Social Hierarchies between Democracy and Autocracy

Abstract: Social hierarchies exist in democracies as well as in authoritarian societies. However, their nature is different. Democratic hierarchies are built bottom-up through election, while autocratic hierarchies are built top-down through coalition formation and domination. Both have power asymmetries between the weaker citizens and the stronger politicians, which are amplified the stronger the hierarchies are. This thesis introduces a model which combines pro-/anti-social behavior with different degrees of hierarchies which I unite in a model called the Structure-Behavior Diagram (Toelstede, 2020/1). This model has the power to categorize countries according to these criteria, and indicates when and how societies move between democracy and authoritarianism.The movements of societies in the political space of the Structure-Behavior Diagram are marked by certain patterns and dynamics. I use the path dependence theory (Toelstede, 2019/2) and examine how so-called path-creating mechanisms can emerge and influence societies to move from democracy to authoritarianism. I show that path dependency-induced dynamics can put democracies at risk and are more serious in hierarchical societies than in horizontal societies.Institutional punishment is widely seen as more stable then peer punishment. However, in political reality, institutional punishment – here in the form of policing – can be marked by over- and under-punishment as well as changes in sociality (Toelstede, 2019/1 and 2020/2). These findings show, together with hierarchy-sensitive characteristics of the path dependency, that institutional punishment and social hierarchies require more attention.Lastly, I show that most democratic societies are intuitively aware of the power asymmetries and long principal-agent chains between them and their political agents. Together, these features provide increasing benefits for an anti-social descent of the agents, although some societies are prepared to trade personal freedom for higher socio-economic welfare. They therefore strive for higher socio-economic efficiency by embracing strong governmental forms and high conformity levels. I call this efficient statism (Toelstede, 2019/2). In doing so, societies compliantly put their free and democratic order at risk.

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