what makes a democracy?

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1 foundations of comparative politics professor timothy c. lim

2 some questions to ponder who or what makes democracy? does democracy have any cultural, institutional or structural preconditions or is democracy possible anywhere? more specifically, can countries such as china democratize? what makes the arab middle east so resistant to democratization? [we ll return to a discussion of these questions later]

3 let s begin with a basic observation 3

4 the world is becoming more democratic 4

5 democracies autocracies anocracies more democracy this graph shows the number of states with each of three general authority patterns: democracy, autocracy, and anocracy (an anocracy is defined as a regime type that has characteristics of both democratic and authoritarian rule). source: global conflict trends 5

6 another perspective in 1900, according to one source,* zero (0.0) percent of the world s population lived in democracies; by 1950, 31 percent of the world s population was democratic by 2006, 63 percent of the world s people lived in democracies (based on estimates by freedom house) source: r.j. rummel, democratic peace clock 6

7 why is democracy spreading? the global spread of democracy raises another important question is the expansion of democracy inevitable? will it necessarily reach all countries in time? before going much further, we need to address an even more basic question what is democracy? 7

8 defining democracy the definition of democracy is subject to great debate, but any substantive discussion of democracy must begin with a basic definition the dictionary definition, unfortunately, is probably not the best source here s another one 8

9 defining democracy: one definition I would say democracy exists where you have a multiparty system with political parties competing with one another, free and non-corrupt voting procedures to elect political leaders, and an effective legal framework of civil liberties or human rights that underlie the mechanisms of voting processes ~ anthony giddens 9

10 defining democracy: one definition what makes a democracy? giddens definition includes three core characteristics of democracy: a competitive multiparty system free and non-corrupt elections an effective legal framework of civil liberties or human rights

11 defining democracy: one definition what makes a democracy? to this list, we might add one more core element a competitive multiparty system free and non-corrupt elections an effective legal framework of civil liberties or human rights near universal suffrage

12 defining democracy: a problem? to many people, formal democracy is not democracy at all: it may be a democracy in name, but not in reality consider, for example, the following position 12

13 many people believe that a democracy corrupted by money or power is no democracy at all to such critics, democracy goes well beyond the ballot box to issues of social and economic equality such that all citizens have an equal effective input into making political decisions is this a valid point?

14 14

15 defining democracy: the continuing debate to repeat: for researchers interested in explaining the transition from a non-democratic to democratic political system, it is absolutely critical that they be able to distinguish between a nondemocracy and democracy in other words, researchers studying democratic transition must be able to operationalize the concept of democracy what does it mean to operationalize a concept? 15

16 defining democracy: the continuing debate operationalization is the process of defining a concept so that it can be measured or otherwise identified as a distinct phenomenon key point. operationalization is essential in scientific analysis, for if it is not possible to measure (or quantify) a phenomenon, it is essentially impossible to study it in a meaningful way operationalization, therefore, is typically based on the most clear-cut and often minimal criteria 16

17 the case for a formal definition for critics, the question remains does a formal definition of democracy have any meaning beyond its operational precision? 17

18 explaining democracy people lining up to vote in sierra leone

19 to begin this discussion, let s consider (again!) some very basic questions

20 some questions to consider in general, who (or which groups) in society opposes democracy? why do certain groups oppose democracy--what do they lose? in general, who (or which groups) in society favor democracy? why do these groups welcome democracy--what do they gain? 20

21 who opposes democracy? for the dominant groups in (a non-democratic) society, democracy generally represents a concrete threat to their own interests, since, by its very nature, democracy gives power to the oppressed or subordinate classes, who constitute the large majority of any society s population we expect, therefore, the rich to generally oppose democracy; we would also expect political leaders and their supporters to stand in opposition to democracy change 21

22 who opposes democracy? in addition to privileged individuals or groups, however, there is also another major opponent to democratic change: states a good example of this occurred in China: in 1989, the Chinese state brutally repressed in a pro-democracy movement in Tianamen Square 22

23 who opposes democracy? it is important to understand, too, that state power is not limited to a state s oppression of its own people: despite its rhetoric to the contrary, for example, the u.s. government has frequently used its power to subvert democracy throughout the world this point is made clear in the following excerpt from the documentary, war on democracy 23

24

25 who favors democracy? simple answer: any group or segment of society that would benefit from having a greater voice in the political process historically, this has included the middle class, the working class, the masses in general, the petty bourgeoisie (e.g., small merchants, craftsmen, and other self-employed groups), and the intellectual class (especially university students) in sum, any transition to democracy involves a serious social tension between those who want democracy and those who oppose it 25

26 given the undeniable tension between the forces that favor democracy and those that are opposed, most analysts agree on one basic point

27 democracy is above all a matter of power beyond this basic point, however, there is less agreement with this in mind, we will begin our theoretical examination of democracy with a focus on the structural perspective

28 democracy and power: structural view to structuralists, transitions to democracy are shaped and even determined by broad structural changes that reorder the balance of power among different classes and class coalitions in society for democracy to emerge, subordinate classes must have sufficient power to challenge the dominant classes, but this raises an important question how do subordinate classes get power? 28

29 democracy and power: structural view basic answer the power of subordinate classes is a product of capitalist development in this view, capitalism is a unremitting process that necessarily reshapes societies, destroying the old and implanting new institutions, practices, and relationships of power capitalism changes everyone and everything in a society in profound ways: it is a structural force par excellence 29

30 democracy and power: structural view how do subordinate classes get power? capitalism creates subordinate classes with the capacity for self-organization capitalism brings the subordinate class or classes together in factories cities where members of those classes can associate and organized more easily; it improves the means of communication and transportation ; in these and other ways, it strengthens civil society and facilitates subordinate class organization 30

31 democracy and power: structural view the importance of self-organization is underscored in marx and engel s famous quote (from the communist manifesto) Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains 31

32 democracy and power: structural view how do subordinate classes get power? (more) capitalism also entails greater dependence of elite groups on subordinate classes: simply put, capitalists rely on workers to work capitalism creates tensions between elite groups: landowners, in particular, lose power at the expense of industrialists, which weakens the cohesion of the elite to repeat: these are both products of the capitalist structure 32

33 democracy and power: structural view key point capitalism gives workers the capacity to exercise power; yet, this happens in spite of the clear desire by capitalists to keep workers powerless this is the beauty of capitalism as a structural force: it creates unintended and unwanted outcomes, and it is itself highly resistant to fundamental change once it starts to unfold 33

34 democracy and power: structural view there is more to the structural argument than what we have covered here, but the basic logic should be clear enough to see: to repeat, capitalism reshapes relations between the dominant and subordinate classes; it changes the balance of class power it is also important to recognize that the structural effects of capitalism are complex and sometimes contradictory consider the implications of global capitalism 34

35 democracy and power: structural view many scholars argue that global capitalism is weakening democracy, and there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the accuracy of this argument but does this not contradict our previous argument? is there a way to reconcile the seeming contradiction between the positive effects of (domestic) capitalism and the negative effects of global capitalism on democracy? (hint: think about how global capitalism shapes relations of power: discuss) 35

36 democracy and power: structural view (repeat) questions for consideration and discussion as a rapidly growing capitalist society, is the breakdown of authoritarian, communist party rule in china inevitable? can structuralists account for the longevity of authoritarianism in the middle east, especially among arab islamic countries? are there any inconsistencies in the structural account that you can identify? how would a rationalist or a culturalist respond? 36

37 explaining democracy rational choice perspective 37

38 an alternative perspective rationalists do not agree with structuralists that inert, invisible structures make democracies to put it very simply, believe that people make democracy

39 people may be political elite or

40 they may the people, the masses

41 elite or the people? it is important to understand that rationalist don t all agree on who is most important in the democratization process, the elite or the people (more on this in a bit) they do, however, agree on some basic principles

42 elite or the people? individual interests and preferences are, as usual, key (the issue is whose interests or preferences matter most) rationalists also believe that democracy is possible in virtually any socio-economic context-i.e., there are no preconditions to democracy thus, rationalists don t consider capitalism to be the key process in democratization

43 elite or the people? back to differences a focus on the elite versus a focus on the masses has important implications in understanding and explaining democratization

44 elite or the people? back to differences a focus on elite suggests that democratization is a largely negotiated and cooperative process (consider the notion of pacting) a focus on the masses suggests that democratization is a fundamentally non-cooperative, often violent process

45 elite or the people? back to differences cooperative explanations epitomized by samuel huntington s observation on an ironic feature of contemporary democratization in certain countries, primarily in latin america he argued that it was a process that could be characterized as democracy without democrats

46 elite or the people? back to differences non-cooperative explanations suggests that democracy is product of people who want it and are willing to risk their lives to get it in this view, one might argue that the push for democracy changes the strategic environment for political leaders; when massmovements are strong enough, leaders can see the writing on the wall, they know they have no choice but to leave

47 elite or the people? empirical issues both cooperative (elite-centered) and non-cooperative approaches (mass-based) have empirical support in latin america, there is a great deal of evidence for cooperative approaches in africa, the post-communist states, and in asia, there is good evidence for non-cooperative approaches

48 elite or the people? questions so where does this leave us? are both views right? does it even matter? is there a way to come up with a coherent and empirically comprehensive rational choice explanation?

49 elite or the people? a coherent explanation a coherent and empirically comprehensive explanation may be possible, although for our purposes it s more important to understand the basic logic and principles of how we can use a rationalist framework to construct a comprehensive explanation for democratization

50 a comprehensive explanation? first off, a little comparative checking will tell us that not all authoritarian regimes are alike some are dominated by military leaders, who may have taken power through a coup d'état some are dominated by personalist or charismatic leaders: single individuals who dominate the political process some are dominated by a highly cohesive, tightly disciplined party structure--so-called single party regimes

51 a comprehensive explanation? while outwardly similar, these dictators presided over different types of authoritarian regimes FRANCO (SPAIN) PARK (KOREA) SADDAM (IRAQ) AMIN (UGANDA) SUHARTO (INDONESIA) PINOCHET (CHILE) PERON (ARG) MAO (CHINA)

52 a comprehensive explanation? for a long time, many scholars took these differences for granted; they did not assign any particular causal significance to the different varieties of authoritarianism one scholar, however, asked the question do different types of authoritarian lead to different outcomes?

53 do different types of authoritarian lead to different outcomes? the answer by barbara geddes is an emphatic yes answering yes, of course, raises a number of other critical questions fortunately, for rationalists, there is a relatively simple model to follow (and one with which you should all be quite familiar)

54 rational choice model: key questions (a reprise) who are the main actors? how are their interests or preferences defined? what is the nature of the interaction between or among actors? what information is available to them? what type of constraints do they face? how do constraints influence their actions? what are other elements of the strategic environment?

55 rational choice model: key questions (a reprise) who are the main actors? how are their interests or preferences defined?

56 rational choice model: key questions (a reprise) what is the nature of the interaction between or among actors?

57 rational choice model: different authoritarianisms basic argument different types of regimes arise for different reasons, but, once created, the major types (military, personalist, and single-party) tend to exhibit similar characteristics regardless of political, social, cultural or geographic context more to the point, they break down in systematically similar ways

58 rational choice model: different authoritarianisms military regimes are the most likely to breakdown because the leaders are not interested in political power per se moreover, if any internal splits threaten the cohesion and power of the military, their preference is to save the military rather than to hold on to political power key implication: military authoritarian regimes not only tend to have the shortest life spans, but the transition to democracy is generally negotiated and cooperative

59 rational choice model: different authoritarianisms single-party and personalist regimes are more resistant to breakdown because the political leaders have more to lose: leaders will fight tooth-and-nail to hold on to power this means that transitions are often violent and almost always non-cooperative but why would a transition happen at all? what is the key mechanism or trigger for political change?

60 why would a transition happen at all? the short answer exogenous shocks these might include an economic crisis, a natural disaster, war or invasion, sudden loss of outside support (e.g., the collapse of the soviet union)

61 rational choice model: different authoritarianisms exogenous shocks can destabilize the system: they might, for example, undermine elite control of economic or coercize resources or otherwise de-legitimize the regime they might provide opportunities for opponents of the regime to increase their power relative to the regime, which can dramatically change the strategic environment

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