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Chapter Review

  • Defining Advanced Democracy
    • Advanced democracies are countries with institutional democracy and a high level of economic development and prosperity (GDP at PPP over $8000 and in the top third on the HDI).
    • They used to be called “first world” countries, but the “three worlds” approach was problematic when it was originally used and, since the end of the Cold War, has become a category of little use.
    • As a category, advanced democracies include not just Western countries but also more recent democratizers and postcommunist countries that exhibit the hallmarks of economic development and democracy.
  • Freedom and Equality in Advanced Democracies
    • All advanced democracies share the basic components of liberal democracies: commitment to private property and free markets, and a belief in liberty, political competition, and participation.
    • Advanced democracies differ significantly in other areas. For instance, how they reconcile freedom and equality (particularly in the area of political economy), the level of their political participation, and the form of political competition (especially campaigns and elections). 
  • Advanced Democracies Today
    • Although they are changing significantly, the institutions present in advanced democracies are part of what makes these countries modern—that is, secular, technological, bureaucratic, rational, materialistic, and placing a greater emphasis on individual freedom than on collective equality.
  • Political Institutions: Sovereignty Transformed?
    • Although advanced democracies all display a relatively high level of sovereignty, there has been movement toward more integration (blurring the lines between countries by creating common policies, rules, and tighter connections) and devolution (shifting power toward more local governments).
    • The European Union (EU) is a prime example of integration. The EU began its life as a small agreement among a handful of countries that dealt primarily with the production of steel and coal; today it includes more members and has grown in political and economic power.
    • Because of its statelike institutions—the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice (which rules on issues of EU law and settles disputes over legislation)—the EU has been called a supranational system—that is, a system where sovereign powers are shared among the members and held by EU institutions over the member states themselves.
    • Two recent projects show the growth of the EU: the monetary union (the euro) and membership expansion.
    • Though not all EU members have joined, the monetary union has helped increase the EU’s economic influence worldwide, as the euro has become a reserve currency that rivals the U.S. dollar. However, the euro has also exposed significant economic tensions between EU members, as the Greek debt crisis highlights. Many are unsure of the future direction of EU monetary policy – whether it will result in further integration or in the disintegration of the euro.
    • EU membership has expanded, bringing the total population of the EU to 500 million (compared to the U.S.’s population of a bit over 300 million), and their combined economy is as large as that of the U.S. This enlargement has raised new issues and concerns, especially in the issues of immigration and jobs, as many of these new countries are considerably poorer than the original members. 
    • A second challenge to traditional state sovereignty has been the tug of devolution from below. Many political leaders in advanced democracies are concerned about public distrust of state power and advocate devolution to bring government closer to the public. As with integration, there are critics of increasing devolution as it may polarize a society and undermine the capacity and autonomy of the central state.
  • Societal Institutions: New Identities in Formation?
    • Political scientists see postmodern values emerging in advanced democracies. These values are focused less on the idea of progress as embodied by material gain or technological innovation than on concern for the environment, health, leisure, personal equality, and diversity.
    • While we must be careful not to overstate this trend towards postmodernism as a society’s religious heritage continues to shape societal values irrespective of the level of development, postmodern values do tend to support integrationist and devolutionist tendencies, as they are supportive of democracy but skeptical of state power.
    • As a more diverse group of immigrants has entered advanced democracies, these countries have struggled with issues of assimilation and multiculturalism. Countries that have prided themselves on tolerance have been challenged by the immigration of people with very different societal values from their own. Though the type and level vary widely across countries, xenophobia (fear of foreigners) has increased and has fueled the rise of anti-immigration, nationalist, and xenophobic movements that seek to restrict immigration, increase assimilation, and assert ethnic and national primacy.
  • Economic Institutions: A New Market?
    • Advanced democracies have seen a shift to postindustrialism—economies based not on the manufacture of tangible goods but on the service sector (industries like finance, real estate, education, and health care). This trend has been fueled by globalization, but the future of postindustrialism is clouded by the recent financial crisis.
    • The welfare state has brought significant benefits to advanced democracies, but this has also brought costs and controversies that have only been exacerbated by the global recession. Social expenditure has risen greatly in many of these countries as life expectancy has outpaced birthrate, but paying for these expenditures requires higher levels of taxation or state borrowing. Many advanced democracies are struggling against these trends and often consider relying more heavily on immigration or cutting social benefits to keep their economies strong.