Political Cleavages: Issues, Parties, and the Consolidation of Democracy

By Alejandro Moreno | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Conclusion: A Cross-National
Comparison of Cleavages

The increasing number of emerging democracies and the expansion of electoral politics and parties have called for a new revision of the left-right axis of political competition. This revision should take into account the fact that in some newly competitive party systems, democracy cannot be taken for granted. As shown in Chapters 3 and 4, in some cases democracy itself is a central issue of party competition. Party elites and voters may not view democracy--or a market economy--as the best system, sometimes because they fear that democracy will bring disorder and economic failure. This book shows that a strong attitudinal divide on the democracy issue characterizes some emerging democracies in the post-Communist world and Latin America. In many cases, opposing views toward democracy and their translation into party preferences constitute relevant political cleavages. Some voters in emerging democracies may use democratic means--free and fair elections--to attain the nondemocratic goals of retaining nondemocratic elites or returning them to power.

Relevant issues and cleavages are subject to change as a reflection of the dominant political, economic, and cultural transformations in society. The comparative work presented in this book suggests that the issues of advanced industrial society are not quite salient in the emerging, less developed democracies. However, there is a configuration of issues in the latter that parallels the ideological content of the issue configuration in the former. It is perhaps inappropriate to use the postmodern-fundamentalist dimension of conflict--or even the libertarian-authoritarian axis--for Latin America given the wider range of issues involved in these analytical dimensions. Nevertheless, it would be even more inappropriate not to acknowledge that there are strong cultural and political differences among Latin Americans on a liberalconservative--or more precisely, a liberal-fundamentalist--dimension of orientations and policy preferences.

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