Dissertation > Political, legal > Political Theory

Research on Mechanisms for Political Transition-a Contribution to Modernization Theory

Author LiShaoPing
Tutor ZuoJian
School Liaoning University
Course More economical system of school
Keywords Political Transition Social Mobility Diversification Uncertainty
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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After several centuries of debates between sociologists, moral and political philosophers and political scientists, the desirability of democracy, if not all, is accepted by most of people. As Churchill said,“Democracy is not a good thing, but it is the best system that we could find so far.’’This paper gives a new explanation for the desirability of democracy from another perspective.The reason why most of social scientists are interested in democratization perhaps is partly because that that is the tradition of Aristotle, who has studied the problem since two thousand years ago. He thought that the man is a political animal; but maybe more important aspect comes from the characteristics of political science itself. In fact, there is rarely no theory which can stand very long time.In fact, the absence of that kind of theory of democratization is the reason why people think that the explanations are not convincing. One of the most influential theories is the Modernization theory (Lipset, 1959, 1960), which was put forward in 1950s, and also was inspiring to many scholars. Since then, the papers which focused on the confirmation and falsification of Modernization theory once constituted the main part of political science literature. In recent years, however, an uncharacteristic lull seems to have descended on this vibrant field—a lull we attribute to the pivotal contribution of Przeworski et al (2000) (hereafter referenced PACL). Przeworski and his coauthors advanced an important new argument. Reminding us that correlation does not necessarily imply causation, PACL note that countries may become democratic due to reasons unrelated to their level of economic development. Once prosperous, however, if democracies with higher levels of GDP per capita were to avoid slipping back into autocracy, then over time the relationship between GDP and democracy would emerge, even though economic growth does not cause democratization.In fact, more important questions facing the Modernization Theory, may be that, although there are many supporting empirical studies, the causal mechanism,“in fact, remains a black box”(Rueschemeyer et al, 1992).As is well known, the theory without theoretical mechanisms is far from bringing us any new insight.So the following question is particularly important; why democracy until the 19th century did not come to a reality, despite the theoretical basis of democracy has been founded well in ancient Greece. In other words, why were people more inclined to choose the constitutional democracy at this time? I argued that this can be explained by the optimal choice made by agents who face an uncertain future, and this uncertainty comes from Truman (1958), who emphasized the roles of modernization process and the overlapping of identities. It causes people to consider in advance the interests of the future when they make choices today. Put another way, he may be a beneficiary or victim in the future. So they chose democracy as people in‘Hobbesian jungle’who selected the institution of government, which is motivated by the motivation to maximize the utility of their own. To some extent, this paper can be also seen as a part of literature of Modernization Theory, while it provides a logical consistent mechanism, and Modernization Theory has been criticized due to the absence of such a mechanism for a long time.

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