One of the most well-researched theories in political science argues that the level of economic development a country has is directly correlated to the level of democracy its people can expect to obtain. This sample essay explains that this theory has some strong proponents, and perhaps democratic development is instead tied to economic prosperity- happier citizens will be more prosperous, thereby creating more wealth and strong civic institutions.
Economic development: Just how important?
Democracy can be defined as a form of government in which every citizen has an equal say in who will run the country and the decisions that will be made. While forms of democracy all over the world will vary in its form of implementation the one constant that remains is the ability of the citizen to be able to vote in elections to make important decisions about the laws that will pass and who will be elected as leader. Democracy has also been tied closely to economic development as more countries in various parts of the world become democratic. Consequently, their economies become more modern and improve due to the impact of globalization. As the first country that brought us Democracy, Ancient Greece was one of the most economically advanced nation of its time. This form of early democracy demonstrates that when the people are in charge of their own decisions, the economy will thrive and prosper providing numerous benefits to all its citizens.
Most researchers agree that the economic development of a country is related to the democratization of the country. The argument could be found in which came first. As more and more countries adopt democracy as their form of government they begin to improve their economic development or is that countries who have improved their economic development are more likely to form a democracy. Countries which have recently become a democracy could be analyzed to determine the cause and effect relationship. In determining which comes first it would allow political scientists to determine ways in which to advance the democratization process or the economic development of a country.
Theorists claim that democracy is needed for economic development to prosper as it creates an income equality amongst the people. “Capitalist development is related to democracy because it shifts the impact of economic development on democracy the balance of class power, because it weakens the power of the landlord class and strengthens subordinate classes. The working and the middle classes, unlike other subordinate classes in history-gain an unprecedented capacity for self-organization” (Rueschemeyer, 75). This marxist view believes that an economic system in which individuals are not equal cannot thrive therefore both democracy and economic development are needed to occur together for a country to be successful both in it’s form of governance and economic system. Although marxism has been associated with communism in this instance it describes the relationship between economic development and democratization.
Differing economic development policy goals
Many have argued that the free market is stifling to the working class and serves only to oppress them. The goals of economic development at times appears at odds with the goals of a democracy as corporations attempt to make profits on the backs of its working class citizens. However the ability of democratic countries to be economically viable would dispute this claim. The principles of equality inherent in democracy are needed for a country to be economically sound and prosperous. This reasoning could be behind the cause of many countries embracing democracy in unprecedented numbers especially in Latin American countries such as in Bolivia and Ecuador. As more countries become modernized the relationship between democratization and economic development can be developed further.
The relationship between economic development and democratization can be found in modernization theory. The theory claims that through social evolution countries become more modern in a response to the growing number of changes brought on by industrialization. As countries become industrialized they must change in order to adapt from an agrarian way of living to a more modern way of living. “Societies whose systems do not adapt to existing conditions and to each other are likely to perish in the long run” (Inglehart, 391). Modernization theorists view modernity as a form of necessary evolution which will occur as countries become more advanced economically and will need to adapt not just their economic system but also their political system. The theory of modernization argues that one change cannot occur without the other and both economic development and democratization occur hand in hand. A good recent examples of this is how China partially embraced democratic values in order to become a powerhouse in global manufacturing.
Industrial revolution and urbanization
The industrial revolution brought upon sweeping changes as countries began to shift from working for themselves on their own farms to working collectively for one industry or organization’s purpose. The impact of this collective work brought about workers needing ways to engage in collective actions such as unions in order to protect individuals from becoming subsumed by the machines of the industrial revolution. “During modernization, industrialization brings forth urbanization, mass education, occupational specialization and a shift from traditional to rational-legal authority” (Inglehart, 391). In order for industrialization to be effective and not have all the workers of an industry to revolt, democracy is needed to ensure that the workers feel they have a voice and are protected against the owners of industry. This need suggests that the advent of industry brought about the need for democracy.
The relationship between economic development could also be explained on a societal level. Economic development leads to changes within the citizens of a nation leading to changes on a political level. “First, economic development is closely associated with increases in education which in turn promotes political attitudes conducive to democracy” (Midlarsky, 134). Educated individuals in a society will request more of a say in the policies of its country than will those who pre-industrial revolution stayed on their farms and did not have a connections with others. The close proximity, both physical and cultural, brought on by the industrial revolution led to an increased need for democracy. Midlarsky also argues that the industrial revolution economic development created a middle class which provided a buffer between the conflicting factions of the owning upper classes and working lower classes.
The relationship between economic development and democratization demonstrates that in order for a country to be economically successful it needs to have a democratic form of government. As Latin nations have become newly democratized their economic systems have shown improvement as well. The relationship could also be a push for Middle Eastern countries to pursue democratization as well. As the Arab Spring revolution demonstrates an increasing amount of Middle Easterners are ready for a change as their ways of life continue to be repressed in comparison to Westernized countries. Although these countries fight against modernization it has been demonstrated that this is what is needed for the economic development of a nation. While Middle Eastern countries can utilize their natural resources in order to become wealthy for the top leaders of the country, their working class suffer. Through the process of democratization, power can be given to the working class which in turn improves the economic development of the working class and the nation as a whole. Both economic development and democratization reinforce each other.
Inglehart, Ronald. Modernization and postmodernization: Cultural, economic, and political
change in 43 societies. Vol. 20. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
Midlarsky, Manus I., ed. Inequality, democracy, and economic development. Cambridge University
Rueschemeyer, Dietrich. “The Impact of Economic Development on Democracy (with Evelyne Huber
and John D. Stephens).” Journal of Economic Perspectives 7.3 (1993): 71-85.