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RICE University

Poli 357 Democracy and Democratization


Take Home Exam 1
Anastazija Ristovska
Rice 2013
2/15/2011

Democracy and Democratization

1. The main characteristics that define democracy can be best derived by juxtaposing
democratic and authoritarian regimes. All governments have the power to coerce its
population; however the authority in dictatorship comes from different sources than in
democratic governments. Dictators convince the populous that they have power by some
natural means, of course in actuality in todays world as well as in the past dictators
power come from along party lines, bureaucratic organization, the support of the wealthy
elite segments of society, and the use of coercive military force to execute this power. In
democracy power comes from a fair electoral process. In dictatorship leadership change
comes from rebellion or overthrow, mostly because the elite support base wasnt satisfied
with government decisions, or because there was struggle among party lines. The
minimalist concept that defines democracy is the electoral process and the notion of
competitive struggle and uncertainty over outcomes, that is, leadership change in
democracies comes from elections in which all segments of society are fairly represented
and given equal chance to participate, there is a two-party or multiparty system in which
both parties have equal chance of winning based on constituencies preferences, and non
party is certain whether it will still be in power the next elections. This uncertainty over
outcomes places winners and losers in different positions and thus there are expectations
of cooperation, there is an incentive for the winner party in a certain elections to be more
accommodating to the opponent because the next elections might place the governing
party on the loser side; electoral uncertainty over outcomes stops winners from
overreaching when they are in power, securing they will try their best to please the will
and needs of the population, whereas for the opponent party in opposition participating in
the system is better than rebellion.
While the existence of an electoral system is the minimalist concept to define a
country as a democracy, there also exists the stricter conception of liberal democracy.
Examples of countries that, at least up until recent years, could be defined as electoral but
not liberal democracies are South Africa where the nonexistence of rights violations by
the majority in power is questionable, and even though the government is seen as
particularly self-restrained there are still concerns whether the minority party interests are
accommodated for, and Venezuela where the political opposition is forced to operate
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under extremely difficult conditions, the media climate is permeated by intimidation,


sometimes including physical attacks, governments sporadic anticorruption efforts focus
on political opponents, and there has been nationalization of land, businesses and
industries, in fact Venezuela which recently made its fall back to dictatorship is one of
the best examples of the instability which can be caused by the lack of a liberal
component to unconsolidated electoral democracies. To be able to say a country is a
liberal democracy, in addition to fair electoral process it needs to satisfy the following
conditions: control over the territory and population of the state and authority over the
military lie with elected officials; executive power is constrained by other autonomous
government institutions, no group is denied the right to form a party and participate in
elections, minority groups interests are well secured, freedom to form and join
associations and movements, alternative independent media outlets, freedom of religion,
beliefs, speech, protests, nondiscriminatory judiciary and possibly and ombudsman, and
an assured rule of law rounded up by the existence of a constitution.
2. The modernization theory states that development and democracy are causally related.
Democratization is understood as expansion of participation in the political process and
reduction of restrictions, where participation is the proportion of society able to compete
for power and influence outcome. The modernization theory is based on strong economic
correlation observations of the early democratization of wealthier, industrialized
societies. It is stated that capital development leads to democracy in cases when the
economy and class structure change. Since bourgeois support limited democracy, full
democratization is conditioned by middle class growth. When the middle class grows
there is wealth developed outside the ruling elites resulting in partial loss of control by
the elites, as working and middle classes grow stronger the costs/threats of democracy for
elites is reduced and the cost of repression is increased. Democratization is often
mediated by landlord/military control of the state, for example countries in Central
America that had the military power to resist democracy did resist it, whereas those that
didnt have military capability to resist democratized (e.g. the British colonies). The
correlation between development/state capacity and democracy (re)occurrence is well
noted in French history, where France had at least four periods of democratization and at
least three periods of de-democratization: the 17th century showed changes in state
capacity and increases in development at the expense of democracy, the 1789 French
Revolution introduced experiments with democratic forms and brought about broad
participation/competition, followed by repeated returns to relatively more authoritarian
patterns (e.g. the Napoleonic era). There are some cases when the modernization theory
does hold true, nevertheless the causal relationship proves insufficient and in order to
explain many case studies the theory needs to be expanded. Empirical evidence shows
that even though wealth has been able to sustain democracies, it hasnt been able to create
democracies. Korea exactly matches the modernization theory: prior to industrialization it
was an authoritarian regime, it did however industrialize under dictatorship, and soon,
even in a Confucian culture such as Korea was, the dictatorship was replaced by
democracy.
We need to explain not why wealth is good for democracy, but why wealth is not
always bad for democracy. Development across society alters social structure in different
ways, often benefitting some groups more than the others. Highly unequal distribution of
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wealth makes democracy and uncertainty over outcomes more costly for elites. In a
pyramid society the top of the pyramid is the elite group which holds disproportionately
much more wealth in comparison to normal citizens. In a diamond society the middle
class is holds most of countrys wealth. The diamond society is much more likely to
make the transition to democracy. Therefore, industrializing and other type of growth
which result in increase in the middle class as well as increase in mobile wealth assets,
making it necessary to add an additional relationship to the modernization theory where
the equal distribution of wealth makes the emergence of democracy possible; what
matters is not the net amount of wealth, but how that wealth is distributed across the
country. The process of democratization is a process of reducing the degree to which
elites view democracy as a redistributive prospect due to awareness that elite groups
resist democracy when the resources are static (land, mineral, oil) out of fear from
redistribution of their wealth, as opposed to their resources being mobile (industrial
sector), which assets in case of nationalization can be moved to another country. Without
some kind of movement away from agrarian, mineral and oil-based economy, there will
always be threat to democracy or a very low likelihood of establishing one. The more
agricultural a society is, the more unequal its going to be, and urbanization usually leads
to rise in the merchant class leading to democracy. Relatively poor countries with
agricultural societies still hold the preconditions for democracy, as opposed to very
wealthy countries where there are fears of redistribution of wealth on behalf of elite;
usually any pressure from the population on the elites will not turn such a country to a
democracy, but instead will lead to an armed conflict.
The assertion the middle class wants democracy, and if it is big enough it will bring
democracy about is challenges by the view that democracy occurs when there is a
commitment to future majority policies by elites in the face of revolutionary threat. The
basic regime types are consolidated democracy, unconsolidated democracy, stable nondemocracy and repressive non-democracy. Two main characteristics of non-democracy
are the elites de jure political power to implement policies and the citizens de facto
power of posing revolutionary threat on elites. The elite response to any potential
revolutionary threats is enacting pro majority policies, however this response is noncredible without political power sharing and the result is democratization. The British
society had land aristocracy before it formed democracy. There were constant conflicts
within British society, wherein civil society was making demands to the government
asking for democratization, and the state had to leverage between the cost of reforms,
repression and the interests of landlords. British government tried to always make as
many concessions as possible, but there was never a civil demand so great that the regime
couldnt provide for or had to repress militarily. Ultimately universal suffrage was
provided without ever having to jeopardize the regime.
3. Brazil: Societies aspiring to transition from authoritarian to democratic regimes would be
most likely to achieve a successful transition if they are at the end stages of economic
development, their wealth is derived from mobile assets such as industries as opposed to
land, oil and minerals, there is general economic/welfare/income equality among the
population with a large middle class, the middle class is willing to undergo certain risks
that might follow the change of the regime, there is no significant elite group fearful of
their status and wealth after the regime change, or the elite group is willing and able to
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make concessions to appease the demands of the civil society. The cost of transitioning to
democracy from the elite viewpoint means not only concessions on their behalf such as
higher taxes and greater redistribution from them, but also ability to guarantee these promajority policies will stay in power after the immediate threat of civil revolt has passed;
the credibility of elite promises is best secured by extending voting rights i.e. transferring
significant part of their political power to the masses. Similarly, a lack of guarantee the
pro-majority policy made by the citizens will not threaten elite interests, may lead to a
coup enabling elites to change political institutions and thus turn their de facto political
power into de jure political power. Most of Brazils turmoil on the path towards transition
to democracy can be explained by the concepts in this framework. Brazil was an agrarian
society aspiring fast industrialization, and it did indeed succeed increasing the
contribution of industry to GNP from less than 20 percent to 39 percent, and the share of
the primary sector in GNP declined from 28 percent in 1947 to 11 percent in 1992.
Nevertheless the agricultural sector remained important due to the extreme inequality
among general population, where half of the society was relatively much better off than
the other half, and the average $4,000 USD GNP per capita did not reflect at all the actual
income of the poor population living in rural areas. Brazil was not fulfilling most of the
structural conditions for democracy, its unstable political situation being best reflected in
the 1964 coup, and the 1964-85 Military republic during which a military leader
remained in power without popular support, with no political party, nor a well-defined
program apart from using of a repressive apparatus to suppress political opponents and
the spoiling relations with the US and the Roman Catholic Church. The economy was
fluctuating between fast GDP growth rates and big inflation and debts. Eventually the
economically and politically oppressed population organized huge strikes resulting in
transition of the executive power to a civilian, inactivating the parliament, and ensuring
widespread elections. Although Brazil after the 1980s can be called an electoral
democracy, it lacks most structural conditions required for liberal democracy
establishment for the reasons mentioned above.
4. Brazil: Within Brazils military regime there were hardliners and moderates alike. The
hardliners made minimum concessions towards democracy, taking on a moderate
disposition only in the case of forming an electoral college. The publics desire for a
popularly elected president instead of one chosen by his predecessors or the electoral
body wasnt satisfied till the late 1980s, although the society made its first steps towards
democracy in the mid-1980s. Brazils case is unique because of the fact that what brought
down the change-resistant president were not massive protests as the ones in Egypt 2011
or 1987 Iran; although strikes and demonstrations did occur due to highly unsatisfying
domestic rule and foreign policy resulting in austerity, expulsion of Roman Catholic
priests rising inflation (which neutralized the increasing GDP growth), and failure of
political leadership, the military dictator suppressed the strikes by arresting union leaders.
At the time of the strikes government hardliners did not choose to align with societys
moderates, and the opportunity arose for moderates to align with government reformers
only after dictators heart condition let him out of the country for the purpose of surgery,
leaving control of the situation in hands of the reformers. Although millions of Brazilians
went to the streets demanding immediate presidential elections with all-encompassing
suffrage, this didnt happen that year due to insufficient number of Congressional votes
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pro, and the choice of a (this time civilian) president was left to the electoral college,
leaving the democratic fair elections to first happen in 1989. Reformers did retain their
privileges under a negotiated democracy, with certain implied guarantees for the
protection of liberties, interest and position of the reformers.
The current protests in Egypt resemble Brazils unrests in aspects of economic
dissatisfaction; however neither among Egyptian protesters nor in the lines of the singleparty authoritarian regime are there moderates and reformers to negotiate with. The
dictator has been extremely oppressive of the protesters, resulting in even greater outrage
and ensuring the quick downfall of the regime. The economic situation in Egypt, unlike
in Brazil, did not witness any significant increases in GDP growth, nor has been there a
significant industrialization policy (nor huge debts and inflations for that part), but there
has been increase in unemployment and percentage of citizens under the poverty line.
Should there be a regime change in Egypt democracy is unlikely to form unless the new
regime is established by, according to some experts, the military, which is paradoxically
the exact opposite of what Brazil has been facing.