Social Exclusion and Political Change BY HAUKE HARTMANN AND DANIEL SCHRAAD-TISCHLER
Authoritarian regimes with a low level of social inclusion lack what we call input and output legitimacy. The
low level of input legitimacy can be derived both from
the low overall scores for political participation rights and
the rule of law, and from the equally low levels of civic
engagement. Even Egypt, for example, with a relatively
high score for social capital and civil society traditions,
scores just below the global average of 5.08. The low level
of output legitimacy ( 4 or fewer points for the composite indicator of social inclusion) applies to 30 out of the
53 autocracies assessed in the BTI. In that sense, Bahrain,
Thailand, Tunisia, Venezuela, and even Jordan belong to
the slightly more legitimized half of autocratic regimes.
The lack of legitimization by consent or output explains why political unrest, as it gains space to express
itself in an authoritarian setting, tends to demand regime change—and often violently.
CIVICS, POLITICS AND STABILIT Y
In terms of input legitimacy, the 16 democracies that suffered the strongest setbacks in political stability in recent years cover the spectrum from a semi-au-thoritarian regime like Russia and a highly polarized and
unstable democracy like Guatemala to a poor but (until
recently) stable democracy like Mali with a high degree
of civic engagement.
An interesting example of the ways in which the capacity of a society and the government to channel popular demands can avoid political unrest has long been
Mali. The combination of a low level of socioeconomic
development and governance shortcomings would make
it seem like a sure candidate for political instability. But
despite recent events, Mali scores well not only in civil
society participation but also in social capital and traditions of civil society. However, the negative trend in
the composite “civic engagement” indicator is due to decreasing scores in conflict management relating to deficiencies in addressing the conflict with the Tuaregs in
the north, a failure that led to the military coup d’etat
in March 2012. Apart from Mali, Senegal and Honduras,
the other defective democracies in this sample have neither the social trust, the traditions of civil society, nor
governments capable of pursuing effective consensus-building. Social unrest and political instability take on
a decidedly more regime-challenging character when the
government simply cannot deliver acceptable levels of social inclusion (output legitimacy) on top of its low levels
of meaningful civic and political participation and trust.
The results of this mix of low levels of social inclu-
Americas Quarterly SPRING 2012
sion and regime legitimacy can be seen in Guatemala
and Mexico. The linkage to the high levels of social
exclusion is clearly visible. As the BTI Mexico-country
report states, “There is […] an obvious connection be-
tween the lack of opportunities for the young, associ-
ated with weak job creation over the last 20–30 years,
and the recruitment capacity of the drug cartels.”
Political stability is slightly more advanced in Ecua-
dor and Honduras, but is challenged by polarization and
social conflict. In several of the African countries with
increased political instability, our country reports note
a combination of government corruption, police vio-
lence and fundamental threats to public safety, directly
related to socioeconomic conflicts—often crime or dis-
putes about land tenure and distribution. The quality of
democracy in these countries is often low, with political
participation rights seriously (and increasingly) limited.
All the countries with increased political instability
discussed here demonstrate in varying degrees the nexus
between social exclusion and political unrest. The concrete shape that political unrest takes, however, depends
on the context of the respective country and is directly
linked to the quality of democracy and civic engagement.
In closed political systems, the authoritarian rulers either manage to repress unrest or, as was recently
seen in the Arab world, are swept away by a wave of
demonstrations triggered not solely by socioeconomic
demands, but by calls for democratization and better
governance. In defective democracies, much depends
on the social capital and the willingness of the government to build consensus and cooperate with civil society to keep social protest from escalating.
In consolidating democracies, social demands often
are transported by a more or less finely woven network
of parties, interest groups and civil society organizations,
which act as intermediaries in the political arena and
keep social conflicts from escalating.
In that sense, the opening argument is probably best
inverted: it is not only the degree of social inclusion that
defines the quality of democracy; it is also the quality of
democracy that defines to what extent social demands
can be negotiated and met.
Hauke Hartmann is senior project manager at the
Bertelsmann Foundation. Daniel Schraad-Tischler is
project manager at the Bertelsmann Foundation.
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