Lipset and modernization theory

Modernization theory suggests a strong correlation between capitalist industrialization and modernization, including democratization. Seymour Martin Lipset is a strong adherent of modernization theory, but he has also questioned the absolute nature of such theory:

“However, an extremely high correlation between such things as income, education, and religion, on the one hand, and democracy, on the other, in any given society should not be anticipated even on theoretical grounds because, to the extent that the political subsystem of the society operates autonomously, a political form may persist under conditions normally adverse to the emergence of that form. Or a political form may develop because of a syndrome of unique historical factors even though the society’s major characteristics favor another form.”

Lipset, Seymour Martin. Political Man, The social bases of politics. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, 1981 [1959], p. 28.

Lipset then uses Germany as an example.

The point with regards to Sweden is that a society may well have the outer forms of democracy, and even seem stable, without really having a democratic core, in terms of values and practices.

What Lipset instead suggests is that we should be sensitive to a syndrome of unique historical events and or an autonomous political subsystem.

It is then even more interesting to note that Sweden was one of the, if not the, country that around 1900 was socially, culturally and politically most similar to “Wilhemine” Germany. Much of Sweden’s early struggle for democracy was also against an entrenched oligarchic political “subsystem”.

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