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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics. What Makes a Democracy? February 27-March 1, 2007 Professor Timothy Lim California State University, Los Angeles. What Makes a Democracy? Introduction. First off …. What Makes a Democracy? Introduction. … the world is becoming more democratic.

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pols 373 foundations of comparative politics

POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics

What Makes a Democracy?

February 27-March 1, 2007

Professor Timothy Lim

California State University, Los Angeles

what makes a democracy introduction1
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

… the world is becoming more democratic

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

An autocracy is technically a form of governmentwhere power is held by one person; in this case,it is used more generally to refer to non-democraticpolitical system

Democracies

Anocracies

Autocracies

what makes a democracy introduction2
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The world is becoming more democratic

Another perspective: In 1910, 0 percent of the world’s population lived in democracies; by 1950, 31 percent of the world’s population is democratic

By 2000, according to one source, 58.2 percent of the world’s people lived in democracies; by 2006, this figure had grown to 63% (based on estimates by Freedom House)

_______________________

Source: R.J. Rummel, “Democratic Peace Clock”

what makes a democracy introduction3
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction
  • Why Is Democracy Spreading?
    • The global spread of democracy raises a number of important questions …

Is the expansion of democracy inevitable? Will it necessarily reach all countries in time?

Or, is democracy the product of particular forces and processes that will be forever resisted by some parts of the world, such as the Middle East and China?

Why did the 20th century witness the most major advances of democracy globally? Was there something unique about the 20th century?

What is the best method of promoting democracy? Should the United States be in the business of exporting democracies?

what makes a democracy introduction4
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

Defining Democracy

  • The definition of “democracy”is subject to great debate, but defining democracy is an essential first step, so …

What is democracy?

A discussion point

what makes a democracy introduction5
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

What is Democracy? A Short Video

This short video from YouTube (click here) poses the question, “What is democracy” to a handful of Americans

Note: We will watch only a portion of the video in class.

Video removed

what makes a democracy introduction6
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

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

what makes a democracy introduction7
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

Defining Democracy: A “Formal” Definition

  • Gidden’s 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

  • To this list, we might add a fourth characteristic:

(Near) universal and equal suffrage (suffrage is simply the right or privilege of voting)

A discussion point

Are these characteristics enough?

what makes a democracy introduction8
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

Defining Democracy: A Formal Definition

  • To many people, “formal democracy” is not democracy at all: it may be a democracy in name, but not in reality

Instead, manybelieve thatdemocracy mustbe defined insubstantiveterms

This cartoon illustrates the problem with “formal democracies”: people may have the right to vote in free and non-corrupt elections, but the real power lies with the corporate elite

what makes a democracy introduction9
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

Defining Democracy: The Debate

  • How should democracy be defined?
  • Is a “formal” or narrow definition adequate?
  • Or, is a substantive or broad definition necessary?

Points ofdiscussion

what makes a democracy introduction10
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The Case for a Formal Definition

  • Substantive definitions of democracy are important, but a formal definition can be appropriate

The appropriateness of a formal definition: “Bare bones” definitions are important to distinguish between two distinct outcomes or phenomena; if the distinction can be justified and supported, it is appropriate

Consider this question:

Is a political system that meets the minimal requirements of a formal democracy significantly different from an autocracy or dictatorship, such as the one once ruled over by that evil-doer Saddam Hussein?

what makes a democracy introduction11
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The Case for a Formal Definition

Some Concrete Examples to Consider

Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler or Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel

Chile under Pinochet (1974-1990) or Chile under President Michelle Bachelet

Japan under Prime Minister Hideki Tojo or Japan under Juniichiro Koizumi

what makes a democracy introduction12
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The Case for a Formal Definition

  • Key Point: If there is a significant difference between democracies and autocracies (or dictatorships or fascist regimes), then a formal definition of democracy is both appropriate and meaningful: even more, a formal democracy matters

… it matters because it signifies (in contrast to autocratic rule) a real and significant change in society • The establishment of formal democracy invariably supports (although does not guarantee) progress towards greater substantive social, political, and economic equality

Is a political system that meets the minimal requirements of a formal democracy significantly different from an autocracy or dictatorship, such as the one once ruled over by that evil-doer Saddam Hussein?

what makes a democracy introduction13
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The Case for a Formal Definition

  • Analytically speaking, it is also critical that concepts such as “democracy” be operationalized

Quick definition:Operationalization is the process of defining a concept so that it can be ______________ through specific observations.

Operationalization is important in the sciences, for if it is not possible to measure (or quantify) a phenomenon, it is difficult if not impossible to evaluate its causes or consequences

    • For example, how can we know that someone is “intelligent” if we cannot measure intelligence?How can we study “intelligence” if we cannotadequately distinguish it from other aspectsof human consciousness?

measured

what makes a democracy introduction14
What Makes a Democracy?Introduction

The Case for a Formal Definition

  • One last point

Using a formal definition of democracy does not mean that we should ignore substantive definitions

Indeed, depending on the purpose of the research, a substantive definition is sometimes preferred

    • Example. A study of why some democracies are “strong” while others are weak or a study of how to “improve” democracy …

… both would require a substantive definition

what makes a democracy competing explanations
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Some Questions

There is a tendency--in the West at least--to assume that democracy benefits everyone. But this isn’t necessarily true. To begin a study of democracy, then, it is crucial to begin with some basic questions …

  • In general, who (or which groups) in society opposes democracy?
  • In general, who (or which groups) in society favor democracy?
  • Who benefits from democracy and whose interests are threatened?
what makes a democracy competing explanations1
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Who Opposes Democracy?

For the dominant groups in 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

Historically, the group most resistant to democracy has been the landowning class: this is because landowners, more than any other dominant class, depend on a subservient, oppressed labor class

what makes a democracy competing explanations2
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Who Opposes Democracy?

  • Think of it this way: If the majority of people in a society are poor and exploited would they not be immediately tempted, in a democratic system, to use their new-found and overwhelming voting power to redistribute economic resources and, ultimately, to undermine permanently—if not destroy—the position and privileges of the wealthy (or political and economic elite)?
what makes a democracy competing explanations3
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Who Opposes Democracy?

  • In the 20th century, opponents of democracy have also included states and/or state leaders, especially in poor or developing countries

The 1989 Chinese “democracy movement” in Tiananmen Square represents an example of state-opposition to democracy

______________________________

Leaders of modern states often oppose democracy because their own survival may be at stake once they are out of office; other state leaders believe that democracy will result in too many demands by labor, thus undermining the industrialization process

Video Removed

what makes a democracy competing explanations4
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

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)

slide23
Democracy and Power

Given the almost undeniable tension between democracy and social inequality, most analysts agree …

Democracy is above all a matter of power

what makes a democracy competing explanations5
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Implications

  • Democracy does not just happen through some automatic process, but is a product of a politicalstruggle among competing groups with competing interests
  • Democratization requires some underlying shift in power (among or between different groups)
  • The transition to democracy marks a significant political change, but transitions to democracy are never guaranteed: indeed, given the nature of democratic change, opposition and attempts to re-impose a non-democratic system should be expected
what makes a democracy competing explanations6
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Implications

  • Structuralists, rationalists, and culturalists generally agree on the significance of power, but they differ on several key questions …
    • Who are the key agents of change? Are they elites, subordinate actors, outside agents or some combination?
    • How does the struggle for power unfold? Is it the product of elite interaction? Is it a structural phenomenon, a cultural one, or something else?
    • Do certain “conditions” need to exist before democratization can happen? Or is democracy possible under any circumstances?
what makes a democracy competing explanations7
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Structural View

  • To structuralists, transitions to democracy 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 …

How do subordinate classes “get power”?

Discussionquestion

what makes a democracy competing explanations8
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Structural View

  • How do subordinate classes “get power”?

Basic Answer: The power of subordinate classes is a product of capitalist development, which brings unavoidable changes to any society. Specifically …

    • Capitalism creates subordinate classes with the capacity for _________________________.
    • 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

self-organization

SELF-ORGANIZATION: An Explanation

“Capitalism brings the subordinate class or classes together in factories cities wheremembers of those classes can associate and organized more easily; it improves the means of communication and transportation …; in these and other ways, it strengthenscivil society and facilitates subordinateclass organization”

what makes a democracy competing explanations9
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

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

what makes a democracy competing explanations10
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Co-option refers to the process of being incorporatedinto the mainstream or dominant power structure, butalways in a subservient role. Frequently, thosewho have been co-opted will embrace the interestsof the dominant power structure while neglectingthe interests of their original group

Democracy and Power: Structural View

  • Having more power doesn’t automatically lead to democracy for subordinate groups
    • Sometimes subordinate groups are co-opted by the elite
    • Sometimes subordinate groups, while more powerful, still lack enough power to topple the existing regime--in these cases, alliances with other groups may be necessary
    • In a similar vein, sometimes the state is “overdeveloped” (i.e., possesses excessive coercive capacity, often as a result of an alliance with major Western countries)
    • Sometimes “transnational forces” intervene, e.g., during the Cold War, the US helped or abetted to overthrow democratically elected governments in Iran, Iraq, Chile, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Greece, etc.; more recently, some argue that the US attempted to overthrow Hugo Chavez in Venezuela
what makes a democracy competing explanations11
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Structural View

In general, however, structuralists assert that capitalist development is the underlying process through which democracy emerges

  • This helps explain why democracy is a primarily 20th century phenomenon: capitalist industrialization has made its greatest and most rapid strides in the 100 years or so

In the postwar period, consider the cases of South Korea and Taiwan

  • At the same time, (to structuralists) democracy is an essentially unintendedoutcome of capitalism; that is, capitalism was not designed to promote capitalism
what makes a democracy competing explanations12
What Makes a Democracy?CompetingExplanations

Democracy and Power: Structural View

  • Questions for consideration and discussion:
    • As a rapid 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? Why, for example, does the quality or substance of capitalism seem to be weakening today, even in well-established democracies, such as the United States?

Hint:Consider how globalizationis weakening subordinate classes,especially the working class

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