The Ambiguous Relationship Between Middle-Class, Civil Society and Democracy

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 419
Oral Presentation
Dieter NEUBERT , Development Sociology, University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany
Debates on processes of democratization create the impression that the middle-class and/or the civil society are the drivers of democratic change and the backbone of democracy. Seen from this perspective either these groups fight for democratic change or once they have a basic political freedom they will quasi automatically take possession of democracy. This was the expectation in the USA before the Iraq invasion (what we may call the “Rumsfeld Utopia”). However, we have learned that in Iraq, after the Arab spring and in many countries that underwent processes of democratization during the 1980s and 1990s there was no automatic process towards democracy. In these transitions the middle-class played an important role and many of the civil society associations, social movements and especially their political leaders had a middle class background. But the political groups and the leaders that opposed the ideas of a liberal democracy also had support from middle class groups. At least in Africa and the Middle East the middle-class-based civil society represent competing concepts of socio-political order: e.g. liberal democracy, neo-patrimonialism, neo-traditionalism, theocratic rule (or socialism in Latin America). The claim for democratic elections may be used to legitimize any of the socio-political orders.