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Democratization Theories at the Present Political Map Essay

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Updated: May 16th, 2022

The world history witnessed a great number of changes in the political state of countries, in the form of ruling and the change as well as the form of power in every state existing nowadays. One can hardly find a state that has remained unaltered in its form of ruling from the ancient times until the present day. The politics as well as any other notion in the world experiences the effect of evolution, development and change, so the form of states is fluent, continuously changing in the course of centuries. Historically, democracy has been recognized as the most progressive form of power, and at the contemporary moment of historical development practically all countries have proceeded to this form of ruling in different ways.

Thus, looking at the present political map of the world researchers have become obsessed by determining the ways and influential factors that have made their more or less significant contribution to the democratization or de-democratization process that took place on the territory of all states of the world. There are different theories of democratization that put forward different factors and influential forces of democratization; all of them have their right for existence since they are grounded and reasoned by a multitude of facts and observations. However, a comprehensive analysis thereof will help estimate the most credible and generalizable theories that may be applied to as many states as possible and will explain the democratization processes in the most efficient way.

There is a strong scientific basis for the formation of a grounded opinion about what a democratic state is and how it has reached the stage of a democratic political form of power. Here historical, economic and social studies may be relevant depending on the extent of their realization in every particular state and their importance on the nationwide scale. For example, the study of Tilly is highly important as to determination of the main features of a democracy and the characteristics of the democratization and de-democratization processes in every particular country. He sees the three main characteristics of these processes as follows:

  • Increase or decrease of interpersonal networks of trust commonly represented in religion, kinship and trade (Tilly 23);
  • Increase or decrease in the insulation from public politics of the major categorical inequalities such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion etc (Tilly 23);
  • Increase or decrease of autonomy of major power centers. i.e. armies, the church, patron-client relationships etc. (Tilly 23).

From the following list one can see how diverse and complicated the process of democratization, or the opposite process of de-democratization can see in every separate state, and which inner processes it can grasp. However, the most important finding of Tilly (23) can be seen in the conclusion that neither of the processes is ultimate and every state finds itself in the continuous, never-ending process that can obtain any forms and directions.

Barrington Moore makes the main emphasis of his study of democratization on the revolutionary origin of the discussed phenomenon. Moore shows how contemporary free democratic states have come to the stage of development that is called democracy, and on the example of such states as Great Britain, France, US, China etc. he shows how strong revolutionary incentives were and to what dramatic changes they brought to the pattern of rule on their territories. Throughout the whole book Moore argues that a democracy cannot be created without a revolution, and conservatism as well as passiveness in the periods of drastic changes inevitable in any state only lead to the formation of negative political forms that never do any good for the people living in those states, no matter by whose interests that revolution is guided.

The first main finding of Moore lies in the fact that knowing the country’s history essential in the issue of determining all relevant factors of its evolution and development. The writer proves his point on his examples of all six investigated countries and analyzes the way all of them accepted or resisted the change (it is enough to recollect such “hard” variants of modernization as the French Revolution or the Civil War in the USA) (Moore).

Moore (413) sees three main ways to a democratic state that any country can passed or has already passed. The first way is the one of capitalism democracy – it is seen by him in the bourgeois revolution in which the middle class representatives take part and that can lead to the annihilation of the former forms of government and economic relationships between the members of society and to establishment of substantially new forms that will satisfy the majority of the population. Such change was evident for him in such countries as Great Britain, France or the USA.

The second path that a state can follow in the democratization process is the reactive capitalism route that can obtain freaky, threatening forms and can lead to such political phenomenon as fascism. Moore sees the problem with this path in its lack of revolutionary incentives that is used for manipulation and establishment of authoritarian forms of power that aim at destruction rather than creation (Moore 178, 228). He discusses the emergence of fascism on the example of Japan where the existence of a set of “conservative and reactionary forces” shaped the corresponding political situation in the country (Moore 30). As the author states,

“the adaptability of Japanese political and social institutions to capitalist principles enabled Japan to avoid the costs of a revolutionary entrance onto the state of modern history. The price of avoiding a revolutionary entrance has been a very high one” (Moore 313).

The third way seen by Moore as a possibility for democratization is communism. According to the author’s opinion, communism is a half-finished form of democracy that results from the revolution guided by peasants. He investigates communism on the example of China where communism has been arrived at with the help of the nation’s movement for freedom and justice, and sees the socio-economic roots in the formation thereof. Exploring the relationships of peasantry with the ruling class in China before the revolution, Moore finds the growing incompatibility of interests of the latter and the former, and sees the revolution incentives in the peasant upheavals that became the main dominant form in the imperial China (Moore 93). Hence, there is no doubt that the main target of the Chinese revolution was the establishment of communism as the only appropriate form of ruling from the point of view of the repressed and deprived peasant class.

Among other observations of Moore one should seriously consider such incentives for democratization as the commercialization of trade, which was the main driving force in England (Moore 25). Commercialization, in the opinion of the author, does not leave any chance for survival for such obsolete forms of relationships as peasant-lord ones. As he stated regarding the British evolution, commercialization was the main milestone in the transition from a feudal seigneur who was a “lawless tyrant” to more economically grounded and just relationships in the national and international markets (Moore 10).

Gill, in contrast to Moore, stresses economic prerequisites of democratization. At the very beginning of his analysis Gill recollects the “third wave” of democratization that took place during the last quarter of the 20th century:

“Long-standing dictatorships across the globe fell, to be replaced by regimes both professing democratic principles and having considerable success in translating those principles into practice” (Gill 1).

According to the account of Gill, the third wave concerned the transition of communist states to the democratic regime, and the majority of states have witnessed two prior waves of democratization in the course of the 18th and 20th centuries. The first one took place in 1828 and resulted in the establishment of the primitive democratic forms in such states as France, England and the USA. The second wave occurred in 1943 at the end of the Second World War, when some states got free from the fascism regime and started to pursue their way to democracy. However, the reverse side of the medal revealed itself in the formation of strong communist superpowers, one of which is indisputably the USSR. Only in 1974 the third wave of democratization began, culminating with the collapse of the USSR and freeing the Eastern Europe from the reign of communism (Gill 1).

After the consideration concerning the evidence certifying the world-wide way to progress and democratization Gill continues with the account of possible factors that have played their role in the formation of democratic states. His first assumption concerns the possible influence of cultural factors, but the conclusion he further on makes does not leave any chance for the cultural paradigm to be accepted as a more generalized explanation of democratization:

“The focus on culture was more successful in the attempt to explain democratic endurance, with the commonsensical argument that a regime is more secure if its structures and processes accord with the popular (and elite) values than if they are in conflict, but even here the link between values and institutions remained somewhat ambiguous” (Gill 2).

Coming to the following conclusion of culture’s inconsistency in the comprehensive analysis of democratization, Gill proceeds to a more credible and successful approach to assessing democratic development – close connections thereof to the economic development patterns evident across the countries that got into the focus of his analysis. The positive correlation between democratization and economic development was proven by 1959 by Lipset (Gill 2-3). Surely, even extensive research in the field did not show any direct interconnections that would enable scholars to generate a common formula of democratization on the global scale, but there are some factors derived from Gill’s analysis that prove to have substantial importance in their relation to economic ties to democratization.

Among the main characteristics of democratization from the economic perspective Gill outlines the change in values and education that the population experiences during economic development – he states that the nation becomes more educated, consequently more tolerant, intelligent and loyal. The growing income and living standards are also of high importance when speaking about the democratization process. The upper class becomes less aggressively directed at the lower and middle class, as with the development of the national economy the threat is minimized. Increased wealth and well-being have proved to lead to the creation of the massive middle class whose interests lie within the general course of the state and to make this class less susceptible to anti-democratic moods and beliefs. Distribution of political power is less unified in economically developed countries, thus lessening the governmental burden for employment and distributing power and wealth in a more reasonable, balanced way. And, finally, restructuring of the society leads to the decrease of the poor groups and to migration of population to economically developed regions. The formation of social, voluntary and independent organizations with the considerable power in a state influences the whole political climate very well, balancing the power and preventing it from being concentrated in the hands of a single group, eliminating the risk of abuse (Gill 3).

As one can see from the analysis, Gill is more centered on the economic factors that shape the democratization process, while Moore is more focused on the revolutionary origin of any democracy in the modern world. Since both authors provide a deep investigation with the consideration of distant historical past of all countries that have become the focus of their research, it is possible to suppose that both theories have their right to exist. But still, the economic perspective seems to be more credible – it is enough to refer to Moore’s ideas on the origin of revolutions that were initially based on the incompliance and incongruence of different social layers and political groups on certain economic issues.

Works Cited

Gill, Graeme. The Dynamics of Democratization: Elites, Civil Society and the Transition Process. Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

Moore, Barrington. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Beacon Press, 1993.

Tilly, Charles. Democracy. Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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