Wealth and Democracy Essay

10840 Words Feb 12th, 2015 44 Pages
DRIVING DEMOCRACY – CHAPTER 4

9/15/2007 2:33 PM

Chapter 4 Wealth and democracy Can formal democratic institutions succeed if they are built in societies with inhospitable social and economic conditions? In particular, will attempts to hold competitive elections fail to strengthen democracy in poor and divided nation states, as well as in regions such as the Middle East which are dominated by autocracy? Skeptics point to an earlier wave of institution building, when European-style parliaments were transplanted to many African societies during the era of decolonization, including in Benin and Togo, only to collapse as the military usurped their powers.1 We first need to establish the influence of certain underlying economic and social
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Both Asian societies have experienced rapidly economic transformation in recent decades, yet South Korea has adopted multiparty elections and strengthened human rights, with the regimes rated by Freedom House as equivalent to Greece or Israel, while Singapore is rated only ‘partly free’ by Freedom House. The contrasts help to explain the strengths – and limits – of socioeconomic explanations of democratization. Theories of wealth and democracy The proposition that wealthy societies are usually also more democratic has a long lineage. Political philosophers have suggested this proposition, for example John Stuart Mill, reflecting upon the British colonies, theorized that democracy was not suitable for all nation states.3 Exactly a century later, the political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset laid the groundwork for the systematic empirical analysis of the complex relationship between wealth and democracy.4 The original claim, subsequently referred to as the Lipset hypothesis, specified that: ”The more well-to-do a nation, the greater the chances that it will sustain democracy.”5 Development consolidates democracy, Lipset theorized, by expanding levels of literacy, schooling

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DRIVING DEMOCRACY – CHAPTER 4

9/15/2007 2:33 PM

and media access, broadening the middle classes, reducing the extremes of poverty, facilitating intermediary organizations such as labor unions and voluntary organizations, and promoting the values of

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