Guillermo O’Donnell, Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism (1979)


* BA has ocurred only in those states where modernization has gone the furthest (xiii)

* O’D uses Weber’s language of ‘elective affinity’ to describe the relationship b/w BA and modernization (xiv)


Chapter 1 – Assumptions and Classifications

On Recent Studies

* General pattern of rich countries being democracies, and poor countries not (2)

* Correlations are useful, but they are not able to provide direction, motivation, etc.

* They lead to the following expectations:

**1) if poor countries become as rich as rich countries, they will likely become political democracies

**2) even if they don’t match levels, as their wealth rises, they should be more likely to become democracies

**3) given any two underdeveloped countries, the richer one will be more likely to be a democracy (3)

* This paradigm is best described by Lipset’s work (4)

* There is an assumption that the processes which connected wealth with political democracy in the rich/democratic countries still exist and will form the same connection in poorer nations (4)

* Socio-economic growth is highly correlated with political pluralization (7) – But this is not the same as political democracy

* However, in SA, political authoritarianism seems to be more connected to modernization than democracy… (8)


Latin American Studies: Ranks and Classifications

* Essentially, O’D is trying NOT to do normal science, he wants to do some revolutionary science by breaking down the paradigm that is prevalent in the political and social sciences


Data and Averages

* How do we justify the use of national averages? (15) Aggregate data studies only apply to means, but we should be interested in the entire distribution (16)

* Thus, inferences based on means are very weak support (19)

* O’D is more concerned with data that points to the structural characteristics of what is being investigated, rather than a mean or average (21)


Intra-Country Heterogeneity

* Creates a dichotomy between modern areas and peripheral areas

* Peripheral areas: agrarian region with per capita less than $200 US; per capita productivity less than half the urban average; minimal production and consumption of industrial goods; low levels of organization of wage and salary earners (22-23)

* This defintion, importantly, is not simply urban-rural -> it allows for either area to be in either camp

* see p 24-25 for how O’D is using this idea – examining the structural differences within a society


Definitions and Indicators

* Uses Apter’s theory of modernization (26)

* Drawing from Apter, we can add to the definition of peripheral areas.  It now includes: a very limited degree of modernization is observable; the penetration of institutions and roles associated with industry and modern technology is minimal. (28)

* For O’D, most of the variance at the national level can be explained by examining the modern area – particularly political demands made by (activated) political actors and incumbents of technocratic roles (29)


Political Demands – preferences about gov. policies by actors capable of drawing national policy maker attention to their issues (29)


Political Activation – Capacity of modern area individuals to transform their political preferences into political demands (29) –  Requires a sector to have a permanent organizational basis not entirely subordinated to the domination of other sectors AND the sector must be within a network of communications that enables it to be easily contacted by, and quickly responsive to, its leadership. (29) Has both scope ( number of individuals activated in an area) and intensity (frequency and degree of org. support of political demands) (30).


Technocratic Roles – Elite phenomenon – positions in a social structure that require application of modern technology as an important part of their daily routine (30). The incumbants are a subset of the ‘politically activated population’ and of ‘political elites.’ (30)


Approximations to Actual Values



* larger the domestic market, the further they have advanced in industrialization (33)

* population is also important, but determining what size  a city must be to qualify as ‘urban’ is difficult



* “In contemporary South American countries, the larger the size of the domestic market and the greater the concentration of population in urban units, the more advanced their industrial establishments.” (39)


Roles and Stratification



* Educational data have been interpreted as indicative of structural differences across modern areas. (43)

* Use of registration of inventions per South American country as a measure of innovation (43)




Preliminary Recapitulation

* “Differences in size (of the domestic market and of urban units) are closely related to important differences in the productive structure of modern areas and, more specifically, in the type of industrialization of contemporary South American countries.” (46)

* By breaking down the data in this way, O’D demonstrates that the level of modernization in ‘centers’ is crucially important -> and related to the type of political system (leading to proposition 9)


Chapter 2 – Toward an Alternative Conceptualization of South American Politics

* More dynamic approach being used (51)

* Utilizing a distinction -> Whehter or not governmental action is geared to EXCLUDE the already activated urban popular sector  from the national political arena (51)

* exclusion is an intentional decision to reduce the number of people who have a voice in determining the national political agenda

* Excluding Political System = a system that attempts the exclusion of the already activated urban popular sector (52)

* Incorporating Political System = a political system that purposefully seeks to activate the popular sector (53)

* The only two countries which are excluding are Argentina and Brazil – they are also those which are furthest along in industrialization (53)


Argentina and Brazil: From Incorporation to Exclusion


The Period of Populism and Horizontal Industrialization

* Populist coalition was against the old oligarchies, foreign-owned firms, free trade, etc (54) It was FOR industrialization and the expansion of the domestic market

* Both Peron and Vargas promoted worker unionization, as it gave them power to manipulate labout – but it also gave urban workers an organizational basis (56)


The End of Argentine and Brazilian Expansion

* Horizontal growth based on import substitution was essentially low hanging fruit (57)

* Foreign exchange shortage + consumption demands from all sectors which became more and more difficult to satisfy, have been at the heart of the inflation that has plagued South American nations (62) Most inflation has occurred in those countries which started industrialization earliest or advanced furthest (62)

* “The crucial point here is that horizontal industrial growth advanced much further in Argentina and Brazil than in the other South American countries. But this growth was severely limited and of short duration. When it was over it left a heritage that included the breakdown of the populist coalition, new policy issues, a profoundly modified social structure, and many shattered illusions.” (64-65)

* O’D sees the problem as being the rapid modernization of the centers, and then the need to deal with the ‘problematic spaces’ in between (65)

* KEY: “different levels of modernization, in all the dimensions that this concept entails, generate different constellations of issues that define each country’s problematic space.” (65) This is similar to Foucault’s archaeological method

* “In turn, the set of political actors and their political responses (actors’ goals and coalitions, public policies, and political system types) are molded by these different constellations and by the different structures in which these constellations have emerged.” (66)

* the larger size of the domestic markets of Argentina and Brazil allowed them to advance further than others in the modernization of their centers (67)

* Modernization, nationally and cross-nationally, impacted productive processess and the social structure of the centers, impacted coaltions and political actors’ goals – thus “these changes created new problems with respected to the modified bases of power of political actors, the policy options they perceived as available to them, and the types of institutional political arrangements they were likely to opt for (67)


Political Actors in Argentina and Brazil after Populism

* Popular sector had a huge capacity to strike, demonstrate and disrupt – they were thus seen as  ”profoundly threatening” by most other social sectors. (68)

* Propertied alite in both countries saw the popular sector’s demands as being excessive (69)

* Growth of the middle class led to the political isolation of the popular sector (70)

* Without allies or access, the popular sector required increasing political activation to obtain decreasing returns on their demands (71)

* “the increased differentiation of the social structure means greater social complexity – i.e. more social units (sectors, classes, institutions, and roles) interrelated in more complex ways. Political pluralization is the political expression of social differentiation.” (72)

* Key: “Modernization entails social differentiation, and the latter generates competing interests, conflicting normative claims, and divergent behavioural expectations.” (73)

* Result of these processes was the broadening of the political game – more actors, more demands. The game became more unconstrained, institutions became weakened – the result was an eventual ‘stalemate’ (on this point, also see Huntington on mass praetorianism)

* The stale mate could only be broken “by implanting a new political system that would allow effective decision-making in line with the preferences of the coalition members” (74)

* “The tendency, thus, was toward a highly authoritarian political system, but the specific characteristics of such sauthoritarianism, as well as the major goals of the winning coalition, were deeply influenced by the degree of [high] modernization and the type of [mass] praetorianism.” (75)


Technocratic Roles

* the concpet of roles are a crucial component o the overall modernizing situation (76)

* the complexity of social structure produced by high modernization create management needs that require increased use of technology (77)

* direct correlation between modernization and technocratic roles in social activities (77)

* Question: “Are there stages at which the incumbents of technocratic roles feel capable of dealing with broad social problems in “their own ways?” (77)

* the extent to which frustration by incumbents of technocratic roles may be channeled into political action aimed at reshaping the social context is a multiplicative function of the degree of penetration (density and scope) of these roles in a modernizing situation.” (79)

* “Mutual recognition and a common ‘language’ promote a heightened assessment of their combined capabilities by incumbents of technocratic roles. The more they penetrate social sectors, the more likely they are to believe that their combined expertise can ensure effective problem-solving throughout a broad range of social problems.” (83)

* It is likely that in situations of high modernization, technocratic role-incumbangts will attempt the establishment of an authoritarian ‘excluding’ political system (84)


Bureaucratic-Authoritarian Political Systems in Contemporary South America

* For O’D, drawing on Dahl’s Polyarchy -> the moment when costs of toleration rise above the costs of suppression, the possibility for BA emerges (87)

* What has occurred in Brazil and Argentina is not unlike Barrington Moore’s third path to industrialization – a coalition of the public bureaucracy and the propertied sectors  against the peasantry and the emerging proletariat (89)

* O’D calls what was implanted in Brazil in 1964 and in Argentina in 1966 ‘bureaucratic-authoritarianism’ (91)


The Workings of the Argentine and Brazillian Bureaucratic-Authoritarian Systems

* policies of ‘efficiency’ and ‘denationalization’ threatened to eliminate domestic entrepreneurs in the most modern South American countries – thus conflict (94)

*  governmental coercion is necessary for BA success in excluding and deactivating the popular sector (96)

* due to Argentina’s strong popular sector pre-coup, it “could be assumed that to achieve similar results in the political deactivation of the popular sector, the Argentine bureaucratic-authoritarian system would have to apply a significantly higher degree of coercion than the high degree applied in the Brazilian case.” (97)

* “it seems likely that in Argentina it was the level, while in Brazil it was the rate of increase, of urban political activation that contributed most to the defensive political reactions that led to their coups.” (98)

* just hypotheses, but “the point to be stressed is that the different degress of coercion that were applied (and the different degrees of coercion that each case apparently ‘required’) seem to have been influential factors in the deactivation of the popular sector achieved in the Brazilian case and the retention of the relatively high level of political activation by the Argentine popular sector.” (99)


Excursus: A Sketch of the ‘Political Game’ Under a Bureaucratic-Authoritarian System


A Brief Overview of Other Contemporary South American Political Systems

* So far, examined socio-economic correlates on three levels

**1) social structure focusing on the productive industrial base of ‘modern’ areas and on social differentiation

**2) the agenda of salient social problems and developmental bottlenecks that define the problematic space within each country

**3) the penetration of technocratic roles (106)

**4) has been mentioned only in passing -> the present position of South American countries in the international context (106)



The Proposed Classification

* the Argentine and Brazilian bureaucratic-authoritarianism systems can hardly be conceived as having increased the probabilities of establishment and consolidation of political democracies in these countries (111)






*Proposition 1: The degree of intra-country heterogeneity is relatively low in Argentina and Uruguay, is greater in Chile, and is very high in Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuala. Bolivia and Paraguay are homogeneous, but in an inverse sense – i.e. a modern sector has only barely emerged. (25)

*Proposition 2: Given the differences indicated in proposition 1, for the purpose of assessing national political correlates of socio-economic characteristics, a “cross-center” strategy of comparison may be prefereable to the current practice of utilizing national means (25-26)

*Proposition 3: In contemporary South American countries, the larger the size of the domestic market and the greater the concentration of population in urban units, the more advanced their industrial establishments. (39)

*Proposition 4: In contemporary South America, the more advanced the industrial establishments, the more industrial and unionized workers there are (41)

*Proposition 5: The more advanced the industrial establishments, the more roles with specialized skills directly related to productive processes are required, and the more secondary socialization patterns are geared to provide them (41)

*Proposition 6: In contemporary South America, the more advanced the industrial establishments, the higher the rate of scientific-technological innovation generated (46)

*Proposition 7: Data on innovation can be used as an independent and critical test of the adequacy of orderings reflecting structural (socio-economic) differenecs (46)

*Proposition 8: The more advannced the industrial establishment, the larger the number of individuals directly connected by modern communications and transportation networks (46)

*Proposition 9: In contemporary South America, the higher and lower levels of modernization are associated with non-democratic political systems, while political democracies are found at the intermediate levels of modernization (47)

*Proposition 10: The “problematic spaces” of South American countries at the highest levels of modernization are significantly different from those that existed prior to their horizontal industrial expansion and from those existing at lower levels of modernizaion in other South American countries. New salient social problems and new developmental bottlenecks are generated by a higher level of industrialization, by further social differentiation, by greater penetration of technocratic roles, by new sets of political actors and new political coalitions, by increasing rates of political activation, by new policy issues, and by new patterns of dependence. (75-76)

*Proposition 11: Situations of high modernization are likely to create serious demands-performance and differntiation-integration “gaps”. These add to the agenda of salient social problems and intensify political demands, leading to mass praetorianism. “Gaps” and praetorianism are effects (and in turn causes) of diminished problem-solving capabilities of the existing political system. (76)

*Proposition 12: On the one hand, the deterioration of the social context results in declining payoffs for most sectors. On the other hand, the mass praetorianism which often accompanies a high level of modernization leads to a high degree of political activation of the urban popular sector. Given these conditions, the contraction of the political system by the exclusion of the popular sector is likely to become a basic point of agreement among most of the other social sectors. (76)

*Proposition 13: High modernization entails a substantial increase in the density and scope of penetration of technocratic roles in the modern centers of each national unit. (84)

*Proposition 14: Political pluralization is the political expression of social differentiation. The levels of political activation (especially of the popular sector) are likely to increase with differentiation and pluralization. Given such political activation in a highly modernized context, mass praetorianism is likely to result. In that situation, the exclusion, and eventually the political deactivation, of the popular sector will be attempted through the use of a high degree of coercion (as well as the inauguration of an authoritarian political system to apply it.) (86)



*Hypothesis 1: The more unionized and industrial workers there are, given their concentration in big urban centers, the greater the likelihood of their political activation (41)

*Hypothesis 2: The transmission of technical expertise from advanced to modernizing societies is only one aspect of a more complex phenomenon – i.e., the transmission of role-models, which include career and social expectations derived from the originating societies. (84)

*Hypothesis 3:  Role-performance (including the application of learned experience), which is highly dependent on the state of the social context, cannot be carried out in the same way as in the originating societies. The consequent frustration of incumbents of technocratic roles is very likely to be channelled into political action (84)

*Hypothesis 4: The greater scope and density of penetration of technocratic roles multiplicatively facilitates communications and inter-institutional linkages among the incumbents of these roles. (84)

*Hypothesis 5:  The greater the penetration and number of linkages, the more favorable the assessment of their combine social problem-solving capabilities by the incumbents of technocratic roles and the greater their degree of control of crucial social sectors and activities. (84)

*Hypothesis 6: If high modernization results in mass praetorianism, the assessment by technocratic role-incumbents of their combined capabilities is likely to generate a coup coalition that has these incumbents at its core. This coalition will aim at reshaping the social context in ways envisioned as more favourable for the application of technocratic expertise and for the expansion of the influence of the social sectors that the role-incumbents have most densely penetrated – i.e. an ‘excluding,’ authoritarian system. (85)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *