Regimes, Politics, and Markets: Democratization and Economic Change in Southern and Eastern Europe

By José María Maravall; Justin Byrne | Go to book overview

5
Democracies and Democrats

This chapter analyses the subjective universes which have accompanied the political changes and economic transformations in the new democracies. It examines the political cultures of these regimes, the way these have evolved over time, and the influence which economic conditions may have had on this evolution. Hence, we shall consider the different economic and political factors relating to the legitimacy of these new regimes.

Weber defined legitimacy as the validity of an order whose mandate must be obeyed: a legitimate order is one 'which enjoys the prestige of being considered binding'.1 Contemporary political analysis has tended to consider the validity and prestige referred to in this definition in relative terms. In this way, legitimacy is 'the belief that, in spite of shortcomings and failures, the political institutions are better than any others that might be established and therefore can demand obedience'.2 This conception of legitimacy, therefore, is not based on a reference to a political ideal, but is above all concerned with the prospects for regime consolidation and stability. These prospects will be greater if other possible alternative regimes prove less acceptable to the citizens.

A well-established tradition of political analysis considers that the cultural bases of a democracy affect its vulnerability, and that economic conditions have a decisive influence on these bases. In other words, it has argued that the fabric of values, beliefs, ideas, and perceptions about politics, politicians, and institutions condition the perspectives for democracy and reflect economic performance. On the face of it, a number of different cases certainly suggest

____________________
1
Max Weber, Economy and Society, i ( Berkeley, University of California Press, 1978), 31.
2
Juan J. Linz, "'Legitimacy of Democracy and the Socioeconomic System'", in Mattei Dogan (ed.), Comparing Pluralist Democracies ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1988).

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