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social capital as a societal resource for building political support in new democracies  

2006-12-25 08:52:22|  分类: 关注 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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With the latest wave of democratisation, much scholarly research into democratic transitions has focused on the role of social capital in the transition process. An important part of the democratic reforms has been the institutionalisation of civil society, characterised by networks of associations that continue the process of the consolidation of democracy. This article examines the role of social capital in building support for democracy among transitional societies in Eastern and Central Europe (ECE) and Latin America (LA). The specific question is whether or not involvement in voluntary organisations explains support for democratisation. Two dimensions of political support are examined: first, support for democracy as an ideal concept, and second, support for democratic institutions, meaning the government, political parties, parliament, and the legal system.

Social capital is a community resource based on individuals’ shared values, attitudes, behaviour and commitment to the community (Brehm and Rahn, 1997). Individual-level characteristics such as personal trust, a belief that you can affect the system of government, and satisfaction with life are positive characteristics that foster greater participation, interest in, and concern for, the community. These individual-level characteristics and civic behaviour encourage the development of healthy ‘stocks’ of social capital that are integrated with economic and political institutions at the societal level.

Theories of social capital suggest two related but distinct sets of attitudes and behaviour that influence support for, and satisfaction with, the political system. First, individual-level social attitudes such as personal trust and positive feelings about life, are personal characteristics that create a positive individual outlook on the community and the political system. This contributes to optimism about one’s ability to participate in, and have an impact on, the political system (Almond and Verba, 1963; Putnam, 1993; Inglehart, 1990, 1997). These values develop through social interaction in the home, schools, and community, and are associated with the ‘democratic citizen’, an individual who is critical of the government but is satisfied with how the system works (Dahl, 1994).
Second is the translation of these values into behaviour. Positive feelings about themselves and others encourage citizens to participate in the community. This includes membership in organisations, such as sports clubs, charities, volunteer organisations and professional societies. These organisations act as networks for disseminating information and encouraging discussion about issues affecting society. Curtis, Baer and Grabb (2001) point out that ‘free association of individual citizens in such organisations reinforces participatory norms, encourages cooperative interaction, and promotes interpersonal trust,’ values they argue are essential to solving problems faced in the wider community and critical to a well-functioning democracy (see also Almond and Verba, 1963, Putnam, 1993).

The social capital literature is vague about how individual–level traits become a societal resource. Most accounts suggest that the social learning that takes place through continued contact with others creates a set of norms in society based on trust and reciprocity (Uslaner, 1999; Brehm and Rahn, 1997). Individuals do not acquire these traits on their own but rather in group settings such as the family, community organisations and schools. Co-operative traits and interpersonal trust foster contact with others and group membership contributes to the development of a co-operative society as a whole. Stolle (2001: 119) points out that the ‘operations of voluntary groups and associations contribute to the building of a society in which co-operation between all people for all sorts of purposes — not just within groups themselves — is facilitated’. By this account, widespread trust and engagement in the society fosters the growth of social capital, which becomes institutionalised as a societal norm. In other words, trust and positive feelings breed more trust and positive feelings.

Early studies done by Almond and Verba (1963) and Eckstein (1966) make the argument that populations need to possess certain traits that support the system of government. In a democracy, this means a well-educated population whose members are active in their communities, politically interested, knowledgeable about politics, and although respectful of authority, sceptical enough to balance the state. These theories of a ‘democratic culture’ continue to influence recent research, most notably work by Putnam (1993) who argues that associational involvement accounts for the quality of a democracy, and Inglehart (1990, 1997) who suggests that a gradual shift toward democratic values is taking place globally.

Years of repression under an authoritarian or totalitarian regime stunted the individual characteristics that support democracy, as activities were either suppressed entirely or under state control. The civic networks common among democracies are either personal networks, or networks that fall outside state control, such as black markets. For example, Grootaert (2001) suggests that in Eastern Europe, lack of social capital has resulted in the growth of an informal economy characterised by a strong personal network that undermines the economy as a whole. Counter to this argument is research that suggests that high rates of political participation and strong networks of personal relationships existed under the communist system (Bahry and Silver, 1990; DiFranceisco and Gitelman, 1984). This suggests that the basis for civil society exists in many newly democratised countries. With the introduction of democracy, civil society should slowly begin to flourish.

DATA

We use data from the World Values Survey (WVS) conducted between 1995 and 1997. The WVS is supported by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Ronald Inglehart from the University of Michigan acted as the main investigator (Inglehart et al., 2000). The sample sizes range from 554 to 2,040 and include individuals eighteen years of age and older. The focus of this investigation is new democracies in ECE (East Germany, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova) and LA (Uruguay, Venezuela, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru) plus several well-established democracies (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Australia, Switzerland, West Germany, the United States, Japan). All the new democracies chosen made the democratic transition between the early 1980s and 1991.

INDICATORS

The measure of social capital is the level of civic engagement, measured by membership in organisations. As mentioned, the development of social capital is controversial. Associational membership is a good indicator of social capital because it addresses a specific behaviour. The purpose of this measure is to gauge activity outside the home that would generally mean contact with others (see Curtis, Baer, and Grabb, 2001, who use a similar measure). The following organisations are included in the battery of questions: church or religious organisations; sport or recreational organisations; art, music or educational organisations; labour unions; political parties; professional associations; environmental or charitable organisations; other. A scale was created by counting each individual membership.

The dependent variable includes two dimensions of political support: support for democracy as an ideal concept and support for democratic institutions. Most research acknowledges that political support is a multi-dimensional concept (Rose, 2000). This is even more important in new democracies where there are often large differences between support for that type of system and support for its institutions. Theoretically, examining social capital across the two different types of support in new democracies is important because it sheds light on the role of social capital in democratisation. High levels of social capital are thought to have a positive effect on institutions.

Several questions ask about support for democracy as an ideal type of government[1]. For institutional support, the focus is on those institutions associated with a democracy, and respondents are asked about their confidence in: political parties, parliament, national government, and the legal system. A factor analysis confirms that the items used in both scales are strongly correlated and belong to the same dimension. [2]

SOCIAL CAPITAL AS A CAUSAL VARIABLE FOR POLITICAL SUPPORT

Examining the character of civic organisations is beyond the scope of this investigation, but if Inglehart’s and Putnam’s theory is correct, we can expect a positive correlation between civic involvement and support for, and satisfaction with, democracy. Involved citizens are more likely to desire democracy and be supportive of having a democratic system. We use multilevel modelling to examine this process. Multi-level analysis is a means of accounting for the variation in civic involvement among countries. Not accounting for the clusters potentially exaggerates standard errors and underestimates regression coefficients (Goldstein, 1995). A random slope model is used to capture the different relationships between civic engagement and political support among the countries, and is expressed by the equation . The subscript i represents the individual level, while j is the country level. Variables with subscript ij represent variation among individuals in the country.

Table 1 shows the parameter estimates of the model for both ideal and institutional support. The first column for each model is the impact of civic engagement, the second column includes controls (education, age, and gender) and the third column accounts for region to identify regional variation. Overall, civic engagement is a strong determinant of both ideal and institutional support at the individual-level. The coefficient is particularly strong for institutional support, indicating that a positive relationship exists between engagement in civic associations and support for democratic institutions (see column 1). This relationship remains even after the inclusion of individual-level controls (see column 2).

Comparing the two models, one for ideal support and the other for institutional support, the country-level variance is significant in the first model (ideal support) only. A significant portion of the variance is accounted for (.12). This means that individuals in the same country tend to be similar to each other, and justifies the need to take into account country-level variation. Once regions are added to the first model (column 3 of Table 1), country-level variance disappears. Region accounts for much of the impact of civic engagement. For both models, being in LA or ECE has a negative impact on political support, although for institutional support, the negative effect of being in LA is minimal. The variance in the second model is zero. This means that no discernible difference between country-level differences in institutional support occurs. Variance occurs among individuals only. The addition of regions is also negative in this model, but does significantly decrease the impact of civic engagement. This may indicate that beliefs about democracy vary at the country level but attitudes toward democratic institutions are independent of the country. One factor that may account for this difference is the relationship between government performance and support for specific government institutions.

hat does this mean for debates about social capital? The results show that the relationship between social capital and democratisation is multi-dimensional. A different relationship exists between associational membership and democracy as an ideal, and between associational membership and democratic institutions. This points to the need to distinguish between how democracy is conceptualised when conducting research on the relationship between social capital and democracy. The most important issue, however, is whether or not the evidence supports theories that suggest that associational involvement is related to support for democracy, proposed by researchers such as Putnam and Inglehart, among others. Both models offer support for the theory at the individual-level. However, in the first model the positive effects of associational membership are dependent on the country and disappear once region is controlled for. This suggests two things. The relationship between democracy and social capital is strong in well-established democracies only, meaning that theories of social capital are not as easily applied in newly democratised countries. And second, region may play an important role as Putnam suggests, although further research is needed to explore this finding fully.

In the second model, institutional support, the evidence suggests that theories of social capital presented by Putnam and Inglehart, among others, may have some credibility even in newly democratised regions at least at the individual level. Individuals who are involved in associations are more supportive of democratic institutions. This finding also gives credibility to the assertion that social capital is connected to a country’s institutions. And the findings suggest that the relationship between individuals and government institutions is consistent across countries.

This research also points to the need for more research into the effects of social capital on the democratisation process. At least two issues are raised: first, the nature of associations themselves. It may be that citizens in new democracies feel voluntary associations are ineffective or still associated with the old regime. And second, the consistency of the relationship between government institutions and social capital across countries suggests that more research is needed into the relationship between social capital and government performance.

 

Table 1: Parameter estimates from a multilevel analysis of social capital and satisfaction with democracy

 

Ideal support

   

Institutional support

   
 

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Constant

Individual level characteristics

Civic engagement

Socio-economic characteristics

Gender

Age

Education

Regions

Latin America

ECE

Country-level variance components

Constant

Individual

Country-level

-2*log(like)

0.672(0.011)

0.092(0.024)a

0.002 (.001)

-0.003 (.001)

0.011 (.004)

-38857.630

0.624(0.011)

0.045(.023)b

-0.011(.001)

0.009(.003)

0.098(.003)

0.002 (.001)

 -0.002 (.001)

0.009 (.003)

-39887.570

0.680(.005)

0.010(.008)

-0.010(.001)

0.012(.003)b

0.093(.003)a

-0.095(.002)a

-0.066(.002)a

0

0

0

-37976.550

0.485(.003)

0.152(.008)a

0

0

0

-31807.210

0.471(.005)

0.161(.008)a

0(.002)

0.033(.003)

-0.015(.003)

0

0

0

-31807.210

0.507(.005)

0.130(.008)a

0.001(.002)

0.027(.003)b

-0.011(.003)

-0.029(.002)c

-0.042(.002)c

0

0

0

-32380.060

a p < .001

b p < .01

c p < .05


notes:

  1. The questions for ideal support include:

    • Where on this scale would you put the political system as it is today? (1-10 scale);

    • I’m going to describe various types of political system and ask what you think about each as a way of governing the country. For each one, would you say it is a very good, fairly good, fairly bad or very bad way of governing this country? Having a democratic political system etc;

    • I’m going to read off a list of things people say about a democratic political system. Could you please tell me if you agree strongly, agree, disagree, or disagree strongly after I read each one? In a democracy, the economic system runs badly. Democracies are indecisive. Democracies aren’t good at maintaining order. Democracy may have problems but it’s better than any other form of government.

    Also included are controls for age, gender, and education. Gender is coded 1 for women, 0 for men. Age is a continuous variable based on the following categories: 18-24; 25-34; 35-44; 45-54, and 55+. Education is treated as continuous with higher education as the reference category. Education is divided into upper, middle and lower terciles for each country.

references:

Almond, G. and S. Verba (1963), The Civic Culture: Democracy in Five Nations, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Bahry, D. and B. Silver (1990), ‘Soviet Citizen Participation on the Eve of Democratization’. American Political Science Review, 84:3, 821-847.

Brehm, J. and W. Rahn (1997), ‘Individual-Level Evidence for the Causes and Consequences of Social Capital’, American Journal of Political Science, 41:3, 999-1023.

Curtis, J., D. Baer, and E. Grabb (2001), ‘Nations of Joiners: Explaining Voluntary Association Membership in Democratic Societies’, American Sociological Review, 66:6, 634-647.

Dahl, R. (1994), ‘A Democratic Dilemma: System Effectiveness versus Citizen Participation’, Political Science Quarterly, 109:1, 23-34.

DiFranceisco, W. and Z. Gitelman (1984), ‘Soviet Political Culture and “Covert participation” in Policy Implementation’, American Political Science Review, 78, 603-621.

Eckstein, H. (1966), Division and Cohesion in Democracy: A Study of Norway, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Goldstein, H. (1995), Multilevel Statistical Models: Second Edition, New York, Halsted Press.

Grootaert, C. (2001), ‘Social Capital: The Missing Link?’ in P. Dekker and E. Uslaner, (eds), Social Capital and Participation in Everyday Life, London, Routledge.

Inglehart, R. (1990), Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Inglehart, R. (1997), Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Changes in 43 Societies, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Inglehart, R, et al. (2000), World Values Survey and European Values Survey, 1995-1997, ICPSR Version, Ann Arbor, Institute for Social Research.

Putnam, R. (1993), Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Rose, R. (2000), ‘Political Support for Incomplete Democracies: Realist versus Idealist Theories and Measures’, SPP 333, CSPP Publications, University of Strathclyde.

Stolle, D. (2001), ‘Clubs and Congregations: The Benefits of Joining an Association’ in K. Cook (ed.), Trust and Society, New York, Russell Sage Foundation.

Uslaner, E. (1999), ‘Democracy and Social Capital’ in M.E. Warren (ed.), Democracy and Trust, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

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