How Universal are Democratic Values? A Study of the Urban Middle Class’s Valuation of Core Democratic Ideals in a Hybrid Regime
Date of Award
Campus Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
With the end of the Cold War, the dismantling of the Soviet Union and a large number of authoritarian regimes nominally turning into democracies, the global consensus emerged that liberal democracy had won a decisive victory over authoritarianism. However, in the ensuing three decades, that trend has reversed, with a rising number of newly democratic nations falling back into authoritarianism; or in perpetual transition from authoritarian to democratic order—the “hybrid” regimes.
Among the citizens of hybrid regimes and established democracies alike, despite popularity of the concept of democracy, the commitment to democratic ideals is weakening. To solve this conundrum, particularly in the growing number of hybrid regimes, this study examines the citizens’ valuations of the core democratic ideals—freedom, equality, social justice and political engagement—in a hybrid regime, Bangladesh. It focuses on the urban middle class due to its historic importance in democratic transition. In addition, the study examines the economic and socio-political determinants of middle-class support for the core democratic ideals. To understand middle-class support for democratic ideals and the impact of socio-economic-political conditions on the level of this support, this dissertation employs an in-person survey of 600 randomly selected individuals in three cities of Bangladesh—a populous but little-studied hybrid regime with a rapidly advancing economy, in February-March 2019. The primary data collected on 17 dependent and 13 explanatory variables is then analyzed through multinomial, ordinal and generalized ordinal logistic regressions to identify significant determinants of valuations of democratic principles.
The findings reveal that an educated, politically engaged and globalized, but increasingly illiberal, urban middle class values democracy primarily because it grants suffrage to citizens, but less for the associated liberal values of freedom and socio-political equality. Moreover, speaking against the popular modernization assumptions, a rising economy does not necessarily instill a universal set of liberal values in the upwardly-mobile middle class, leading to its uneven commitment across various democratic ideals. Instead of economic progress, a multitude of extra-economic determinants are responsible for middle-class commitment to democratic ideals; these include middle class’s dependence on the regime, its class-based socialization and privileges, the differences in urban socio-political environments, gender, religious affiliation and religiosity.
This dissertation highlights the connection between the middle class’s lukewarm democratic commitment and the perpetuation of a hybrid regime. A middle class that is politically organized but focuses solely on instruments of democracy, such as elections, and simultaneously shows a lukewarm attitude towards democratic ideals, fails to create pressure on the hybrid regime for full democratic consolidation. This study also indicates the importance of local and global socio-political conditions in building the middle class’s commitment towards democratic ideals. Lastly, the study suggests that for hybrid regimes to become robust democracies, the policy-focus needs to expand from monitoring elections and related institutions to creating local and global socio-political conditions that help deepen democratic values in hybrid regimes.
Kabir, Priyanka, "How Universal are Democratic Values? A Study of the Urban Middle Class’s Valuation of Core Democratic Ideals in a Hybrid Regime" (2020). Graduate Doctoral Dissertations. 562.
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