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Democratization and equality

Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira

Paper prepared for the Festschrift for José María
Maravall, John March Institute, Madrid, June 14-15, 2010.

Democratization - the improvement of the quality of democracy - is taking place in so far as democratic societies irregularly progress towards the political objectives of modern societies: security, freedom, material well-being, social justice and protection of the environment. Democratization is the outcome of the increase of two equalities: substantive political equality and economic equality. During the 30 Golden Years of Capitalism (1949-78) progress was sizeable and reflected in social theory in the struggle between modernization theory and Marxism, and on the rise of pluralist school of democracy. Yet, after a relative crisis in the 1970s democracy fell back as a reactionary ideology - neoliberalism - turned dominant and mounted an attack to the Social State and to equality. In the intellectual realm, social theory lost relevance, while liberal political theory turned dominant, and an utopian concept of democracy - deliberative democracy - dominated the debate on democracy. On the other hand, the rise of rational expectations based on a pessimistic view of mankind reflected the dismal times. The 30 Neoliberal Years of Capitalism collapsed in the 2008 global financial crisis. Meanwhile, the poor and a minority of republican citizens proved to be the real agents of democratization. We need to acknowledge their existence to understand why political progress eventually happens.