fredag 11 maj 2012

Jan Teorell: Determinants of Democratization. Explaining Regime Change in the World, 1972-2006

This is an excellent book looking at the factors behind increasing democratization in the seventies-naughts era. I'm happy to see quantitative methods being used for this, but one should keep in mind that the effects seen in an investigation like this aren't going to be huge, so just because something's quantitative doesn't make it a certainty, and also that quantitative methods won't cover everything, so case studies of single countries are still going to be necessary. What follows is basically the notes I took while reading the book, not any in-depth thinking on my part but mostly cribbing it straight from Teorell. I'll post it anyway, though, in the hopes that it'll offer some knowledge and perhaps inspire you to read the book – it's not a hard read.

Didactically, the book is well composed. In the introduction, Teorell outlines his study and his results, spends chapter one looking att democratization theories including his own, chapters 2-6 looking more in detail into various variables affecting democratization to a larger or smaller extent, negatively or positively, and the final seventh chapter summarizing his results. You read the summary and the introduction, and you basically have the information you need – the rest isn’t “just commentary”, exactly, but you get a whole lot from those two chapters, which is very efficient.

Teorell looks at what he calls the "Third wave of democratization". The first wave came post-WWI, the second post-WWII. However, authoritarian regimes in esp. the Middle East and Northern Africa have stayed intact during this third wave – which also causes some problems when it comes to interpreting the results, as it turns out.

As noted, the book starts with looking at various democratizations theories. Lipset’s (1959) modernization theory is about a general trend toward furthered economic development, deepened industrialization and educational expansion. The “transition paradigm” has democratization coming from above through the strategic skills (and luck) of elites maneuvering under profound uncertainty. This would make systematic study and explanation difficult. The “social forces” tradition sees democratization as triggered by mass mobilization from below, mainly the working class. The “economic approach“ has the rich granting democratic institutions as a concession to the poor, after their fear of redistribution has weakened as a result of eroding economic inequality.

Teorell uses a large number of countries (165 of them) evaluated over the period 1972-2006 on a large number of variables. One of his independent variables is modernization, but a more complicated operationalization of it than merely GNP per capita, which is often used as a proxy variable. Theorell’s “modernization” variable is composed of things like industrialization, education, urbanization and the spread of communications technology.

So what are Teorell's results and conclusions? Basically as follows:

1. Modernization does affect democratization positively. Mainly, it does so by hindering authoritarian reversals rather than actively promoting democratization. The most effective component of the modernization variable appears to be “media proliferation”. As access to newspapers, TV and radio spread among the people, anti-democratic coups appear to get a harder time succeeding or being initiated. (And this might help explain the “stop backslides” effect – you need a certain extent of freedom of expression for the media to be able to work in this manner.)

2. Economic upturns help sustain authoritarian regimes. Economic crises help transitions to democracy. Drawing from case studies, Theorell explains this by deteriorating economic performance driving a wedge between the regimes and the economic elites, leading to the latter withdrawing their support for the regimes, and between hardliners and softliners within the regime. Deteriorating economic conditions also fuel the mobilization of the masses against the regime.

3. Mass protest. Mass protest does not promote democratization generally. Only peaceful demonstrations effectively promote democratization; violent means such as rioting and armed rebellion does not. As can be expected, case studies show violence frequently being a means used by marginalized groups, so authoritarian regimes can “close ranks” and “legitimately” use repression, whereas peaceful mass protest can mobilize larger segments of the population. Confronting such protests with violence leads to moral outrage and further mobilization, as well as international reactions.

4. Democratization of neighbors seems to positively influence democratization. It may inspire the population and shows the elites that democratization doesn’t lead to disaster. Regional organizations may also promote democratization among their member states. These mechanisms seem to be on somewhat weaker evidence, though, with neighbor democratic diffusion being mostly a Sub-Saharan Africa phenomenon.

5. Teorell finds no systematic effects of colonialism, though.

6. Nor does he find democratization to have ensued from increased economic equality.

7. Nor does heterogeneous populations seem to have hurt democracy.

8. Having a predominantly Muslim population or being dependent on foreign trade are factors correlated with less democratization, but Theorell has a hard time finding explanations for these findings; at the micro level, you don't really find any differences in the democratic mindsets of Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslim “gap” seems to be mainly a consequence of a strong contribution to that effect from the Middle East and North Africa, however, which might be a clue.

Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the "Muslim population" finding is an artifact from the choice of time period (which is pretty much decided by what is possible, you have to have a cutoff date somewhere if you're ever going to be able to actually do your statistics), as democratization movements have been making their presence known in the Mideast-North Africa region lately. I also think the regimes have been exploiting the Israel-Palestine conflict to redirect the public's attention from the problems of their own countries, which may perhaps contribute to the result; "you can't fool all of the people all of the time".

Teorell also discusses the international trade result, which goes against some theories. Contrary to what one would expect from the classical “dependency theory”, countries with trade geared towards the capitalist core of the world system have not been less likely to democratize than others in the same category, which would seem to speak against. My own interpretation – as the previous one, unhampered by any deeper knowledge or insights into the actual issue, of course – is that regimes and elites that can siphon off money from the international trade don't have the same need to enter into a democratic compact with its population as one that doesn't.

9. Also, smaller countries seem  a bit more likely to democratize. Perhaps a smaller country doesn't offer leaders the same possibilities of playing various factions or parts of the country against each other to stay on top?

10. An economy dependent on oil blocks democratization.

11. Freedom from state incursion in the economy blocks autocratic reversals.

12. Income inequality showed no effect on democratization.

13. Foreign intervention sometimes works, sometimes not.

14. Multiparty autocracies democratize to a larger extent than single-party ones, both in and of themselves and in response to popular protest and to short-term economic downturns.

Anyway, an interesting book, and one that I recommend to anyone interested in these issues.

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