092 A pluralistic social order

Consider now what a relatively „advanced economy“ both makes possible by its performance and requires for its performance. An advanced economy not only can afford but also requires the reduction of illiteracy, the spread of universal education, widespread opportunities for higher education, and a proliferation of means of communication. Not only can it afford to produce an educated labor force, but it needs one: workers able to read and write, skilled workers who can read blueprints and respond to written directions, engineers, technicians, scientists, accountants, lawyers, managers of all kinds. Not only does it produce but it must have speedy and reliable systems of communication, including systems that transmit a vast amount of public or quasi-public information. It not only makes possible but at the same time requires a multiplicity of durable and highly specialized organizations manned by strongly motivated staffs who are loyal to the goals of the organization: factories, banks, stores, schools, universities, hospitals, mass transit systems, and thousands upon thousands of other types of organizations.

Because of its inherent requirements, an advanced econmy and its supporting social structures automatically distribute political resources and political skills to a vast variety of individuals, groups, and organizations. Among these skills and resources are knowledge; income, status, and esteem among specialized groups; skill in organizing and communicating; and access to organizations, experts, and elites. These skills and resources can be used to negotiate for advantages — for oneself, for a group, for an organization. Groups and organizations develop a thrust toward autonomy, internal and parochial loyalties, complex patterns of cohesion and cleavage. When conflicts arise, as they inevitably do, access to political resources helps individuals and groups to prevent the settlement of the conflict by compulsion and coercion and to insist, instead, upon some degree of negotiation and bargaining — explicit, implicit, legal, a-legal, illegal. Thus systems of bargaining and negotiation grow up within, parallel to, or in opposition to hierarchical arrangements; and these systems help to foster a political subculture with norms that legitimate negotiating, bargaining, logrolling, give and take, the gaining of consent as against unilateral power or coercion.
Even within ostensibly hierarchical organizations, leaders learn that compulsion and coercion are often damaging to incentives. In an advanced economy, long-run performance under threat or coercion is less productive at all levels than a more willing performance based upon voluntary compliance. Thus the fear of punishment for bad performance is not merely supplemented but in many respects displaced by the expectation of rewards for successful performance. Just as slave labor is in general less efficient than free labor, so badly paid, discontented workers are less productive in the long run than highly paid, contented workers. For technicians, executives, scientists, and intellectuals the need for a measure of willing performance, based on their „consent,“ is even greater. And a large measure of autonomy and discretion is also found to produce better results than rigid, overcentralized supervision.

Thus an advanced economy automatically generates many of the conditions required for a pluralistic social order. And as a pluralistic social order evolves, at least in an elementary form, some of its members make demands for participating in decisions by means more appropriate to a competitive than to a hegemonic political system.

If we use a single arrow with a C to suggest the direction of causation, the argument might be represented as follows:

Advanced economy — C → pluralistic social order — C→ demands for a competitive political system

The argument as it stands is, to be sure, oversimple. It requires at least three qualifications:

First, even if an advanced economy creates some of the conditions required for a pluralistic social order, it does not create all the conditions required: witness the USSR and East Germany, which combine rather advanced economies with centrally dominated social orders.

As we have already observed, the fit between economic „level“ and political system is loose; yet just as the fit is better at very low levels (polyarchies rare), so it is better at very high levels (hegemonic systems rare). Our argument implies — rightly, I think — that as countries with hegemonic systems move to high levels of economic development (for example, the USSR and the Eastern European countries) a centrally dominated social order is increasingly difficult to maintain. For if our argument is correct, economic development itself generates the conditions of a pluralistic social order. The monopoly over socioeconomic sanctions enjoyed by the hegemonic leaders is therefore undermined by the very success of their economy: the more they succeed in transforming the economy (and with it, inevitably, the society) the more they are threatened with political failure. If they allow their monopoly over socioeconomic sanctions to fragment and yet seek to retain their political hegemony by exploiting their monopoly over violence — a transformation from a centrally dominated social order to what was called earlier a quasi-pluralistic social order with repressive violence  — then they confront the enormous limitations, costs, and inefficiencies of violence, coercion, and compulsion in managing an advanced society where incentives and complex behavior are needed that cannot be manipulated by threats of violence.

The tensions within a hegemonic regime in a society at a high level of development might be indicated as follows, where the jagged, double-ended arrows represent conflict.

Second, while economic „success“ may threaten hegemonies by generating demands for political liberalization, economic success has not threatened polyarchies, but economic failure has. For economic difficulties, particularly when they take the form of severe unemployment or rapid inflation, generate demands for a hegemonic regime and a centrally dominated social order.

Third, it may be that the sharpness of this difference is already being blunted, for it is now becoming evident that affluent societies generate their own frustrations and discontents. Although affluence may increase the pressures for competitive politics in countries now ruled by hegemonic regimes, it is far from clear that affluence will continue to strengthen allegiance to democracy in countries that already have inclusive polyarchies.