28 Temmuz 2010 Çarşamba


Democracy by dictionary definition means “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives”[1] and is accepted as the best or at least the “least bad”[2] method of governing. Democracy was first appeared in ancient Greek city states called polis where the economic welfare provided by the forced labor of slaves created a convenient environment for elites to deal with sciences, to think and philosophize about the “just” and best way of government. There have always been discussions about the definition of democracy. Minimalist Schumpeterian[3] definition of democracy refers to a “polity that permits the choice between elites by citizens voting in regular and competitive elections” (Karl, p. 164). Samuel Huntington also with his “two turnover” test[4], places himself in the category of this minimalist definition. However, broader definition of democracy includes important conditions such as the freedom of expression, absence of discrimination against particular groups and political parties, freedom of association for all interests, an active civil society and civilian control over military forces. Even broader definition of democracy also includes increasing economic equity and increasing proportion of population participating in elections and referendums etc. While minimalist approach is criticized for equation democracy with electoralism, maximalist approach is blamed to be too idealistic. Democratic consolidation on the other hand, refers to the internalization of democracy by all social and political actors and the transformation of democracy as the “only game in the town” in people’s eyes using Adam Przeworski’s famous definition.
Democratization as a dictionary definition means “the action of making something democratic”[5]. In comparative politics discipline, we use the term democratization to refer to the transition of a country from authoritarian or partial democracy to liberal democracy. According to Linz and Stepan, democratization is a broader term that contains liberalization in itself. Democratization includes liberalization, open contestation over the right to win control of the government and free competitive elections. Linz and Stepan assert that liberalization can take place without a complete democratization. They also define democracy on three levels. According to Linz and Stepan, behaviorally, a system is democratic when there are no significant political, social or economic actors that want to demolish the regime. Attitudinally, a democratic regime is consolidated when the very majority of people in this country are committed to democratic principles. Constitutionally, a regime should be called democracy when there are specific laws, regulations, and procedures in the constitution that prevent the collapse of democratic system (Linz & Stepan, pp. 5-8). Democratization became an area of interest, when the post-World War II scholars created theories in order to find answers to the question “Why do some countries shift their existing political systems for liberal democracy?” after witnessing some European, East Asian, Latin and African countries adopting the universal suffrage and the rule of law to secure the social, political and economic liberties of their citizens. Scholars like Samuel Huntington defined this movement as “democratization wave” and claimed that starting from the mid 1970’s there has been a visible trend -using the old categorization- in second and third world countries to make democratic reforms and to transform their political regimes into Western type democracies. As a result, the scholars had developed three main theories of democratization: the modernization approach, the transitional approach and the structural approach. Each theory tried to explain the factors that lead to democratization with paying attention to these factors differently. Therefore, modernization approach scholars explained the transition by pointing to a state’s economic development. On the other hand, transitional scholars argued that democratization is led by the initiatives of the political elites, whereas the scholars belonging structural approach suggested that this had occurred by the change in the “structures of class, state and transitional power” (Potter et al., p. 22).
Modernization approach was the first theory that explained the process of democratization. According to the founding father of this theory Seymour Martin Lipset (Lipset, p. 75), the main premise of modernization approach is “democracy is related to the state of economic development”, and thus “the more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy”. Higher degree of industrialization, urbanization and educational level in a given state necessary leads to liberal democracy. On the other hand, the traditionally underdeveloped parts of the world usually “lack an enduring tradition of political democracy” (Lipset, p. 73). In order to prove his argument, Lipset illustrates a chart showing the per capita incomes, thousands of persons per doctor, number of persons per motor vehicles, number of telephones per 1000 persons, number of radios per 1000 persons and newspaper copies per 1000 persons in European and English speaking countries and in Latin American countries to have a correlation between the higher degree of above mentioned variables and the degree of democratization. What he finds out that European and English speaking countries, which are democratic, have more income, more doctors for less number of people, higher number of telephones, vehicles, radios and newspaper copies than the Latin American countries have, which are ruled with dictatorship or unstable democracy. As a result, the economic development is regarded as “modernization” of the state and hence, it will inevitably lead to democratization. Lipset also mentions that there are prerequisites for democratization[6]:
- Uninterrupted continuation of political democracy since WW I
- The absence of a major political movement against democracy in the last 25 years
Lipset also argues that there is a historical process to democratization. At the first stage of this process, lower classes become more involved in politics, when the class struggle emerges by the development of wealth and degree of education. At the second stage, with the development of wealth and level of education, lower classes turn out to be the advocates of democracy and political rights. Finally, at the third stage the existence of the newly adopted democratic rule is protected and guaranteed by the lower -now middle- classes against the influence of extremist parties. Modernization is also a unilinear process, which all countries will follow with no exception and eventually become liberal democracies. Lipset by using statistical correlations strengthens his arguments and asserts that more a country industrializes, urbanizes, economically enriches and educates its citizens, the more it will have chance to consolidate its democracy. Lipset asserts that Max Weber was right in saying that modern democracy is the product of capitalist industrialization because stable democracies are only visible in industrialized, capitalist countries (Lipset, Political Man, p. 28). He also mentions that although it is very difficult to draw conclusions from correlations, there are important determinants like income, education and literacy which are positively correlated with democracy. At this point, Lipset ignores other factors, such as cultural, historical and political differences each state has, and also the influence of the international environment. What he foresaw never happens in reality. Indeed, there are economically developed countries, which are not democracies. For instance, the Gulf States are all oil rich countries, but none of them can be classified as liberal democracies. Lipset had blatantly ignored the fact that the factors that constitute an obstacle to the implementation of democratic rules and laws, like religious law and traditions cannot be easily abolished or even changed.
During the end of 1960’s, the assumptions of modernization theory had failed to match with the realities. Therefore, a new theory of democratization was born as a response to modernization approach. It was the structural approach, which was first argued by Barrington Moore in his work “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy”. Moore’s main concern is why some countries become liberal democracies, but others ended up having communist or fascist dictatorships in the 20th century. In addition to this, Potter (Potter et al., p. 18) gives the main argument of structural approach as “democratization processes are explained … by changing structures of power”. Moore talks about different changing relationships of classes in the early modernization period had directed some states towards democracy but others fascism or communism. Moore (Moore, pp. 430-431) proposes five preconditions of democracy:
1) The development of a balance to avoid too strong a crown or too independent a landed aristocracy
2) A turn toward an appropriate form of commercial agriculture
3) The weakening of the landed aristocracy
4) The prevention of an aristocratic-bourgeois coalition against the peasants and workers
5) A revolutionary break with the past
What is meant with these preconditions is that when landed aristocracy loses its power, and the bourgeoisie does not see this as an opportunity to ally themselves with the aristocracy against the peasants and the workers, and the economy becomes dependent on commercial agriculture, the state does not get too powerful. As a result, the democratic rule comes into existence. Nevertheless, if the bourgeoisie is not sufficient in establishing equilibrium with the foremost upper class, this ends up the domination of the latter over the commercial agriculture and eventually fascism. The five classes, the peasantry, the bourgeoisie, the landed aristocracy, the proletariat and the state are the structures of power in a country. Moore gives the examples of Great Britain, United States and France, which become liberal democracies. Scholars such as Barrington Moore believe that democracy is the product of rising bourgeoisie but it was only completed after the emergence of strong proletariat opposition. Moore thinks that countries where landed aristocracy is strong and labor-repressive agriculture is the dominant mode of production democratic settlement would be much more difficult. Structuralist approach focused on class struggles and the mode of production. However, its inefficiency in understanding the role of contingency and political actors led to the emergence of the transitionalist approach.
The transition approach came into sight in the article “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model” written by Dankwart Rustow in 1970. This theory basically advocates “democracy is produced by the initiatives of human beings [i.e. political elites]” (Potter et al., p. 15), and Rustow explains the transformation of a state into democracy in four developmental stages. In the first stage, people living in a certain territory come together and establish a national unity “to share a political identity” (Potter et al., p. 14), even if the individuals do not share the same beliefs. In the second stage, after the national unity is realized, there arises a major conflict between different classes of the society. “Each country goes through a different struggle; the historical details differ in each case” (Potter et al., p. 14). As a result, “democracy … is born of conflict, even violence, never as a result of a simply peaceful evolution” (Potter et al., pp. 14-15). The clash of classes at this stage is a difficult one, and not all countries achieve democratization afterwards. Some end up having authoritarian rule and some others face disintegration of their national territory. The countries that are successfully democratized pass to the third stage. At this phase, the elites make a compromise with each other over the adoption of the democratic rules. In the final stage, the next generation political elite makes a habit of the democratic rules and the democratization of the state is successfully realized.
Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, the scholars following Rustow, had brought further explanation to the difference between the “initial transition from authoritarian rule or preliminary political liberalization” from “the consolidation of liberal democracy” (Potter et al., p. 15). The political liberalization does not always lead to democracy, since it occurs when the authoritarian or semi democratic state administration decides to give some concessions to the public, such as less censorship over media, more autonomy to civil organizations, emancipation of political prisoners and more freedom to opposition. On contrary, the consolidation of democracy can only be achieved when the state is totally democratized in all aspects. In his famous article Rustow criticized scholars for considering positive correlations as causal relations. In his view, things that are named prerequisites of democracy can be rather the outcome of democracy. According to Rustow, democratization is not a worldwide uniform process and there can be many ways to democracy. Rustow proposed students of comparative politics to concentrate on political actors and their strategies who are assumed to be rational and autonomous. He also underlined the importance of choice and contingency. There is no doubt that Rustow’s accent on agency, process and the bargaining opened a new field in comparative politics. Moreover, Rustow rejected and offered an alternative to functionalist theories. Together with the devaluation of the modernization theory (emergence of Dependency School etc.), functionalist theories began to lose their supremacy in comparative politics works. However, according to Haggard and Kauffman, “emphasis on process has come to exercise a disproportionate influence on theoretical analyses” (Haggard & Kaufman, p. 263). They claim that these bargaining models miss underlying economic conditions and social forces that heavily affect the bargaining process. Although transitionalist approach is very beneficial, in their view it fails to address the factors that shape actors’ preferences and capabilities in the first place and the conditions under which they might change over time. In addition, transitionalist theories pay relatively little attention to economic variables and interests which could play a major role in the behaviours of political actors (Haggard & Kaufman, p. 266).


- Dictionary.com web site, http://www.dictionary.com
- Karl, Terry Lynn, (1990), “Dilemmas of Democratization in Latin America”, Comparative Politics October 1990
- Linz, J. & Stepan, A., (1996), “Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation”, John Hopkins University Press
- Potter, D. & Goldblatt D. & Kiloh M. & Lewis, P., (1997), “Democratization, Open University Press
- Lipset, S. M., (1959), “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy”, American Political Science Review 53 (1) pp. 69-105
- Lipset, S. M., (1983), “Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics”, pp. 33-53
- Moore, B., (1966), “Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World”, London: Penguin Books
- Haggard, Stephan & Kaufman, Robert R., (1999), “The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions” in ed. Lisa Anderson, Transitions to Democracy
- Rustow, D. A., (1970), “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model”, Comparative Politics 2 (3) pp.337-363

Ozan Örmeci

[1] Definition taken from Dictionary.com
[2] “Democracy is not at all the best of political regimes, but rather the least bad”; a famous saying of Winston Churchill.
[3] Reference to Joseph Schumpeter
[4] Samuel Huntington by his “two turnover” test basically claims that if a country has been able to experience change in the governmental power without any serious regime problems at least twice, we can assert that this country is democratic.
[5] Definition taken from Dictionary.com
[6] Lipset, Seymour Martin, “Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics”, p. 30

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