Lipset’s definition of democracy is; “a political system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials, and a social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence major decisions by choosing among contenders (competitors) for political office”. In his idea, this definition needs to be supported by some conditions that are required for a consolidated democracy;
1-) A political formula, a set of beliefs shared by all people about the legitimacy of certain institutions (political parties, free press)
--> It is needed because if a political system is not characterized, limited by a value system, it would be chaotic (Latin American countries)
2-) A set of political leaders holding office
--> It is needed because if the outcome of political race is not to attain power and trying to stay at the government, irresponsible governments would emerge. Periodic awarding should take place at elections and a group that will have the privilege of taking decisions should hold the office. (Pre-fascist Italy and Third and Fourth French Republics) weak coalition governments
3-) One or more recognized political leaders attempting to gain office
--> It is necessary because if there is not a strong opposition, power-holders would be much more influential, stronger and popular influence on policies would decrease.
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 the industrialized capitalist countries. 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. Of course, this criterion may not always lead us to the right conclusion (Germany example) and a comparative study of complex social and political systems must deal with the particular historical features of a country. In his idea, newly established democracies can only survive if they are able to create institutions and social conditions that favor democracy (literacy, civil society, autonomous private organizations).
Lipset later moves on to rank countries from more democratic to less democratic by using his criteria. His criteria consist of;
Prerequisite for being democratic:
- Uninterrupted continuation of political democracy since WW I
- The absence of a major political movement against democracy in the last 25 years
More or less democratic:
- Per capita income & GDP (Economics in general)
- Wealth which is measured by number of persons per motor vehicle, thousands of persons per physician, the number of radios, telephones and newspapers per thousand persons
- Industrialization, which is measured by the percentage of employed males in agriculture and per capita commercially produced energy being used in the country
- Urbanization, which is measured by the percentage of population in communities over 20.000 and over
- Education, which is measured by the percentage of literate people
After explaining these Lipset elaborates his views on the education. “It does not make men good citizens, makes it at least easier for them to become so”. Education increases tolerance and decreases chances for extremism. Lipset also asserts that education would increase the democratic understanding. He also adds that education only is not sufficient for a stable democracy but at least it is a necessary condition.
Turkey-Egypt example (Egypt is much more urbanized but the education level is low. This kind of inbalances decreases the chance of democracy.
Industrialization --> Urbanization --> Literacy --> Democracy
Some additional notes;
In countries which have been gradually industrialized communist parties are almost non-existent and socialist parties are weak (except UK). Especially in rapidly industrialized countries, the support for leftist extremism is higher. Among the Catholic nations of Europe except Austria, there are serious Communist movements unlike Protestant nations. The poorer the country, the greater emphasis on nepotism and corruption.