Measuring the Understandings of Democracy – Alternative Approaches

Comparative Politics
Political Sociology
Mixed Methods
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Panel Discussant
Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach
Würzburg Julius-Maximilians University
Section: Open Section
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07/09/2017 09:00
Building: BL27 Georg Sverdrups hus Floor: 3 Room: GS 3513
Serious doubts on the global triumph of democracy are appropriate, facing the numerous problematic transformation processes and declines of democracy in some consolidated democracies, failed external democratization efforts in the Middle-East, the future of the countries of the Arab Spring or the Chinese way into democracy without democratization. At the same time, few governments do not seek to justify their rule by reference to democracy. But there is a “distinction between democracy as a political theory of legitimation of government and democracy as a mechanism or
instrument of government” (Kausikan 1998: 18).
Reviewing the difficulties of all those examples, one fundamental question comes into focus. Are we right with the expectation of a universally homogenous understanding of democracy in the entire world? Or is there a different understanding of democracy that affects different perception on democracy and its institutions? The author argues, that there is a diverging understanding of democracy in countries beyond the west (Dalton et al. 2008; Diamond 2010; Schubert 2012; Welzel 2013; Lu u. Shi 2015; Cho 2015) And political science should be aware of its euro-centristic view (Yildiz 2012) of the D-Word (Bratton 2010).

A number of standardized surveys offer comparable data on peoples’ attitudes towards the principles and institutions of democracy (Diamond 2008; Welzel/Inglehart 2008). Faced with numerous unexpected findings, such as a more favourable opinion on democracy in Albania and Azerbaijan than in Switzerland or Sweden (Welzel/Inglehart 2008), the credibility of a world-wide overwhelming support for democracy is questionable (Inglehart 2003; Pickel 2006; Dalton/Shin/Jou 2007). Even studies, combining the support for democracy with additional alternative variables such as support for strong leaders or army in governmental accountability, generated contradictory results. These inconsistencies led to the exclusion of certain autocratic ruled countries from various analysis (Pickel 2006). Considering the number of outliers in various researches, the statement of overwhelming positive attitude towards democracy looses its significance, as it remains valid only for Western Europe and North America. Before analysing the support of democracy we have to clarify whether the meaning of democracy is homogenous (Dalton et al. 2008). Neither by qualitative (Dalton et al. 2008) nor by quantitative research (Inglehart/Welzel 2005; Mattes/Bratton 2007; Welzel/Inglehart 2008) political science has come up with appropriate explanations for the above mentioned
“unexpected findings” (Welzel/Inglehart 2008) and the contradictions between empirical observations and theoretical research on democracy.
The described problems highlight the methodological challenges, in particular the phenomenon of linguistic and functional equivalence. They become an obstacle especially for cross-culture and cross-country studies, as there is probably neither a comparable understanding of the questions or an equal meaning of the used terms, nor their associations (Lauth/Pickel/Pickel 2009). In addition, because of subjective bias by social desirability and paying
lip-service, it is doubtful if expressed opinions about social issues are reliable.
Facing those inconsistencies and obstacles in the current research on democracy, the Panel seeks to discuss alternative and innovative approaches to measure the understanding of democracy in different countries.

Paper List

Measuring Democracy in the Age of Digitalization View Paper Details
Measuring Meanings of Democracy – A Multidimensional Approach View Paper Details
Measuring the Meaning of Democracy – Methods of Differentiation in a Singapore Case Study View Paper Details
The Meaning of Democracy: Using a Distributional Semantic Model for Collecting Co-occurrence Information from Online Data across Languages View Paper Details
Western Conceptions of Democracy – Exploring the Foundations of American and European Approaches to Democracy Promotion View Paper Details
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