Like Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is not at all the best of political regimes, but rather the least bad”. Democracy by dictionary definition means “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives”. Most of the people believe in democracy and support it, academicians and politicians love to use this term in their speeches, writings and most importantly, most of the countries have been trying to install, consolidate democracy for many decades. However, democratic regimes do not perform very efficiently in many parts of the world unlike economically developed Western countries. Different writers analyzed democratic regimes from different perspectives and they mostly dealt with the economics as an important actor determining the fate of democratic regimes.
To begin with, Dankwart Rustow in his article “Transitions to Democracy” explains different perspectives of explanation arisen in the recent writings of American sociologists and political scientists about the necessary conditions for the consolidation of democracy. The first explanation favored by scholars such as Seymour Martin Lipset and Philips Cutright connect stable democracy with certain social and economic conditions like per capita income, rate of literacy and density of urban residence. The second type of explanation is proposed by academicians including Walter Bagehot, Ernest Barker, Daniel Lerner, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba emphasizes the need for certain beliefs and psychological attitudes among the citizens. Barker calls this as the “Agreement to Differ” by which he means civic attitudes based on participation, tolerance and compromise. The third explanation deals with the certain features of social and political structure. Authors like Carl J. Friedrich, E.E. Schattschneider, David B. Truman, Bernard Crick, Ralf Dahrendorf and Arend Lijphart favor this explanation and underline the importance of the certain social and political structures` commitment to democracy. Harry Eckerstein in his theory of “congruence” claims that “to make democracy stable, the structures of authority throughout society, such as family, church, business, and trade unions, must prove the more democratic the more directly they impinge on processes of government” (Rustow, p. 338). Rustow later explains the necessity of “puzzling” in comparing different democratic regimes. He mentions that they may not be a single way to democracy and countries` development models can differ. In fact, slow and gradual installment of democracy in Britain and quick and military invasion based consolidation of democracy in Germany and Japan show us clearly that democracy can prevail over other regimes in different ways. Rustow warns us to keep away from quick conclusions and precise causational explanations. He tries to explain the difference between correlation and causation. He names national unity, economic development, democratic procedures, constitutionalism, opposition, comprise-conflict and pluralism as essential conditions of a democratic regime.
Seymour Martin Lipset on the other hand in his article “The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited” emphasizes the necessity of an efficient economic system and vibrant civil society in the settlement of democratic regimes. He uses Brazilian scholar Weffort`s idea about the negative correlation between economic and political equality. Weffort basically asserts that the political equality of citizens and democratic regimes is only possible in societies marked by a high degree of economic inequality. Weffort claims that economic inequalities open fields for tensions, bargaining, conflicts and compromise and thus, prepares people for democracy. This reminds us the Industrial Revolution and rising socialist movement in the development of European countries where democracy is strongly settled. However, we can easily observe that economic crises in late developing countries mostly lead to political instabilities and authoritarian rules instead of more democratic regimes. Lipset also does not agree with this view and asserts that there is a positive correlation between political and economic equality but there are many other factors affecting the performance of a democratic regime. Lipset later focuses on the need for a strong middle or bourgeois class in the installation of democracy. Thus, free market economics and capitalism are also important conditions of a democratic regime in his idea. According to Lipset, a free market system based on meritocracy is the only way to prevent corruption and “the impact of nepotistic networks” (Lipset, p. 3). He also thinks that there are many ways to democracy and many different conditions can be influential in democratic transition. For instance, he gives the example of former British colonies and says that being a British colony also an influential factor in the flourishment of democracy. He later deals with religious differences and claims that Protestantism is the most convenient belief for democracy because of its greater emphasis on individualism and traditional close links between state and religion in other beliefs such as Islam, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Confucianism. He later focuses on the need for legitimacy in democratic regimes. He uses Max Weber`s categorization of legitimacy (traditional, legal-rational and charismatic legitimacy or authority). He thinks that although traditional and charismatic legitimacy can be used to increase the support for the regime, a real democratic regime must be based on legal-rational legitimacy. Strong civil society organizations and political parties are also very important for a healthy democracy in his idea. He concludes his article by saying that successful economic performance is absolutely needed for a democratic regime but democratic political reforms may prevent economic success in the newly developing democracies. So, in his idea “perestroika must precede glasnost”.
Valery Bunce also in his article “Democratization and Economic Reform” spends time in explaining the relation between economic and democratic performance. He analyzes Latin American, Southern European and post-socialist countries in order to draw conclusions. He begins his article by making a definition of democracy. “The experiences of democratization over the past 25 years suggest that a precise definition providing analytical leverage is one that treats democracy as a regime combining three characteristics: freedom, uncertain results, and certain procedures” (Bunce, p. 45). He also explains what he meant by economic reform before analyzing the relation between democracy and economics. By economic reform he means marketization, privatization, free trade, macroeconomic stabilization, microeconomic liberation and more specifically the abolishment of government control in economics such as the elimination of price control, withdrawal of subsidies etc. Before passing to analyze different regimes Bunce makes a differentiation between Latin American and post-socialist eastern European blocs. In his idea, in the post-socialist world a capitalist economy is newly constructed whereas in Latin America we observe the liberation of an existing capitalist economy. He differentiates import substitution industrialization policies of Latin American countries from socialist economy. After providing many examples of the failure of economic reforms in developing democracies, he asserts that there could be 3 types of relationships between economic reform and democracy. First, democratization and economic reform can be incompatible. Secondly, for economic reforms to be successful in developing countries the insulation of decision makers from external pressures may be required (maybe more authoritarian rule to make broad reforms). Thirdly, democratic governance may need to be consolidated first and economic reforms may be introduced after the democratic consolidation. Bunce after analyzing many different countries concludes his article by saying that in the post-socialist world democracy has begun to be successfully installed simultaneously with economic reforms and post-socialist world offers us a positive correlation between economic and political development. However, he says in the Latin American and Southern European context, the relationship between democratization and economic reform is weak.
Adam Przeworski in his article “Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well-Being in the World” questions the modernization theory and the widespread myth about the positive correlation between economic development and success of democracy in different countries. The author begins his article by giving examples refuting modernization theory such as “tigers” of the world during the 1970`s including Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan, authoritarian countries that made economic miracles at those years. China example in the recent years is also shows us the over generalization of modernization theory. After analyzing many countries Przeworski draws these conclusions;
- “Wealthy countries tend to be democratic not because democracies emerge as a consequence of economic development under dictatorships but because, however they emerge, democracies are much more likely to survive in affluent societies” (Przeworski, p. 137).
- Survival of democracies is easy to predict. Per capita income seems to be the best predictor unit for our researches.
- Education helps countries to consolidate their democracy but without economic success it would serve nothing.
- Presidential democracies are less likely to survive and parliamentary systems are more convenient for a secure democratic regime.