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Middle Eastern Beliefs about the Causal Linkages of Development to Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland, Shawn F. Dorius, Jeffrey Swindle, Linda Young-Demarco, and Mansoor Moaddel. 2017. "Middle Eastern Beliefs about the Causal Linkages of Development to Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights." Sociology of Development, 70(94): 70-94.

This paper investigates the extent to which people in five Middle Eastern countries endorse key beliefs of developmental idealism that associate development with freedom, democracy, and human rights. Developmental idealism is a set of beliefs concerning the desirability of development, the methods for achieving it, and its consequences. The literature suggests that these beliefs have diffused worldwide among elites and lay citizens and posits that when such beliefs are disseminated they become forces for social and economic changes. Although developmental idealism research has primarily examined family and demographic issues, developmental idealism has tremendous potential to influence other aspects of society. This paper extends knowledge by considering societal aspects not addressed previously in the developmental idealism literature: personal freedom, democracy, and human rights. Using survey data from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, we investigate how publics of these countries associate development with these elements. We find that majorities believe development brings greater personal freedom, democracy, and human rights. Conversely, the data show that in four of the countries majorities believe more personal freedom contributes to development. These findings provide support for the idea that developmental idealism beliefs concerning freedom, democracy, and human rights have diffused to lay publics in these five Middle Eastern countries. We also find evidence of uniquely Islamic developmental models; a significant proportion of people in these countries believe that more religion will bring more development.

10.1525/sod.2017.3.1.70

Countries of focus: Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Turkey.

Developmental Idealism series.

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