The Beliefs of Citizens in Middle Eastern Countries about the Relationship Between Development and Personal Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Arland THORNTON, University of Michigan, USA
Shawn DORIUS, Iowa State University, USA
This paper investigates the extent to which people in five Middle Eastern countries—Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia—endorse the key beliefs of developmental idealism that associate development with freedom, democracy, and human rights. Developmental idealism is defined as a set of beliefs and values that endorses development as desirable, indicates methods for achieving development, and specifies the consequences of development. The literature suggests that the values and beliefs of developmental idealism have suffused worldwide among elites and lay citizens alike. This literature also posits that as these beliefs and values are disseminated, they become forces for social and economic changes, including social and political transformations such as the 'Arab Spring'. Although the research on developmental idealism has primarily examined family and demographic issues, developmental idealism beliefs and values have tremendous potential to influence other aspects of society. This paper builds on and extends developmental idealism research by considering issues not addressed previously: personal freedom, democracy, and human rights. We use survey data to investigate whether individuals in five publics in the Middle East believe that increases in development lead to greater personal freedom, democracy, and human rights and whether they believe that increases in personal freedom lead to greater development. These data indicate that large majorities in all five countries believe that development brings about greater personal freedom, democracy, and human rights. Conversely, the data also show that large majorities believe that more personal freedom contributes to development. These findings provide support for the idea that the beliefs of developmental idealism concerning three key elements of world culture--freedom, democracy, and human rights--have diffused to diverse publics in the Middle East. These beliefs have great potential to affect the pace and direction of societal development.