Conceptual Structure and Social Change: The Ideological Architecture of Democratization

Conceptual Structure and Social Change: The Ideological Architecture of Democratization

Conceptual Structure and Social Change: The Ideological Architecture of Democratization

Conceptual Structure and Social Change: The Ideological Architecture of Democratization

Synopsis

Sociopolitical changes are often associated with ideological shifts at the individual and mass level. The study of how sociopolitical and ideological change interrelate has been the subject of debate for decades. Here, however, the authors develop and defend a new theory that treats ideologies as complex cognitive systems that are internally articulated around prioritized principles and values. Focusing on the transition to democracy in Latin America, the book examines the changes in mass beliefs that accompany democratization in an effort to offer a more sophisticated theory of the relationship between belief, ideology, and action in social change. Ultimately, the authors argue for a cognitive-based model that can account for how social actors come to define "democracy" in current contexts.

Excerpt

Transitions from authoritarian rule to democratic rule, and their accompanying ideological shifts, are types of changes in political systems in which the interaction between ideas, motivation, and ideology on the one hand, and action and social forces on the other become more prominent. Most research in sociology has focused on questions related to the second constellation of changes, namely on how social external factors such as socioeconomic development processes determine particular political outcomes including transitions to democracy. In recent political changes corresponding to what is called the “third wave of democratization” (1977-present), however, the role of ideological shifts and influences among social agents at the elite and mass level has become increasingly central to an adequate account of the complex series of social processes that are associated to transitions to democracy. Ideological shifts were particularly important in the transitions to democracy in Eastern Europe in which the “demonstration effect” or the borrowing and mirroring of democratic ideas from one transition appeared to accelerate the collapse of authoritarian rule in an adjacent nation. The question now becomes what is the best theory to capture how ideas and ideology condition transitions to democracy, given that elements related to ideology are rooted in the individual but have a clear and widespread social impact.

The main goal of this book is to articulate a new theory of sociopolitical change relevant to explaining transitions to democracy that is based on current developments in the cognitive sciences. There have been some

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