How does the transition approach differ from the modernization approach to explaining democratization?

Posted: September 6th, 2013





How does the transition approach differ from the modernization approach to explaining democratization?

The modernization approach was the first theory on democratization proposed by Seymour Martin Lipset. The main principle of the modernization approach is that democracy is linked to economic progression. Higher levels of education and industrialization were presumed to be preconditions for democracy. This approach is considered unilateral as countries follow it in a linear fashion as they develop these preconditions until they are fully democratized (Hu & Shao-hua, 203). This theory advocates for the development of democracy through man’s initiatives.

According to Huntington, what is the procedural definition of democracy and why is it realistic?

These two qualities are awarded to Huntington’s definition because he narrowed his revision to that of the state as a collection of powerful decision makers who are chosen in fair, regular elections by a large portion of the adult population.

Why does Rustow insist it is important to distinguish between (genetic) ideas about democracy’s origins and (functional) ideas about how democracy works?

Genetic democracy can be defined as a system or regime of governing people where the leaders are held accountable by the public for their actions using indirect methods of lobbying their representatives. Among countries having these types of genetic democracy, the governance can fully change significant policies in a peaceful manner. The three main actors in a generic democracy include representatives, citizens and rulers. Functional ideas of democracy however operate in different ways. They are more objective in nature and therefore do not always consider many of the factors in genetic democracy that may be ideal in nature. In most countries, theoretically, genetic democracy is adopted but in the implementation, functional ideas are adopted.

Part II: Structures, convergence, and contention

How does the structural approach differ from the transition approach to explaining democratization?

First adopted by Barrington Moore, the structural approach proposes five preconditions of democracy that consist of developing an equilibrium to avoid a strong aristocracy, stripping the landed aristocracy of their powers and the protection of the proletariat from the bourgeoisie. The approach aims at achieving some balance by stripping the aristocracy of its power, swaying the economy to depend on commercial agriculture to ensure the state’s power is checked. The result was the rise of democracy.

How does Potter and how does Leftwich characterize the convergence of models for explaining democratization

Conversely, the transition approach does not advocate for a state-led or economy-led democracy that may topple at any moment. Instead, it focuses on the awareness among the citizens of their rights, freedom and liberties that they are encouraged to exercise resulting in democracy.

How do the similes of democracy as an oilfield, a garden, and a lake fit with the three approaches of Potter (1997)? How does it fit with Potter’s and Leftwich’s reflections on the convergence of the three main approaches?

Potter compares democracy to an oilfield, a garden and a lake as they are three are actors within nature that serve the community by bringing life and hope to the community. They are also productive in that they produce reusable commodities that can be of benefit to the society. The convergence of the three main approaches as brought out by Leftwich and Potter share on thing in common. Democracy has one result even though the channels, institutions and actors that promote and administer it may be different.

Part III: Sweden and class

For Premfors, what is the importance of the nature of the Swedish state for the path of democratization there? How does his view differ from Tilly’s (1995, pp. 375–6 😉

The New Democracy Party in Sweden heralded a change in the authoritarian political system. The party had strong economic and political policies that saw a reform in Sweden that marked the beginning of democratization. The class system within Sweden has also been a crucial factor in reversing the gains made by Social Democrats, as the upper class remains an untouched territory. This aspect of democratic socialism has attempted to fight for class emancipation and increased equality.

How does Therborn’s analysis of the Social Democratic Party in Sweden fit with a structural analysis of democratization?

Therborn’s analysis of the Democratic Party displays the party using the structural approach. Therborn analyses the effect of the units and sub units such as class systems, ethnic groups and political elite organizations that shaped the actions of the Democratic Party.

To what extent does Premfors disagree with Therborn?

The two scholars share many principles and ideas. Both Premfors and Therborn share the common idea that democracy is developed mainly by the people’s initiative than using other methods. They also agree that democratization comes about because of different factors such as international contribution, education and people’s attitudes. However, they differ in the actualization of democracy. While Therborn prefers an ideal approach, Premfors views the functional approach to implementing the people’s majority choice as the ultimate form of democracy.

Part IV: USA and race

What factors does Maidment use to explain the relatively late introduction of universal suffrage in the USA?

Universal suffrage in the United States comprises of the right of adult citizens and non-citizens to vote. It has two aspects to it: the opportunity and the right to vote. Maidment attributes the persistence of racial inequality to the levels of patriarchy in the United States. Inter community mobility favors some of the citizens who prosper and leave behind the poor lifestyles. The enormous gap in income levels between the black and white Americans is another causative agent of the racial inequality.

Why does Lewis emphasize the importance of songs for the civil rights movement?

According to Lewis, music and song serve to inspire, give voice and mobilize civil rights movements. Freedom songs give people a new sense of unity and courage. Songs such as ‘We shall overcome” have rise to become the anthems for movements in many labor groups. Professional singers have also joined part of the civil rights movements by producing songs that inspire activists. For example, the Baptist choirs in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955.

Part V: India and civil society

How does Randall explain democratization in India? How do the four factors derive from the structural and modernization approaches?

In his analysis of democratization, in India, Randall identifies four dimensions of institutionalization: complexity, adaptability, coherence and autonomy. Adaptability refers to the longevity in maintaining a generation of leaders that signified continuity. Complexity refers to the number of sub-units that operate within the government. Autonomy is the dominant feature that is shared by both the structural and modernization approaches in that the system is different from other social groups.

How does Heller’s comparison between communism in Kerala and liberalism in India more generally differ from Randall’s contrast between China and India?

The Kerala model of communism has proved to work better that the conventional democracy adopted in most parts of India. This system ensures controlled improvement of living standards, increased social development and equality. According to Heller, even though the liberalism in India and China may seem desirable, it is not as functional as the Kerala model.

How does Hanson’s approach to political culture differ from the older modernization approach to explaining democratization?

Heller addresses India’s democratization position by analyzing the interplay of the official and substantive aspects of democracy. Most of the years of democracy in India have yielded poor results when it comes to reduction of economic and social imbalances in the population.

Part VI: Indonesia: difficulties of democratization

How does Putzel use theories and explanatory factors to trace the trajectory of democracy in Indonesia, compared to Malaysia and the Philippines?

Some of the theories put forward by Putzel in explaining the shaky behavior of democracy in the greater Asia include the proposition that an effective state is crucial for democracy consolidation. Another proposition is that democratization works best in a situation where the state and the regimes were distinguished.

What weight does Hara give to historical and international factors in Indonesia’s transition from dictatorship?

Indonesia has also experienced various ethnic conflicts and riots that have made it highly unstable and difficult to implement democracy. Hara mentions tolerance, free and fair elections and protection of human rights as the main principles that established the foundation for the transition to democracy in Indonesia.

Comparing Putzel and Hara on the democratization processes in Indonesia, who do you find the most convincing and why?

Hara is more convincing in discussing the state of democracy in Indonesia as he mentions the need for the elites to change their attitudes and practices toward liberal political behavior. Hara also analyzed the current democratic situation in Indonesia and concluded that it was deteriorating. Apart from these issues, Hara and Putzel also mention corruption as one of the factors that slow down the rate of democratization. The democracy within Indonesia is also superficial as the major power centers are still unchanged.

Part VII: Indonesia: order and Islam

After reading Lindsey (2001), do you think Indonesia has any chance of securing a reasonable measure of rule by law?

Lindsey addresses the various conflicts that have erupted in Indonesia that have stemmed from ethnic, religious and regional issues. The assessment of the cause of these conflicts has led to the discovery of lawlessness within the region. This culture of anarchy and lawlessness has been contributed in part by multinationals such as Dutch East India Company. Therefore, Indonesia has the capacity to sort their conflict using the rule of law but the implementation part is the most vital in ensuring peace.

How does Hefner (2000, p. 4) respond to the observation that democratization and ethno-religious revival are often perceived as ‘antithetical’?

Hefner rejects the claims that ethno-religious conflicts are entirely to blame for the unrest in Indonesia. According to him, these religious sentiments have been used by the political elite to confuse the masses. In a true idealist fashion, the failure of democratization in Indonesia was partly caused by the low literacy levels, poor, democratic culture and a lack of institutional support. The political elite in Indonesia fought to maintain their status quo instead of embracing democracy.

Hadiz focuses on elites’ lack of interest in democratization but how does this differ from Lindsey’s analysis of the Indonesia state?

Hadiz mentions that the elite use their position to maintain the status quo and entrench the autocratic system in Indonesia. Lindsey on the other hand, explains that the political elite are unaware of their role and influence in determining the levels of success of the democratization process in Indonesia.

Part VIII China: difficulties of dictatorship

How does Potter use aspects of both structural theory and transition theory to explain differences between democratization in South Korea and Taiwan?

The two countries, South Korea and Taiwan, have significant differences that set the stage for different types of democratization. The political instability of Taiwan started as an authoritarian regime that later slowly embraced democracy. As late as 1996, Taiwan had not yet established herself as a democratic state. In South Korea, the political culture among the population was relatively democratic. The constitution had already been changed many times and about three presidential elections had been carried out.

According to He, how does Confucianism promote and how does it hinder democratization in China?

Confucianism has always been skeptical of Western values such as democracy and therefore does not directly advocate for democracy. However, it advocates for nationalism, and within South Korea, this nationalism has fused with democratic values to bring about some semblance of democratization. Some Confucius followers, however, rejected democratic Western ideas as having no place in the Chinese culture.

How does the communist regime and how do democratic dissidents understand democracy?

Communist regimes understand democracy as a tool through which the governments’ powers can be checked which makes it a liability in the political system. Democratic dissidents, however, view democracy as a channel through which the interest of the majority can be addressed.

Part IX Taiwan: democratization and autonomy

How does Potter use aspects of both structural theory and transition theory to explain differences between democratization in South Korea and Taiwan?

Potter uses the class and the feudal system in South Korea to expound on the structural approach in explaining the differences between Korea and Taiwan. While Taiwan was strictly stratified along class boundaries, South Korea was more flexible and Potter used the transition approach in explaining the difference in democracy between it and Taiwan. In South Korea, the high levels of education created an awareness that was coupled with the Westernization to produce a literate population. This group of people increased pressure on the government for equality in the leadership, allocation of resources and other aspects of democracy. The move toward economic integration in Asia has increased the democratization pace in Taiwan.

How have shifts in the world order influenced Taiwan’s democratization?

By coming together as countries in the East of Asia, Taiwan stands to gain a lot in terms of increased political activity due to the economic integration. This globalization will also mean that Indonesia will increase its significance on the international arena thus attracting greater pressure to democratize.

How does the importance of nationalism in Taiwan’s experience of democratization challenge Rustow’s transition theory of democratization?

Nationalism in Taiwan is very strong to a point that the state has a strong influence on the people’s decisions an attitudes. According to Rustow, people need to be free to make democratic choices but in Taiwan, the presence of the state in almost all aspects of life reinforces the concept of nationalism.

Part X Turkey: modernization and the Middle East

Why does Bromley argue that democratization in the Middle East is weaker but similar to democratization elsewhere?

The promotion of democracy in the Middle East has been promoted mainly by North America through agencies such as MENA. However, the strong autocratic rule in Middle East is responsible for the weak democratic structures. Although the institutions, actors and factors of democratization in Middle East. Within Middle East, political reforms are also less frequent as compared to economic ones. Therefore, the democratization process has been largely suppressed as this limited political liberalization is also used as a strategy for control. In the Middle East, there is no democratic pressure although personal freedom is assumed insurance against discontent.

To what extent does Haynes (2001, p. 188) disagree with Bromley’s (1997, pp. 330–2) approach, in the textbook, to democratization in Turkey compared to rest of the Middle East?

In his book, Haynes argues that countries achieve a democratic status through their ability to integrate their structural factors and domestic and international factors, as well.

How does Huntington’s cultural approach differ from the approaches of Bromley and Haynes?

Huntington’s cultural approach recognizes that cultures are dynamic because they transform over time due to the change in people’s identities. According to Huntington, culture also serves to shape global politics. This view is slightly different from Bromley and Haynes perspective that views culture as one of the actors that are affected by democratization and political change.

Part XI: Islam and democracy

What are the sources of ideas about state formation in the Islamic tradition?

State formation in Islamic traditions is heavily hedged on religion, traditions and practices. Tribes among the Islam communities triggered the process of state formation as a means through which they could maintain their own autonomy. Under the state, tribes were assured that their values and culture could be kept intact. State formation among Islam communities has also been significantly hindered by the break up of traditional forms of authority and a replacement with corrupted movements that are guided by class, nationalism and ethnicity. Islam contains sets of norms, traditions and ideas that nurture equality is realized among the people. These norms also ensure accountability, respect of other religions and, therefore, make Islam ideally compatible with democracy.


According to Ayubi, how has Islam affected oppositions to governments in various countries with mostly Muslim populations?

The opposition to the concept of democracy by Islamic communities hails from the fact that it is a Western idea. The minority that opposes democracy cannot be ignored, as they hold the opinion of the conservative populations.

What does Mansouri mean when he regards questions about the compatibility of Islam and democracy as a ‘typical product of Western “Orientalist” discourse’?

The concept of democracy and its incompatibility in Islam communities is because of the perception that democracy is a product and a tool used by the Western world to promote their neo-colonialist interests on the rest of the world. The conflict between Islam and Christianity that is also from the West aggravates this situation, as the Islam is a religious society.
































Work Cited

Hu, Shao-hua. Explaining Chinese Democratization. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003. Web Accessed on 7 August 2012. Retrieved from

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