On 20 April 2016, during the 6th International Research Workshop, the LCSR Chief Research Fellow Prof. Christian Welzel gave the special lecture “Democracy Misunderstood: Authoritarian Notions of Democracy around the Globe”.
On 20 April 2016, during the 6th International Research Workshop “Trust, Social Capital and Values in Comparative Perspective” the LCSR Chief Research Fellow Prof. Christian Welzel gave the special lecture “Democracy Misunderstood: Authoritarian Notions of Democracy around the Globe”. The lecture explains why in some authoritarian countries the vast support for democracy can coexist with the absence of democracy in practice.
Democracy can only survive if the majority of population considers it as the only game in town. Asking questions about regime preferences helps us understand regime legitimacy. In some authoritarian political systems, we observe that the vast majority of population supports democracy. Such situation can lead to a wrong conclusion that the current regime is illegitimate and the transition to democracy would work if we remove state dependence and empower people’s voice. However, the vast support for democracy can coexist with the absence of democracy. One possible explanation may be that people in these countries have a different definition of democracy which is different from that in the western liberal political science textbooks. When false notions prevail, people consider a country as democratic even when it is not.
To measure how widely the authoritarian notions of democracy are supported in different nation-states, Prof. Christian Welzel introduces a formative index consisting of three items: religious authorities ultimately interpret the law, the army takes over when government is incompetent, and all people obey the rules. Examining the countries having the highest index scores, helps us identify certain common economic, political and social features. The countries in this cluster exhibit an absence of a long democratic tradition, low level of economic development, and Islam religion. On the contrary, the countries which have been democratic for a long time, tend to be mostly protestant, prosperous, highly developed industrialized nation-states.
Having tested the relationship between the support for authoritarian notions of democracy and different individual and country-level factors, we see that sex, age cohort, religiosity, cognitive mobilization, emancipative values and physical threat perception are significant predictors of the support for authoritarian notions of democracy. Nevertheless, their weight is rather small. Prof. Christian Welzel highlights that there are country-level conditions which play the major role in explaining the support for authoritarian notions of democracy. The key factor which determines support for authoritarian notions of democracy is the enlightenment ladder, which has even stronger influence when combined with emancipative values and age cohort. When a person has both strong emancipative values and lives in a highly educated country, there is an additional depressing effect on the support for authoritarian notion of democracy. In addition, being young has a stronger depressing effect on the support for authoritarian notion of democracy if a country is more advanced in the enlightenment ladder.
Prof. Christian Welzel develops a model of authoritarian equilibrium: the lack of enlightenment leads to authoritarian notion of democracy which provokes uncritical reality estimations. Uncritical reality estimations in turn, weaken social movements resulting in deficient or absent democracy which prevents enlightenment.
Author of the news: Julia Vorobeva, Ivan Aimaliev
Laboratory for Comparative Social Research