor to the incumbent government. In that way they constantly have to defend their stances and hold their ground. To fully allow this pressure to build up, it is the crucial that the opinion of the population really matters in determining the leadership. Therefore, the distribution of elective powers among the citizens plays an important role, thereby setting up the second axis.

In sum, it is important to note that Dahl not only qualifies political opposition as an indicator for the process of liberalization. If the authority allows civil opposition to rise and protest for their rights, he also refers to it as a legitimate opposition. And this is even the case if it usually undermines any political opposition movements. Despite the rejection of an evolution of a political counterpart, the government faces opposition and thus needs to stand his ground.

Inclusiveness (Participation)

Dahl introduces the second variable, which corresponds to the entirety of suffrage, as inclusiveness or participation. This determines the degree to which the goal that the electorate equals 100% of the population (able-to-vote) is reached. This in return is determined by law. But as laws are written by forces in power (Cf. Chapter 2.2.1 Glaser: Three-Criteria Theory - Legality) discrimination of minorities can take place. This discrimination in terms of suffrage directly reflects the extent of democratic procedures. If nobody represents a certain social group or milieu, their interests will not be considered when it comes to the implication of measures for their sake.


According to Dahl, no state can satisfy the three necessities which grant responsiveness consideration, significance & equality of its population, without respecting the axes of liberalization and inclusiveness. Those who are not fully achieving one of the above are to be categorized differently. All states can be specified according to those axes. The space generated by those axes can then be categorized into four pure types: Closed hegemony, inclusive hegemony, Competitive oligarchies and Polyarchies; to name the extreme types. (Figure 1: The Axes of Polyarchy (R. A. Dahl 1972, 7). This grid accommodates multiple models, all of which are at a different distance from pure Polyarchy.

1: The Axes of Polyarchy (R. A. Dahl 1972, 7)

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Exemplifying this schematic grid, he for instance classifies Switzerland before 1990 as an Oligarchy. Given the fact that up to this point, women did not have the right to vote, full inclusiveness had not been achieved. Still, considering the plebiscitary mechanism and the competitive political set-up of the Swiss system, Switzerland is highly liberalized. In contrast to that, a state whose leadership prevents other political forces to compete equally, although the whole population has influence on political procedures in the form of elections, is categorized as an inclusive hegemony.

2.2 Legitimacy

Human beings need coordinated organization. As soon as any group larger than 30 people has to be managed, it is extremely difficult to make decisions without introducing hierarchy of some sorts. The same is true for states. The smallest type of hierarchy comprises only two levels; the authority and the obedient. Obedience in return can also be achieved through two means, either legitimacy or force. Legitimate authority evokes voluntary obedience, whereas force evokes frightened obedience. In many cases, it is in fact a mixture of the two. Clearly, as voluntary obedience by itself promises a greater stability, even authoritarian regimes strive for legitimation. Legitimation hereby is defined as “a process which conveys legitimacy” (Glaser 2012, 26). As Brooker underlines illustratively with help of White, that even autocratic rulers lay great importance on the issue of legitimation: “‘It is generally agreed that all regimes, from naked tyrannies to pluralistic democracies, seek to legitimate themselves’” (White 1986, 463 In: Brooker 2000, 101). In the context of any type of regime, the concept of legitimacy and thus, even more important, the ways to obtain it through legitimation, are crucial.

Whenever obedience is created through a consensus between the rulers and the ruled, the authority must establish legitimacy. The subsequent question is which criteria can be found to achieve legitimation, to legitimize any authority respectively. As a framework for the case study on Russia, two theoretical concepts are introduced: The Three-Criteria Theory by Karin Glaser (2012) and Scharpf’s two-dimensional approach to Legitimacy, which Glaser also touches on (1999).

2.2.1 Glaser: Three-Criteria Theory

Karin Glaser criticizes that the indicator varies, depending on the angle of analysis – be it sociologically, politically or philosophically. She therefore suggests bringing together the three criteria Legality, Conformity and Acceptance to avoid intra-disciplinary short-sightedness .


Legality means “according to the law”. It refers to the ruling power, mostly the government, being put into place on behalf of the judicial basis of a state. Decision-making processes, framing their tasks and self-organisation are determined by a form of convention. Taking a liberal democracy as the Weberian idealtypus, the focus of this consensus is stated. The function of the constitution is to install order in a political system, to define the rules for the ruling. This holds true for both (1) the political activity, in terms of executing governmental functions and tasks, and (2) the legal seizure of power and authority. Therefore, an authority is legal, when it was put into place by a legally defined mechanism (most commonly elections) and is executing its duties according to the rules of the constituting document or constitution.

Glaser points at the intrinsic paradox that even a constitution can be altered through democratic means and therefore can be subject to arbitrariness. Therefore she refrains from accepting that legality is the only constant of legitimacy referring to a number of theorists who equate the two terms. Legal positivism is particularly prone to this equation; “legitimacy here only refers to the positive statutes of law, and thus requires legality”. (Glaser 2012, 16) [i]

The reduction of legitimacy to the conceptual component of legality also seems inadequate considering the systems, in which the fragments are contradictory in the sense that a ruling power can be legally legitimate without encompassing the other two criteria. Consequently, such a system cannot be called legitimate, although its legitimacy de jure is uncontested. This concept of legitimacy, though, is only defined from a factual viewpoint, and is not applicable to the moral and normative level of legitimacy. Admittedly, most legal bases of nation states include a moral code to arrive at legal conclusions, but it is not a valid equation to expect all legal codes to be normative. Thus, a “certificate” of subjective normativity, “issued” by the ruled, any states’ population respectively, is necessary. Conversely, advocates of legality as the key to legitimacy emphasize the existence of a legal framework as a prerequisite to the formulation of government-binding documents. Generally, this is true. In other words: Provided that one can rule out the natural lack of legitimacy within any legal document, which is constitutional in nature, the assumption is valid. But as this incidence is to be considered highly rare, Glaser concludes that legality can only be one criterion of legitimacy. (Glaser 2012, 18)

Ethical Conformity

As a second criterion, Glaser adds accordance and conformity as means of the ethical, normative and moral standards of the governed people. The principle of rightful representation has to be pursued, in the sense that not only the interest of the powerful, ruling elite has to be respected, but the entire society. Essentially, governmental actions should serve the purpose of improving the situation and the lives of the many, not the few. When it comes to further clarification, Glaser gets vague. She refers to Beetham (1991), who states that “a legitimizing basis for the enactment of power can only be found there where a minimum of unity on those questions [of legitimate political leadership] exists between political leadership and population […]”[ii] (Glaser 2012, 18). Therefore it may happen that an objectively illegal authority – usurpers or coup leaders for instance – can hold, pursue and preserve power legitimately. This, of course, requires that their ground of legitimation – divine rights, for instance – is acknowledged by the majority of the citizens.

The situation in which a population does not fully approve of an authorities’ claim to legitimacy or their actions, is not hard to find, since it is easy to upset a population. However, it seems necessary to emphasize at this point that the absence of ethical conformity, and thus absence of legitimacy as a whole, does not consequently result in protest. The mere absence of legitimacy only limits the flexibility of the ruling elite in the sense that they exceed their mandate and enact their will in defiance of the will of the potential sovereign. The voluntary obedience of the ruled gets diminished by the discrepancy of ethical guidelines.

Access to power and executive force through oppression and force can balance social unrest and rejection of legitimacy. In that case one cannot speak of pure legitimacy anymore; rather, obedience is imposed by oppression.

Popular Acceptance

As a third component of legitimacy Glaser suggests popular acceptance, with reference to a general, passive agreement to the composition and make-up of the government and its execution of state tasks. In other words, the absence of dissent and open exclamations of dissatisfaction are a vital component to confirm the existence of legitimacy. This also foremost includes the compliance to laws and legal rules. The ones who comply with the rules defined by a given authority most definitely accept the legitimacy of these rulers. Furthermore, the willingness to participate in political processes e.g. elections is a strong indicator for acceptance.

Including this factor of acceptance in the concept of legitimacy is also essential due to the factor of quick responsiveness: Whereas legality and conformity are long-term decisions, acceptance is short-term in the sense that some decisions, which are perceived illegitimate, can cause an immediate backlash of resistance. Consequently, the political elite is forced to consider changing priorities and postures within society.4

Criticising the short-sightedness of law scholars in determining legitimacy through the means of legal positivism and legality, Glaser objects to the sociological simplification of legitimacy to acceptance.

In sum, the components of Acceptance are the following:

(1) Comply to laws
(2) Participate in political processes
(3) Refrain from protests


In conclusion, for a government or any type of authority to be legitimate three criteria have to be met:

(1) Legality: The ruling entity has to act and assemble on the basis of a legal construct like a constitution, which lays out rights and obligations of the party claiming legitimacy.
(2) Ethical Conformity: The authority has to abide to the set of normative rules and principles, which are common sense among the ruled. There has to be a minimum of shared values, a mutual ground, which creates the support for the authority.
(3) Popular Acceptance: The lack of protest, peaceful acceptance and passive connivance of decrees issued by the authority and in other words, subordination to supremacy determines a great share of legitimacy as well.

It has to be emphasized that no authority enjoys full legitimacy without obtaining all three criteria. This claim is hard to prove, given the fact that legitimacy is mainly a theoretical term, but it is clear that whenever an authority loses legitimacy, it has to compensate the loss of authority on one side by increased efforts on the order in order to preserve the level of legitimacy. A loss of (3) Acceptance, for instance, can be balanced in two ways. Firstly, emphasizing a moral congruency between rulers and ruled through ideology or other means of identification can neutralize the loss of acceptance. An increase of (2) Conformity normalizes the loss of (3) Acceptance.

Secondly, another means of legitimation is the composition of a (new) legal document, which manifests the limits, prospects and the order under which the authority wants to govern. Including people’s interests and norms can be a strong signal for the authority’s readiness for change. An increase of (1) Legality levels the loss of (3) Acceptance.

Obviously, these means can only make an impact if the authority still seeks legitimacy at the moment of the uprising. As legitimacy is the peaceful tool for obedience, it is the most preferable option to hold on to power. But in some instances, the prospect of preserving power through legitimation is very low. Therefore, many authorities make use of force to exempt themselves from the pressure of the population and shift from legitimacy as necessity for voluntary obedience to force as a tool for subjected obedience. Especially interesting are the cases where the numeric majority of a country stands behind the political leader and grant him legitimacy, but a great amount of people is not in favour of the political conditions anymore. Recent cases from 2013 are Bulgaria, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Brazil.

2.2.2 Scharpf: Dimensions of Legitimation

In the development of his theory of dimensions, Scharpf also touches upon the criteria, which Glaser had later systematised. Glaser’s 2nd criterion, for instance, the normative prerequisite for legitimacy corresponds to Scharpf’s “collective identity”. The Input-perspective determines legitimacy to be dependent on a ‘pre-existent’ collective identity. (Scharpf 1999, 20) According to Scharpf, no authority achieves legitimacy, if it does not draw on common grounds. Only in that way the majority rule loses its intimidating character and individuals start may build up the trust to believe in the representatives having the conscience of considering the Greater Good.

Scharpf also suggests another specification. While Glaser focussed on the necessary components to qualify a given authority as legitimate, Scharpf discovers that perspectives on legitimacy vary between input-oriented legitimation as in rule through the people and output-oriented legitimation as in rule for the people (Ibd. p.16). Due to the fact that he examines the arguments, which are adduced to legitimize a system, an authority or a state, the term ‘legitimacy’ would not be precise, which explains why he refers to the process of achieving legitimacy as ‘legitimation’.

Input-oriented legitimation

Scharpf develops his account for legitimacy, as far as the input-side is concerned, along the lines of participation and consensus, which he declares as the main formula of input-driven legitimation. The main argument of input legitimation is the representation of the will of the people. Elections as the tool for participation satisfy the need for having a say. An intrinsic duty to obey (‘ Gehorsamspflicht’ in German ) is evoked by the fact that the result was subject to the individual’s decision. The flaw of this arrangement is the majority rule. In a society, where consensus cannot be found by compromise and assembly anymore, the majority principle takes effect. This influences the power gap in the sense that a majority gets to decide over a minority. He expresses concern, because:

“The persuasiveness of the participation formula vanishes by the same amount to which the distance between the affected persons and their representatives increases; and the consensus-formula fails, when solutions for the sake of all are impossible and thereby majority decisions are necessary.” [iii] (Scharpf 1999, 17)

This inequality can only be levelled by trust of the individual in every other citizen of the electorate through the aforementioned collective identity. It has to be the objective of every single one to improve the situation of society instead of only privileging one’s own social cluster. Glaser concludes:

If there is no collective identity, the respective political order does not possess the necessary potential for input-legitimacy. [iv] 5 (Glaser 2012, 34)

Output-oriented Legitimation

The Output-oriented legitimation in contrast focuses not on the modalities of political decision-making processes or the assembly of decision-making bodies, but only on the quality and efficiency of decisions. Efficiency in that context means positive influence on the well-being and quality of life of the population.

At this point, legitimacy is derived from solving problems that cannot be tackled by market forces, individuals or civil society. A separate, autonomous entity (e.g. interim government, technocrats, military) needs to get in charge of the solution. Scharpf points out, that whereas the prerequisites for input-oriented legitimation with identity and integrity are pretty high; the required principles for output-legitimation are set a lot lower. This can be explained by the fact that only a consistent set of basic common interests between ruled and rulers is necessary for output-legitimation. This low benchmark allows heterogeneity and coexistence. (Scharpf 1999, 20) One instance for example could be the mediating force of a “common enemy”. Whenever a challenge involves different social forces, they will settle and ignore possible differences for the sake of finding a strategy to circumvent the issue in question in case the political system allows them to.

An important distinguishing feature is the fact that a system, relying on output-oriented legitimation, exists under a greater public pressure to act; the incitement for achievement is stricter. Since its legitimation only derives from the results, it cannot rely on its founding ‘myth’ and cannot remain passive. To prove itself worthy of the trust, which was granted at its establishment, the government has to become active.

For the theoretical debate it is worthwhile to consider that the duty in an input-legitimised system technically stops after nomination. When the electorate confers authority to a certain group; that group is only bound to deliver progress and success by its conscience.

2.3 Lippmann: Public Opinion

Walter Lippmann was one of the most influential contributors to the shaping of Public Opinion in the USA before WW II. He coined the term Cold war and is partially responsible for the massive mobilization of manpower in its waking, due to the successful application of his Public Opinion theory. As an advisor to President Wilson, he suggested the establishment of a ‘propaganda bureau’, in the form of the Committee on Public information. (Cf. Ötsch 2009, 37) As a theoretical thinker and philosopher of the 20th century, he was one of the most important figures of the scientific realm of Public opinion, propaganda, advertisement and media. His most acclaimed work is his 1922 oeuvre Public Opinion (Lippmann 1922). Main components of his work are a controversial take on how masses of individuals are summed up, form a society and how the functioning of the human being in his view contradicts the democratic abstractum. His observations and strategic recommendations will be used to explain the means S3 and how it is created.

A key aspect of his analysis of human behaviour is the fact that most often, people base their opinions on what they expect to be true, rather than what they know is true. In this way an automatic simplification takes place due to which a situation or state of affairs is easier to grasp.

“We shall assume that what each man does is based not on direct and certain knowledge, but on pictures made by himself or given to him. […] The way in which a world is imagined determines at any particular moment what men will do” (Lippmann 1922, 19)

To adjust Lippmann’s approach and make his logic applicable to the present argument, the author adopts Walter Ötsch’s systematization of Lippmann’s paradigm in his book “MARKET Myth”[sic]6 (Ötsch 2009, 38). Illustrating Lippmann’s reflections on Public Opinion, he distillates the following strings of thoughts.

a. Mental images: There is a clear separation of “inner” and “outer world”. Humans live by the codes, which are based in the inner world. Their perception is determined by those images “in the heads”. Stereotypes and clichés form part of this inner world and are not easy to be altered, since they develop their persuasive power without their carrier noticing.7


1 Serbia and Syria are examples for Sovereignty as a principal value in Russia’s foreign policy. (Voswinkel 2013)

2 Quotes from German sources are all translated by the author. The quotes are not again separately labelled, but the roman index numbers indicate the place where in the endnotes the original paragraphs are found. (Cf. XI)

3 (Cf. Shiller u. a. 1992; Thomas 2012; Pallin 2007; Trenin 2006; Mommsen 2010; Voswinkel 2013; Gudkov 2008; Gudkov 2011; Mishler und Rose 1997; Gusseletow 2011; Siegert 2013; Knobloch 2002; Nicoll 2008)

4 A noteworthy example would be the German nuclear exit in 2011 by the Conservative Party, which followed a striking public outcry after the Fukushima catastrophe. One favourable way to analyse this would be labelling it as an attempt by the Conservatives party to legitimize themselves, although many critics attest opportunism. They cannot be singled out as mutually exclusive in this case.

Another example, quite opposite in results, is the public response to the plans for a mall in Gezi Park in Istanbul. It resulted in country-wide public protests, although the first two indicators of legitimacy were fulfilled, considering the extensive electoral support for PM Erdoğan.

5 It is remarkable that even Glaser, (at least) at this point, does not clearly conceptually distinguish between legitimacy and legitimation.

6 Mythos MARKT (Capital letters as in the original)

7 Confer to the German debate within the science of history and cultural studies on enemy images (‘ Feindbilder’ in German): e.g. Satjukow und Gries 2004; Wette 2002; Weiter 2012; Klemm und Hörner 1993

[i] „Legitimität bezieht sich hier ausschließlich auf die positive Satzung des Rechts, sie wird daher durch Legalität bedingt“

[ii] „Folglich könne eine legitimierende Basis für die Ausübung von Macht nur dort gefunden werden, wo ein Minimum an Einigkeit über diese Fragen zwischen der politischen Führung und der Bevölkerung sowie innerhalb der Bevölkerung bestehe.“

[iii] „Die Überzeugungskraft der Partizipations-Formel schwindet jedoch in dem Maße, wie sich die Distanz zwischen den betroffenen Personen und ihren Vertretern vergrößert; und die Konsens-Formel versagt, wenn Lösungen zum Nutzen aller nicht möglich sind und demzufolge Mehrheitsentscheidungen getroffen werden müssen.“

[iv] „Ist eine kollektive Identität nicht vorhanden, so besitze die jeweilige politische Ordnung kein Inputlegitimitätspotenzial.“

Excerpt out of 82 pages


Theories of Democracy in Comparison: The Russian Case. Output-oriented Legitimacy, Defect Democracy, Political Culture, Path Dependence and Public Opinion
Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg  (Institute for Political Sciences)
Theories of Democracy
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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1457 KB
Russia, Putin, Defect Democracy, Legitimacy, Public Opinion, Path Dependence, Polyarchy, Russian Soul, Sovereignty, Stability, Security, Enigma, Soviet Culture, Political Culture
Quote paper
Jonas Wolterstorff (Author), 2013, Theories of Democracy in Comparison: The Russian Case. Output-oriented Legitimacy, Defect Democracy, Political Culture, Path Dependence and Public Opinion, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 9/8/2015

    This academic article captivates the reader firstly by its intriguing scientific puzzle, secondly by having a very clear and easy to follow structure that promotes its readability and finally and most importantly by its result. This article is a valuable contribution to the scientific debate about the nature of Russian society and the explanatory power of specific theories of democracy.

    After stating his research question, describing the puzzle to be solved and the prevailing assumptions to be questioned, the author proceeds by referring to four theoretical assumptions which are firstly outlined and secondly cross-referenced to the case at hand. At this point the author succeeds to comprehensibly outline the main premises of five theories: Robert Dahl’s Polyarchy to discuss democracy as such; Glaser’s Three-Criteria Theory and Scharpf’s Dimensions of Legitimation to analyse Legitimacy; Lippmann’s Public Opinion to explain the manufacture of consent; Path dependence to show that “history matters”; and finally Berg-Schlosser’s Input/Output-Dualism along with chosen indicators of Democracy to show that existing democracies vary greatly.

    The third chapter presents the reader with a detailed discussion of the chosen case with a focus on three results, taken from antecedent research. These results function as a way to structure the research question and are the core assumptions to be tested in posterior chapters: The Russian system is not a democracy; Russians strive for democracy; Russians support president Putin. At this point the author already provides an insightful connection between his theoretical discussion and the findings of preceding empirical research, conducted in Russia. It should be laudatory mentioned that the author doesn’t fail to criticize the methods employed by field researchers who studied the Russian society. Such criticism is for example the fact that conceptual differences are often an obstacle that reduces the validity of scientific findings. The Triple-S Pattern employed by the author to explain the reality of Russian politics, not only proves to be a successful counter-narrative to prevailing scientific dogma, but also a prolific tool for theoretical democracy-analysis.
    Finally the author proceeds by evaluating these assumptions with reference to empirical data, he succeeds to present the reader with an interpretation that is new to the scientific community. This article is therefore a valuable contribution, not only to the discussion of theories of democracy, but also towards the explanation of the enigma of Russian society. It succeeds in transgressing the prevailing dogma of condemning the Russian society as inherently authoritarian by nature, by presenting a fascinatingly different explanation.

    It should be critically mentioned, however that this article lacks an explicit account for regional differences in the mind-set of the Russian populace. Not enough emphasis is put on the fact that it can be legitimately questioned whether “the Russians” as a unifiable category even exist. This criticism is especially important with regard to the validity-assessment of certain opinion polls measuring people’s strife for democracy in Russia. Also this article doesn’t put enough emphasis on a pragmatist approach pursued by some segments of the Russian populace with regard to uprisings, social movements and protest, as the demonstrations in the year 2004 have shown. This criticism, however can be defused by the fact that the main focus of this article concerns the question of democracy theories and the quest to find an explanation for the “Russian paradox”. With regard to his stated aim the author succeeds without exception.

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