Special Issue: Civil Society and Democracy in an Era of Inequality
Michael Bernhard, Tiago Fernandes, and Rui Branco, Introduction: Civil Society and Democracy in an Era of Inequality
Ekrem Karakoç, A Theory of Redistribution in New Democracies: Income Disparity in New Democracies in Europe
Why is it that new democracies have difficulty generating income equality? This article argues that low voter turnout and weak political party system institutionalization increase targeted spending. This in turn has an effect on income inequality because social spending rewards privileged social groups to the detriment of the disadvantaged. The argument is tested across six new and fifteen long-standing democracies in Europe using a panel-data analysis. It finds that low turnout by the poor and weak party institutionalization increase targeted spending, which in turn decreases economic equality. The analysis also finds that high voter turnout moderates the negative effect of electoral volatility on targeted spending.
Grzegorz Ekiert, Jan Kubik, and Michal Wenzel, Civil Society and Three Dimensions of Inequality in Post-1989 Poland
This article presents three novel arguments regarding the role of civil society in the democratic transformation of Poland. First, under communism, associational life was neither extinct nor always totally controlled by the state. Over time, some organizations achieved a modicum of autonomy. The massive Solidarity movement left a legacy of civic engagement that influenced post-1989 developments. Second, inequality under state socialism needs to be treated comprehensively. While the level of income inequality was modest, economic inequality was more pronounced (privileges of the communist elites). Civic and political inequalities were acute. All three forms of inequality generated discontent and mobilization. Third, after 1989, civil society has become an institutional vehicle for virtually eliminating political inequality, advancing civic equality, and controlling the growth of economic inequality.
Mark R. Beissinger, “Conventional” and “Virtual” Civil Societies in Autocratic Regimes
In recent years many non-democracies have witnessed the rapid growth of new social media that have, in a number of instances, become vehicles for civic activism, even in the presence of anemic “conventional” civil society association. Using evidence from Russia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine, this article explores the implications of “virtual” civil society for opposition politics in autocratic regimes. The rise of “virtual” civil society potentially presents autocratic regimes with new challenges for control over the streets. But a robust “virtual” civil society combined with a weak “conventional” civil society has a series of less positive consequences for oppositional politics, reinforcing weak political organization, breeding a false sense of representativeness, diluting collective identities within oppositions, and rendering mobilization over extended periods of time more difficult.
Michael Bernhard and Dong-Joon Jung, Civil Society and Income Inequality in Post-Communist Eurasia
This article argues that the strength of civil society at the point of extrication from communism is a powerful predictor of how “liberal democratic” post-communist regimes become. This is based on the impact that an engaged civil society has on the reconfiguration of post-communist elites and the degree to which the model of accumulation permits concentration of resources in the hands of previous elites. In cases where civil society was engaged at the moment of extrication, the elite were disposed to a more liberal model of capitalism which afforded greater social welfare protection. Where civil society was weaker, the elite were able to convert political power into concentrated control of economic assets and a more predatory and inegalitarian model of political capitalism emerged.
Robert M. Fishman, How Civil Society Matters in Democratization: Setting the Boundaries of Post-Transition Political Inclusion
This article offers a new perspective on how civil society matters in democratization, arguing that its impact is felt long after the end of regime transition. Whereas some analyses focus exclusively on the organizational impact of institutionalized actors, this article also examines the significance of social movement protest and argues that the cultural legacies of civil society’s transition-era role help to determine whether organizationally weak and resource-poor actors will be able to gain a hearing in new democracies. Although the objectives of this article are fundamentally theoretical, it builds empirically on the strategically chosen paired comparison of Portugal and Spain, two countries that moved from authoritarianism to democracy through polar opposite pathways.
Tiago Fernandes and Rui Branco, Long-Term Effects: Social Revolution and Civil Society in Portugal, 1974–2010
Do democratic social revolutions strengthen civil society in the long-run? We answer this question by comparing the trajectories of three civil society sectors (social welfare organizations, neighborhood associations, and unions) in democratic Portugal. We argue that the degree of inclusiveness of the institutions of the previous authoritarian regime shaped the type of revolutionary elites available for alliances with civil society during the revolutionary crisis. More inclusionary authoritarian institutions promoted the emergence of a more pluralistic opposition to the dictatorship, thus generating future revolutionary leaderships prone to empowering emerging popular civil society organizations. Inversely, exclusionary and repressive institutions spawned a narrow and secretive opposition and subsequent revolutionary elite bent on hierarchical top-down control thereby disempowering civil society in the long-run.