Global Quality of Democracy as Innovation Enabler: Measuring Democracy for Success

One of the strengths of this work is that it is not restricted to the OECD countries but extends comprehensively to the non-OECD world.

Author: David F. J. Campbell
Palgrave Macmillan; Softcover reprint of the original 1st ed. 2019. 564 pp., £89.99 (Hardback).
ISBN-10: 3030102211

Reviewed by Muhammed Ali Ucar
Visiting Researcher at Danube University Krems, Austria

13 April 2020


This book, published in the “Democracy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for Growth” series of Palgrave Macmillan International Academic Publications, asks the reader the following question: What is democracy? The definitions, theories and frameworks about democracy are not “one”, and there is no fixed, static and monolithic structure of democracy. While this fact is emphasised, the book attempts to understand “How does democracy develop and transform?” The main research question of the book is: “How can democracy and the quality of democracy be conceptualised and measured on a global comparison?” At the end of his research, the author aims to provide a framework for conceptualising and measuring the Quality of Democracy world-wide. The book criticises the focus of several discussions about democracy in developed countries, namely the OECD countries (member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), and emphasises the need to discuss the issue of democratic quality for the non-OECD, developing and emerging countries as well. This refers to the question and challenge of “How does democracy develop on a global scale?”

Campbell points out that there is a debate in non- OECD countries about whether non-democratic, semi-democratic or democratic systems are more successful in maintaining growth and sustainable development. It is in this context that the author approaches democracy from a broader perspective by emphasising ideas about the Quality of Democracy. Campbell builds his book on several key motivations. Primarily, he compares countries by speaking about “country-based democracies”. Other points are the “global comparison” and the “empirical measurement”. Making comparisons not only in the context of OECD countries, i.e. the industrialised countries or advanced economies, but also in reference to a global frame, constitutes one of the main objectives of the book. Another interest of Campbell is his approach to the Quintuple-Dimensional Structure of Democracy and Quality of Democracy.

Campbell is trying to identify the quality of democracy by employing the following five dimensions: freedom, equality, control, sustainable development and self-organisation (political self-organisation). Two sub-concepts are included under the notion of the freedom dimension: political freedom and economic freedom. The author examines the equality dimension in the sub-categories of “income equality” and “gender equality”. One implication of the study is that countries can progress along different dimensions of democracy, referring to the phenomenon of asymmetric progress. For example, a country could achieve progress on economic freedom and gender equality, but political freedom may regress and income equality may stagnate. The author, therefore, develops a Quintuple- Dimensional structure so to include concepts such as sustainable development and self-organisation.

The author defines democracy as a form of selfgovernance or as a type of self-organisation in a structure built and designed on the principles of freedom and an acknowledgement of fundamental human rights. In other words, is being emphasised that “Democracy represents a self-organising system in a consequential understanding”.

The book consists of seven chapters throughout which the author discusses how to conceptualise democracy. Additionally, he concentrates on the quality of democracy in a global comparison and on democracy as a facilitating factor for innovation. Derived from his almost ten years of research, Campbell refers to a comprehensive sample of 160 countries. Campbell’s most important argument is that while commonly three dimensions often are applied in classical democracy measurement attempts (freedom, equality and control), an extended five-dimensional approach is being used in his Quintuple-Dimensional structure model. Campbell broadens conventional democracy research by adding the two “new” dimensions of sustainable development and self-organization.

The book, in which major sections of a comparative empirical analysis are being undertaken, concludes that neither the EU (European Union) nor the U.S. (United States) has a clear lead in good quality of democracy. In terms of political freedom, the EU-15 countries have a better position than the U.S., while the U.S. is in a better position than the EU-28 countries concerning political freedom. The term EU-28 refers to all member states of the EU, and EU-15 mentions the 15 Member States of the EU as of December 31, 2003: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In terms of economic freedom, the U.S. is ahead of the EU. In terms of gender equality, the EU-15 lies ahead of the U.S., while the U.S. places ahead of the EU-28. The sub-dimension, where both the EU-15 and the EU-28 are expressing a saliency, is the equality of income. In reference to the Scandinavian countries, the author uses the following expression: “The Scandinavian countries show that the quality of democracy is not only in theory, but can actually be applied”.

Campbell develops the empirical analysis in chapters 3, 4 and 5 of his book. First, he examines OECD countries concerning freedom, equality and sustainable development for the period of 2002 until 2016. Then he addresses the non-OECD countries within the same conceptual framework of analysis. In the fifth chapter, in the light of the same concepts, he performs a comparative empirical assessment of global trends of OECD and non-OECD countries, but also the whole world from a macro perspective. In this context, the author compares the periods of 1990-2017 and 2002-2016. For the OECD countries, the analysis concentrates on the Nordic countries, the United States, the EU15 and EU28, and Japan. In the category of the non-OECD countries, a particular emphasis is placed on Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Nigeria, additionally the Asia 15, Latin America and the whole world. The “whole world” includes altogether 160 countries addressing almost 99% of the world’s population. The self-organisation, which is one of the most important dimensions of the Quintuple- Dimensional structure (and which can be considered to represent a crucial claim of the book), emphasizes the importance that the rule of government can alternate and switch between government and opposition parties peacefully. These government/ opposition cycles clearly constitute a core element for a functioning democracy of a high (and higher) quality.

Campbell convincingly states that a win-win scenario of progressive economic development eventually develops together with stronger democratic institutions. In this regard, he states that the quality of democracy requires that a knowledge economy evolves in a co-evolution with a knowledge democracy. Therefore, the higher the quality of democracy, the faster and more efficiently innovation can progress. Furthermore, when political pluralism combines with a diversity of knowledge and innovation, the book concludes that this will be effective in transforming economy, society and democracy in a way so that democracy performs as an enabler of innovation in more advanced design, now and in the future.

Emphasizing the quality and knowledge of democracy, Campbell argues that social, economic and democratic transformation and progress will be possible (and already are evident) through “knowledge democracy”. The book, inspired to carry out research in an open and explorative format that is curiosity-driven, has all the qualities of research that seeks answers for the “how and why” questions. The author tests his conceptual analysis in the framework of “freedom, equality, control, sustainable development and selforganisation” in an empirical approach in a way that covers most of the world. One of the strengths of this work is that it is not restricted to the OECD countries but extends comprehensively to the non-OECD world. By means of these features, this book differs significantly from other work carried out in this field.

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