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Freedom Rising
Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation

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  • Date Published: December 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107664838
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About the Authors
  • This book presents a comprehensive theory of why human freedom gave way to increasing oppression since the invention of states - and why this trend began to reverse itself more recently, leading to a rapid expansion of universal freedoms and democracy. Drawing on a massive body of evidence, the author tests various explanations of the rise of freedom, providing convincing support of a well-reasoned theory of emancipation. The study demonstrates multiple trends toward human empowerment, which converge to give people control over their lives. Most important among these trends is the spread of 'emancipative values', which emphasize free choice and equal opportunities. The author identifies the desire for emancipation as the origin of the human empowerment trend and shows when and why this desire grows strong; why it is the source of democracy; and how it vitalizes civil society, feeds humanitarian norms, enhances happiness, and helps redirect modern civilization toward sustainable development.

    • The first study to integrate the multitude of human empowerment trends in a single coherent framework: the theory of emancipation
    • Provides massive evidence for its key points, from some hundred societies around the world, representing more than ninety percent of the world population
    • Findings are richly illustrated in more than one hundred graphical and tabular illustrations
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    • Winner of the 2014 Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research, European Consortium for Political Research

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Freedom Rising is a singularly impressive study of how social modernization can transform societies and their citizens. Welzel marshals data from the World Values Survey to support his human empowerment model with an impressive store of empirical evidence. This is likely to be the decade's most important book on political development and political culture.' Russell J. Dalton, University of California, Irvine

    'Freedom Rising is an exceptionally ambitious book. It takes a tour of human history that ends with some insights into the possible future of advanced post-industrial societies, based on penetrating analyses of a massive body of empirical evidence. The author argues convincingly that, although the rise of the state initially brought diminishing human freedom, since the Enlightenment this trend began to revert itself, bringing increasing emphasis on human rights and making democracy more probable in countries around the world. This book will be controversial for it makes a major contribution to our understanding of how history moves.' Ronald F. Inglehart, University of Michigan and Higher School of Economics, Moscow and St Petersburg

    'Freedom Rising offers a comprehensive evolutionary theory of emancipation that covers the entire process of civilization. This theory is tested using data of a global scale. The approach is as bold as it is inspiring. It describes the long road toward sustainable human empowerment, and it demonstrates that the desire to achieve free choice and equal opportunity drives the process toward democratic rule. Freedom Rising and its theory will not go uncontested. However, this magnum opus has all it needs to become a classic text of our discipline.' Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Social Science Research Center Berlin and Baheceshir University Istanbul

    'Why does the history of civilization orient humanity increasingly away from tyranny? In addressing this immensely profound question, the author first proposes a new sequential theory of human emancipation. Then he corroborates its universal validity by analyzing the individual- and societal-level characteristics of more than 150,000 individuals in almost 100 societies, representing 90 percent of the world's population. Empirically and theoretically, Freedom Rising constitutes a major milestone in the search for universal laws of democratization and human empowerment.' Doh Chull Shin, Center for the Study of Democracy, University of California, Irvine

    'Summing up, the book can be called Welzel's opus magnum and it has to be viewed as one of the major works in the field of political science and sociology. … It could thus be quiet useful to researchers, students and lecturers alike.' Christian Nestler, Politics, Culture and Socialization

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    Customer reviews

    13th Jan 2014 by Cole

    Freedom Rising is a truly exceptional book, indeed a magnum opus of a groundbreaking sort. The strengths of this widely inter-disciplinary work--which draws from insights in economics, sociology, political science, and psychology--lie in both theory and evidence, a combination that one rarely sees. Freedom Rising provides a compelling narrative of the circumstances under which the human desire for freedoms awakes and rises to a powerful force in a society’s history, and when this does not happen. As this work shows with impressive evidence from societies around the globe and over a wide time horizon, the circumstances that unleash people’s yearning for freedoms are the same that determine where democracy flourishes and where it does not. These circumstances also explain why mass-based democracy is a relatively late invention in history but turned out as a success model ever since. What are these circumstances? Freedom Rising Chapter 1 “A Theory of Emancipation,” pp. 37-56 argues that a latent desire for freedoms hibernates in all humans. The source of this desire is a gift that is universal to our species: imagination. Inescapably, imagination involves us dreaming of a life that we can live as we wish, free from domination p. 49. What varies is how much this desire guides people’s actions and life strategies. Where most people lack the resources that one needs to pursue desired activities, they do not see much use in guarantees of universal freedoms. The simple reason is that guarantees for freedoms have little utility when people lack the “action resources” that they need to take advantage of such guarantees. These action resources include various things, most notably material means, intellectual skills and connective opportunities pp. 45-46. Throughout history, most people lacked these action resources: they were poor, illiterate and disconnected from the world beyond their local community. The persistence of this Malthusian condition explains why mass-based democracy remained unknown over most of history. Beginning with the rise of pre-industrial capitalism, continuing with the Industrial Revolution and accelerating with the emergence of postindustrial knowledge societies, we see a game change in history. Tyranny, even though it continues to exist, is no longer safe. In fact, tyranny is increasingly challenged, as the global accumulation of nonviolent mass insurrection over recent decades clearly demonstrates cf. Chapter 7 “Collective Action,” pp. 215-246. And the reason is that increasing population segments in societies around the world escape poverty, gain access to education and can connect to like-minded others at any place see the evidence in Figure I.1, p. 4 of the Introduction. Indeed, fundamental improvements—from better material conditions to longer life expectancies to broader education and information—turn the lives of growing population segments from a source of threats into a source of opportunities. Envisioning longer and more promising lives, people increasingly insist on actually living their lives, and living them the way they themselves prefer and agree with each other. This tectonic cultural shift is visible in rising “emancipative values”: an emerging emphasis on universal freedoms Chapter 4 “Tracing Change,” pp. 140-170. In a very principled fashion, Freedom Rising condenses these well-documented arguments into a single root principle--the utility ladder of freedoms pp. 2, 37, 403-406. When growing shares of the population gain access to action resources, entire societies ascend the utility ladder of freedoms: in an objective sense, universal freedoms gain utility when more people acquire the capabilities to handle these freedoms. This has far-reaching psychological consequences. Evolution has shaped human cognition to recognize opportunities because this ability is essential to master life pp. 50-52. Hence, people recognize a gain in the objective utility of freedoms and adjust their subjective values accordingly: they begin to value the freedoms which they see they are able to handle. This utility-value link is vital to human functioning because it keeps our lives in touch with reality. The utility ladder of freedoms addresses a social utility function: the ladder originates in socially shared rather than individually unique utilities pp. 51-52. The reason is that universal freedoms are a reciprocal good. Reciprocal goods flourish through mutual recognition: because universal freedoms always include the freedoms of others, one supports these freedoms more easily if others reciprocate the favor and also support one’s own freedoms. Such mutual recognitions in turn are more likely when action resources are widespread because then people have joint utilities from universal freedoms. Jointly valued freedoms create solidarities—a continuous source of collective pressures to guarantee and respect freedoms. When large population segments have gained access to action resources and have embraced emancipative values, the game for those in power changes profoundly. Elites are now confronted with mass publics whose members are both capable and eager to join forces and take action in pursuit of guaranteed freedoms. Denying guarantees therefore becomes an increasingly costly and eventually an unsustainable option. This is the moment when democratic freedoms are most likely to be firmly established and to be effectively respected in the daily practice of power. Chapter 9 “The Rights Revolution,” pp. 278-306 presents impressive evidence from societies around the world and covering various decades in support of these arguments. However, Freedom Rising emphasizes that not all mass upheavals are driven first and foremost by a desire for democratic freedoms. In the past and today, many mass insurrections are collective outbreaks of frustration about the policy failures of corrupt rulers. Even when such upheavals voice democracy as their goal, this does not necessarily mean that they are driven by a desire for democratic freedoms. The uncorrupt but strong leader who rules with an iron fist is still a widely popular idea, especially where existential pressures continue to block the rise of emancipative values. And wherever people voice support for democracy in dissociation from emancipative values, this is where such mass support regularly coexists with serious deficiencies and even the absence of democracy cf. Figure 8.8, p. 276, Figure 9.1, p. 284, Figure 10.6, p. 329. By contrast, where mass support for democracy is solidly grounded in emancipative values, democratic deficiencies are already minimal or are shrinking under the pressure of social movements and critical media. Widely shared emancipative values create a solidarity base that helps to overcome collective action dilemmas Chapter 7, “Collective Action,” pp. 215-246. One reason for this is that shared and deeply internalized values embody “expressive utility”: actions that voice widely shared values generate feelings of belongingness—which is a powerful source of satisfaction, even if the voiced demands are often not fulfilled. Merely voicing a claim in whose justification one deeply believes in unison with like-minded others, is in and by itself an act of emancipation. Expressive utility is therefore an especially strong property of emancipative values. For this reason, Freedom Rising finds that even high risks of repression cannot eradicate the tendency of emancipative values to trigger the voicing of joint claims pp. 233-239. In light of this tendency, emancipative values provide a powerful source of social capital. Freedom Rising takes considerable effort to demonstrate that these propositions and insights do not prescribe a Western-bound view of the world. Emancipative values also exist outside the Western world and the mechanisms that feed them operate in similar fashion in non-Western societies pp. 74-79. For instance, expanding education and other instances of cognitive mobilization have a profound effect on the rise of emancipative values in East Asia cf. Figure 3.2, p. 209. A key conclusion from this finding is that the Chinese model of development—pursuing modernization whilst denying its emancipatory consequences--will sooner or later hit a hard ceiling at which the party leaders are forced to make a decision: whether to stop modernization or to initiate democratization. At the local level, more democratic freedoms are already practiced in China and it remains to be seen whether and when this process spills over to higher political layers. When freedoms grow, this is an inherently emancipatory process that advances human empowerment on a mass-scale. If it advances, human empowerment reaches over three domains of social reality: existential conditions, psychological orientations and institutional regulations pp. 45-47. In the domain of existential conditions, spreading action resources enhance people’s capability to practice freedoms. This is instrumental empowerment. In the domain of psychological orientations, rising emancipative values strengthen people’s willingness to practice freedoms. This is motivational empowerment. And in the domain of institutional regulations, improving civic entitlements extend people’s permission to practice freedoms. This is legal empowerment. Together, these three partial empowerments complete human empowerment. This happens in a sequence from resources to values to entitlements. In other words, action resources give rise to emancipative values which together with action resources then feed pressures for civic entitlements. Institutions are, thus, more often the outcome than the beginning of an empowerment sequence. Historically this seems obvious because desires for civic entitlements emerged under the very denial of these entitlements rather than having been created by their presence. In line with this interpretation, Freedom Rising probes into extensive temporal order analyses to demonstrate that earlier action resources explain later emancipative values and earlier emancipative values explain later civic entitlements much better than the other way round pp. 154-166, see especially Figure 4.5, p. 162. Chapter 11 of Freedom Rising, titled “The Great Redirection” pp. 335-375 presents a particularly broad analysis. The arguments and evidence are so far-reaching that one could almost consider them as a whole new theory of civilization. The chapter reasons that there is no iron law guaranteeing human empowerment to progress. At any point, external shocks can reverse the process. Yet, the latency of the desire for emancipation silently guides human efforts towards more rather than less freedoms—as much as external circumstances allow. In this sense, humans are evolutionary “programmed” to work upward the utility ladder of freedoms. In spite of this latent ascendance orientation, civilization has entrapped people over centuries and millennia in self-sustaining cycles of disempowerment. Entrapped in mass-scale disempowerment, no one—except perhaps members of the thin hereditary elite—controlled abundant action resources, no one was driven by strong emancipative values and no one benefited from extensive civic entitlements. Indeed, history took a turn towards these emancipatory achievements very late. Before the breakthrough into the industrial age, no society could have been described as advanced in terms of mass-scale human empowerment. In most places where urban civilization took root, ordinary people were poor, subservient and disciplined by overlords. Even today, emancipatory gains show a highly discriminant geographical pattern, as Freedom Rising demonstrates with massive evidence. Indeed, the populations of the world with widespread action resources, broadly shared emancipative values and abundant civic entitlements concentrate in what the book calls the “Cool Water” CW environments in North America, Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand and Japan/South Korea. These environments combine fairly low average annual temperatures with continuous rainfall over all seasons and the presence of permanently navigable waterways. But what is so special about these CW-features? Interestingly, areas with these CW-features lagged behind in the evolution of civilization for a long time but then it was in these areas where the breakthrough into the industrial age happened and where the emancipatory turn in history started pp. 353-356. This puzzling pattern raises two questions: 1 Why did the CW-areas lag behind so long in the civilization process? 2 Why did the CW-areas at one point take off and redirect civilization towards emancipatory outcomes? Freedom Rising answers the first question by location. On the continent where humanity adopted advanced agriculture first—Eurasia--the CW-features are most pronounced at the Northwestern and Northeastern flanks, culminating in Northwestern Europe and Japan. As Chapter 11 shows, on a CW-index with a theoretical maximum of 1.0, these two areas have a score of around .90 see the stunning Figure 11.1 at p. 342. No other civilization reached more than half of that score and in most cases the scores are much lower. However, located at the Eurasian fringes Northwestern Europa and Japan were placed at a large distance from the early centers of agriculture, which stretch over the sub-tropical belt from the Mediterranean to China. This had a double consequence. On the one hand, the diffusion of advanced agriculture and urban civilization from its early centers reached Northwestern Europe and Japan late. On the other hand, these areas were shielded from the foreign imposition of despotism by Eurasia’s recurrent land empires--an important difference to areas in Northwestern Russia and Northeastern China where the CW-features are present to some degree though not quite as pronounced as in Northwestern Europe and Japan. At any rate, Northwestern Europe’s and Japan’s geo-strategic fringe location allowed them to take plenty of inspiration from the more advanced civilizations in their vicinity while being able to process these inspirations in their own, autonomous ways. Indeed, the data presented in Freedom Rising show that the flank civilizations adopted agriculture millennia after the older civilizations of the Middle East, India, China and the Mediterranean. Likewise, Freedom Rising documents evidence suggesting that levels of urbanization known from the older civilizations since long haven’t been reached in Northwestern Europe before the 15th century CE and in Japan before 17th century CE p. 345. The overseas CW-areas were even more isolated: no advanced agrarian societies were in the vicinity of the Northern coastal areas of today’s US, the southern coastal areas of today’s Canada, the Southern tips of South America and Africa or the Southeast of Australia/Tasmania and New Zealand. In fact, advanced agriculture did not emerge in the overseas CW-areas until settlers from the European CW-areas imported it. Inspired by achievements of more advanced civilizations in the vicinity but shielded from the foreign imposition of despotism, Northwestern Europe and Japan eventually developed their own versions of urban civilization. Even though this happened late, once it did a key feature of the CW-environment began 1 to accelerate development and 2 to redirect it towards emancipatory outcomes. The key feature in question is that this environment favors plural autonomies pp. 357-359. The origin of this favor lies in the fact that the regular precipitation in CW-environments makes fresh water permanently accessible to everyone. And the cold temperatures of CW-environments make fresh water a safer resource by lowering its infestation. Water access is a root existential autonomy whose presence closes a historic route to despotism: centralized control over water supply. Existential autonomy orients groups towards the assertion and defense of derivative autonomies, including control over their produce. Ingrained autonomy orientations provide a continuous source of resistance against power concentrations and, hence, feed a pluralistic power structure. With such a structure in place, competing local, regional and national rulers must grant concessions in return for the tributes they wish to take. In line with this interpretation, Freedom Rising cites prominent historians who contrast a multitude of local, sectorial and corporate autonomies and a concomitant pluralistic power structure in pre-industrial Northwestern Europe and Japan with an apparent lack thereof in Eurasia’s and Mesoamerica’s agrarian empires. The autonomies rooted in the CW-condition include reproductive autonomies over fertility decisions pp. 349-353. The reason is that the colder temperatures of CW-environments are inhospitable to the numerous communicable diseases known from tropical and subtropical areas. As a consequence, child mortalities are naturally lower in CW-environments which Freedom Rising shows with data from before the Industrial Revolution and under control of per capita income. Lower child mortalities allow for lower fertilities to sustain the workforce and this means more elasticity in fertility decisions: households can opt for fewer children once newly arising opportunities incentivize this preference. This is exactly what emerging urban markets do: the profit opportunities they offer make it rewarding to divert time investments from the maximization of offspring toward the formation of profitable skills and the development of selling ideas. The resulting demographic transition upgrades the value of labor, which becomes the costly production factor that producers seek to replace with technologies that save labor. Supported by initiative-promoting policies of competing local, regional and national rulers, the then ubiquitous search for innovations feeds the science and technology explosion at the beginning of an industrial take-off. Through European settlement, all overseas CW-areas have been incorporated into the twin dynamics of industrialization and democratization. This incorporation has established a situation in which the populations in all CW-areas on the globe except North Korea are empowered through widespread action resources, shared emancipative values and abundant civic entitlements. Freedom Rising explicitly recognizes that Western nations monopolized emancipatory achievements during the colonial period. Since the beginning of decolonization, this monopoly shows signs of erosion. With the acceleration of globalization since the end of the Cold War, this erosion picks up speed: education, information and other instances of cognitive mobilization and their emancipatory consequences begin to diffuse beyond societies with pronounced CW-features. This happens because expanding global communications ease the diffusion of ideas with an inherent appeal and allow previously disadvantaged societies to learn from successes in other places. As this happens, we do not see the Westernization of the world but, on the contrary, its de-Westernization: the West’s monopoly over emancipatory achievements fades. Taken together, these insights and propositions inform Freedom Rising’s “evolutionary theory of emancipation,” which combines five major theses cf. pp. 407-408: 1. Sequence Thesis: Action resources, emancipative values and civic entitlements merge into a syndrome of human empowerment by a sequential growth from resources to values to entitlements. 2. Solidarity Thesis: The action resources that people have in common with most others in their society strengthen their emancipative values much more than do the resources they have on top of others. 3. Source Thesis: Since Northwestern Europe and Japan reached the pre-industrial stage of civilization between the 15th and 17th centuries CE, an accelerating dynamic began in which emancipatory achievements concentrate increasingly on societies with pronounced CW-features. 4. Fertility Thesis: The CW-features’ emancipatory impetus is largely mediated by these features’ tendency to lower fertilities, as part of a general turn in life strategies from quantity-breeding to quality-building: people divert energies from growing the size of the population to growing its skill. 5. Contagion Thesis: Worldwide, the process of human empowerment shows clear signs of diffusion beyond areas with pronounced CW-features since the era of accelerated globalization, beginning with the end of the Cold War. These ideas structure a total of fourteen chapters, all of which are richly illustrated with wide-ranging evidence from countries around the world and over periods covering several decades and--in parts of the analyses—various centuries for an excellent summary of all findings, see Figure C.1 at p. 394. The rich material is presented on an advanced level of methodological skill, mastering multilevel modelling, time series analyses and other sophisticated techniques. Important in this context, Freedom Rising takes great efforts to tackle questions of causality. Even though causal questions can never be ultimately answered in the absence of full experimental control, the book does what can be done with longitudinal data. This is especially evident in the innovative use of “temporal order models” and “dynamic shift models,” which illuminate dynamic relationships and show what came first and what thereafter among co-evolving phenomena within the threefold human empowerment framework. The causal analysis is completed by reference to geo-climatic start conditions that explain why the human empowerment dynamic began in some places but not in others cf. the path diagrams in Figure 3.8 at p. 138 and Figure 11.4 at p. 355. Despite the use of complex methodology, Freedom Rising never distracts the reader from the substantive points of the analyses and hardly ever gets lost in technical detail. Furthermore, Freedom Rising is organized in ways that make it accessible to scholars on all levels of methodological skill. Whoever is uninterested in measurement issues and analytical problems can skip the respective passages, skim over the plentiful illustrative evidence and read the Key Points section at the end of each chapter—and s/he will easily get the gist of the story. The Introduction pp. 1-34 and Conclusion pp. 393-408 alone already provide an excellent overview of this work’s arguments, insights and findings. On the other hand, there might be a sizeable number of academics who would like to reproduce several of the analytical steps in Freedom Rising. Thanks to a meticulously detailed online appendix at, this is easily possible. The appendix also includes downloadable replication data sets for each of Freedom Rising’s analyses. Apart from making results reproducible, these materials provide a first rate tool for graduate student training across a wide range of social science disciplines. Freedom Rising is a master piece in concept formation. The key concepts include action resources, emancipative values, civic entitlements, and human empowerment as the over-arching umbrella of the previous three. But these concepts are not presented as a bewildering assortment of disparate ideas. Instead, they all are integrated in a single, coherent theory: the evolutionary theory of emancipation and its five constituent theses. And each of these five theses derives from a single root principle: the utility ladder of freedoms. With these cohesive elements, Freedom Rising moves to a whole new level of theoretical integration—a level that is rather unique in the social sciences. Accordingly, the explanatory reach and phenomenological scope of this opus is enormous, covering a very wide range of economic, cultural and political phenomena—and all this within a single analytical framework. Freedom Rising exhibits an admirable degree of conceptual reflection when it comes to measurement issues. The book even develops general guidelines for measurement decisions. Exemplary for this effort are the various boxes in this book, especially Box 2.1 on “Dimensional and Compository Index Construction” pp. 60-62 and Box 8.1 on “Conditional and Complementary Indicator Combinations” pp. 259-260. A significant step forward in understanding complex micro-macro linkages is Freedom Rising’s illumination of a regular but ignored phenomenon: social cross-fertilization. Social cross-fertilization is typical of reciprocal goods that grow through mutual recognition. The emphasis on universal freedoms that defines emancipative values is a case in point: respecting other people’s freedoms becomes easier when more people return the favor and reciprocate this respect. Driven by this reciprocation logic, people follow the inherent impulses of their emancipative values—like the impulse to criticize discrimination—more freely when more other people also support emancipative values. Accordingly, the prevalence of emancipative values in a society enhances anti-discriminatory tendencies over and above what each individual’s own emancipative values alone would suggest. This cross-fertilization points to a positive interaction between an individual’s preference for emancipative values and the prevalence of these values in the surrounding society. Freedom Rising discusses this regularity in a multilevel setting and shows ways to handle it appropriately Box 3.1 “Social Cross-Fertilization,” pp. 110-112. The key conclusion is that, in order to capture cross-fertilizing phenomena, value orientations must not only be treated as an individual-level characteristic but also as a societal-level characteristic. Treating values also as a societal-level characteristic, one examines which effects the social prevalence of a given set of values has, over and above the individuals’ own support of these values. Doing so is the only way to treat culture adequately because culture is not an individual-level but a societal-level property, evident in the collective prevalence of individual-level values. Another significant improvement over previous work is the way in which Freedom Rising conceptualizes culture zones. In comparison, Ronald Inglehart’s original account of global culture zones is rather unsystematic. Sometimes a culture zone is named after its religious tradition e.g., the “Islamic Zone”, sometimes after its imperial legacy e.g., the “Post-Communist Zone”, sometimes after its language e.g., the “English-speaking Zone” and sometimes after its geographic location e.g., “Sub-Saharan Africa”. There is no recognizable systematic of what are the primary, secondary and tertiary criteria of culture zone formation. Freedom Rising, by contrast, takes a more coherent approach: consistent with the general theory of emancipation, the book develops a ten-fold culture zone classification from a single question: when and how the different areas in the world have been affected by modern history’s emancipatory forces pp. 25-33. By illuminating the culture zone patterns in its findings, Freedom Rising systematically recognizes the historic dimension of the human empowerment process. Freedom Rising makes a number of significant contributions to current debates about social change. These contributions challenge some widely held views. Two particularly noteworthy challenges refer to the role of social capital and beneficial institutions. To begin with social capital, Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone advocates the thesis that modernity’s tendencies towards individualization erode social capital and, in so doing, diminish our societies’ capacity for collective action. This erosion thesis has become a lead frame in interpreting contemporary social change. Freedom Rising is a direct challenge to this frame and offers a powerful alternative interpretation, based on well-documented evidence. Accordingly, the multiple individualizing tendencies we are observing in postindustrial democracies and growing parts of the developing world today are bits and pieces of an accelerating process of human empowerment. This process does not erode social capital it transforms it. Specifically, human empowerment erodes captivating forms of social that chain people to groups and commitments from which they cannot escape. At the same time, human empowerment proliferates liberating forms of social capital that allow people to choose with whom they associate and to what common purposes they commit themselves pp. 404-406. This process does not weaken but strengthens a society’s capacity for collective action. Indeed, liberating social capital unleashes capacities for collective action that captivating social capital kept locked. Freedom Rising also challenges widely held views on the role of beneficial institutions, such as those propagated by Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail. Freedom Rising does by no means deny the role of beneficial institutions it explicitly recognizes them by identifying “civic entitlements” as the third pillar of human empowerment. But Freedom Rising attributes beneficial institutions a different causal status. Among institutional economists, the dominant view is that, in order to solve developmental problems, all you need to do is to choose the beneficial institutions. Thus, the basic problem we are confronted with in development economics is an institutional choice problem. Freedom Rising argues that this is misstating the problem because beneficial institutions are not really chosen so freely. The advantages of such beneficial institutions as civic entitlements are obvious. Hence, what we truly need to understand is not the advantages of these institutions but the deeper selective forces that favor and disfavor their choice. These forces are exogenous to the institutional choices themselves. Recognizing this leads to the conclusion that developmental failure is actually not an institutional choice problem. It is instead a problem of the selective forces guiding institutional choices. As Freedom Rising’s Chapter 11 pp. 335-375 demonstrates with ample evidence, these selective forces in turn originate in different natural opportunity endowments—the precise opposite of a choice matter. Like Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, Welzel’s Freedom Rising provides a systematic account of the natural opportunity endowments that lie at the roots of developmental breakthroughs. Two such breakthroughs stick out in the history of humankind: the transition from foraging to agrarian societies during the Neolithic Revolution and the transition from agrarian to industrial societies during the Industrial Revolution. Guns, Germs and Steel identifies the natural opportunity endowments that led to the Neolithic Revolution: the number of tamable animals and cultivable plants available in an area. Guns, Germs and Steel is silent, however, on the natural endowments that helped decide which among the agrarian societies were more likely to pioneer the industrial breakthrough. Freedom Rising fills this gap by outlining the importance of the CW-condition. This condition harbors an existential root autonomy--water access—from which derivative autonomies emerge as soon as markets begin to flourish. These autonomies proved vital for the ubiquitous explosion of innovative energies at the start of an industrial take-off. Based on its original autonomy endowments, the CW-condition operated as a selective force that biased institutional choices towards the erection of a contractual order. In a stylized way, Freedom Rising juxtaposes the profile of a contractual order to that of a patriarchal order pp. 364-369. And the book argues that the differences between these orders grow bottom-up rather than top-down. The original autonomies inherent in the CW-condition enabled and encouraged people to mobilize resistance against unconsented power concentrations. From this resistance evolved a contractual order with consensual institutions. Consensual institutions start at the embryonic unit of societies: the household, the family and the local community. Here, consensual institutions are visible in a pattern of association where marriage is voluntary instead of being arranged and where married couples found their own household a pattern known as “neolocality” instead of merging into the household of the husband’s parents a pattern known as “patrilocality”. From these grassroots, consensual institutions feed market autonomy as the organizing principle of economic activities. And they grow upward towards the top of society where political representation becomes the key organizing principle. By contrast, urban civilizations that lacked the original autonomy endowments of the CW-condition developed patriarchal orders based on coercive institutions. Coercive institutions emerge from imposition and include pre-arranged marriages with patrilocal household formation, rent seeking economies with repressive labor relations, and despotism instead of representation as the key organizing principle in politics. With these positions, Freedom Rising offers a quite different view on development. Institutions, understood as regular patterns of social interaction and association, evolve bottom-up, from the embryonic units at the grassroots of society. Unless imposed by outside conquest, governmental institutions at the top of societies evolve in ways that match the patterns at the grassroots. But the origins of contractual and patriarchal orders reside in natural opportunity endowments. These endowments constitute a selective force that continuously favors certain institutional choices over others. Hence, adopting beneficial institutions is not such an act of voluntarism as is often implied by theories of institutional choice. Nevertheless, Freedom Rising does by no means propagate environmental determinism. At most, it advocates environmental probabilism: natural opportunity endowments do not determine which institutional choices are taken when and how but they define which choices are more likely to be taken once an occasion for choice emerges. Moreover, Freedom Rising explicitly recognizes the role of globalization in diminishing the selective power of natural opportunity endowments. Indeed, the book provides systematic evidence showing that since the acceleration of globalization after the end of the Cold War, the predictive power of the CW-condition over the societies’ development dwindles continuously pp. 369-373. And the rate of acceleration of globalization explains the shrinkage of the CW-condition’s predictive power. The reason why globalization diminishes the selective force of natural endowments is that it unlocks the potential for inter-cultural learning. In a globalizing world, separate stocks of experience flow together in a common pool from which all societies can take. Thus, societies can more easily learn from recipes that worked elsewhere. Globalization also enhances the pressures on those in power to learn and to perform because the global pooling of experience fuels the expectations of domestic populations: they increasingly want their elites to get things done as good as they are getting done elsewhere. As if the ambition of Freedom Rising is to leave no important topic untouched, the final chapter rounds this book up by addressing the global sustainability challenge Chapter 12 “The Sustainability Challenge,” pp. 376-392. On the one hand, the process of human empowerment is a profound success story. Societies that are far advanced in human empowerment harness both higher regulatory capacities on the part of the state and higher mobilizing capacities among the citizenry Chapter 7 “Collective Action,” pp. 215-246. They also produce more legitimacy and higher levels of subjective well-being Chapter 5 “Intrinsic Qualities,” pp. 173-190. On the other hand, despite this success, progressing human empowerment threatens to undermine itself through unprecedented environmental destruction. Indeed, the source process of human empowerment—technological progress—involves such an extensive processing of materials that it leaves a very deep ecological footprint on the globe’s natural environment pp. 381-382. As paradoxically as it may sound, however, the human empowerment process holds in itself the key to master its self-inflicted sustainability challenge. The reason is that technological progress feeds rising emancipative values. These values do not necessarily associate with greater environmental concern but their intrinsic urge for action translates environmental concern into environmental activism. Flanked by social movements and critical media, environmental activism pushes ecological issues on the agenda of political actors. Accordingly, Chapter 12 reports that environmentally beneficial policy outcomes are significantly more pronounced in societies with stronger emancipative values this finding holds under control of possible alternative explanation of environmentally beneficial policies. In fact, the beneficial environmental effect of emancipative values trumps the detrimental effect of the technological progress from which these values emerge. As a consequence, emancipative values redirect societies on a path of development that keeps the ecological footprint within the limits of a society’s biological carrying capacity. Hence, rising emancipative values favor a “green” human empowerment. Eventually, Freedom Rising pp. 406-408 touches on a deeply philosophical question, asking about the moral virtues of these values: Does the rise of emancipative values indicate a moral progress of humanity? In answering this question, Freedom Rising argues that emancipative values are fundamentally an enlightenment product, a manifestation of cognitive maturation. This is evident from the fact that emancipative values are fueled by rising education and other processes of intellectual empowerment linked with cognitive mobilization. Accordingly, emancipative values emerge in unison with an increase in a population’s cognitive capacities. In Are We Getting Smarter, James R. Flynn documents the generational increase in cognitive capacities, providing ample evidence for what is known as the “Flynn effect”: an increase in average population IQs. Flynn further speculates that greater cognitive capacities involve grater capacities of moral reasoning. In this characterization, Flynn agrees with Steven Pinker’s Our Better Angels. Pinker claims that rising education, information, communication and other instances of cognitive mobilization elevate societies on the “escalator of reason.” According to Pinker, this ascension involves improving moral reasoning capacities. Supporting this view, Freedom Rising argues that emerging emancipative values are a manifestation of this moral ascension because these values’ emphasis on equal opportunities means a stronger internalization of justice and impartiality norms. The penultimate conclusion is that emancipative values provide a diffuse civic force whose benefits radiate into all corners of society. If this is an accurate conclusion, it is likely that rising emancipative values will silently drive a profound change in policies, away from a narrow focus on national self-interest and short-term reward towards mutual and long-term benefit. Accordingly, efforts to promote development aid, climate protection and multi-national cooperation should be more forcefully driven by societies in which emancipative values are more widespread. In closing this overview, it is clear that Freedom Rising offers so many insights and propositions that no one can agree with every argument and every bit and piece of evidence. However, all the arguments and evidence are presented in such a coherent way that it will be hard to dismiss the entire intellectual building of Freedom Rising. In fact, the insights and findings reach over so many different fields that it was highly unlikely that one could ever integrate them into a single theoretical framework. And yet this is precisely what this work manages to do. In light of this unique achievement, Freedom Rising is a truly magnum opus from whose thoughts several generations of scholars are likely to profit. Cole Waters Freelance Science Writer Riverside, CA

    02nd Aug 2014 by Rexmiller

    - In last years Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation, a book of world history, German academic Christian Welzel proposes that North Europe and America have been lucky geographically living in a cold wet climate. It got them emancipated. Food could be hunted for in many places, water sources couldnt be easily monopolized. It was harder to enslave people. The Middle East and the other unfortunate regions of the world depended on agriculture, developed much earlier than in Europe. This made it difficult for people to run away, and scarce water readily monopolized made sure there were few places to run to. The decentralized slavery of feudalism in Europe and America, where monopolies of power were divided among municipalities, principalities, etc, allowed the development of merchant capital investment and the industrial revolution which in turn provided economic security. From that security, the argument goes, developed imagination of possibilities of freer ways of life, which when social opportunity, education and connection to others allowed them to be acted upon, lead to demands on masters for changed institutions to protect those new possibilities. What do you think? - What do the authors say about the ongoing, intensifying redistribution of wealth in the direction of the rich in those very cold wet regions? - Contingencies of history can disrupt the process of emancipation. And not to worry either about the new economys supposed isolation of individuals from each other: in this world of freedom it is actually the opportunity for individually chosen connections. - A new study of the poor in the United States shows that they are less connected, less liable to want to get an education. Poverty seems to be removing the economic stability supposed to be the beginning of the process of emancipation. - How can we decide the question? - One thing strikes me right off. If monopoly of resources is what stops the process from even beginning, and our North American and North European societies are in the grips of rapidly enlarging monopolies, is not the project of emancipation fundamentally threatened? - Institutions have to be adapted. Then the process can continue. - The withdrawal of security, according to theory, removes the desire for emancipation. The development of monopolies leads to the withdrawal of security for the majority of people. The progress of monopoly decreases the demand for emancipation, facilitating further monopolization. - Then that has to be understood and prevented. - Will that happen? Atomization, isolation of individuals, even without economic insecurity, leads to selfishness, founding security in power over strangers that is associated with acquiring possessions. Selfishness might allow ever freer choice of associations, but it does not allow for concern for the impoverishment of those who suffer the effects of monopoly control of markets and bribed governments. The result is the poor dont care to be free, and the rich dont care about the poor. - Like ancient Athens, well have a creative, emancipated upper class supported by a mass of slaves. Do you think the masters of North America and Europe deliberately create economic insecurity with their monopolies to undermine the emancipation project? - Youre asking, have they noticed that wars and economic crises serve their interests? - I guess that bankers know when they come out with more money. - Level Germany and Japan to the ground, they feel the loss and capitulate. Try the same with traditional societies with different result. Our societies are vulnerable. - Someone probably noticed.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107664838
    • length: 472 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 30 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 74 b/w illus. 38 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Understanding Emancipative Values:
    1. A theory of emancipation
    2. Mapping differences
    3. Multi-level drivers
    4. Tracing change
    Part II. Emancipative Values as a Civic Force:
    5. Intrinsic wellbeing
    6. Benign individualism
    7. Collective action
    Part III. Democratizing Impulses of Emancipative Values:
    8. Entitling people
    9. The rights revolution
    10. The paradox of democracy
    Part IV. Emancipative Values in Human Civilization:
    11. The redirection of civilization
    12. The sustainability challenge

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    Freedom Rising

    Christian Welzel

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  • Author

    Christian Welzel, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany
    Christian Welzel is Chair of Political Culture Research at the Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany, and President of the World Values Survey Association. He is also special foreign consultant to the Laboratory of Comparative Social Research at the Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg, Russia, and a permanent affiliate of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine. A repeated recipient of large-scale grants from the German Science Foundation, Welzel is the author of more than one hundred scholarly publications in high ranking peer-reviewed journals in sociology, political science and psychology. His recent books include Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy (with Ronald Inglehart, Cambridge, 2005), Democratization (with Christian Haerpfer, Patrick Bernhagen and Ronald Inglehart, 2009) and The Civic Culture Transformed: From Allegiant to Assertive Citizens (with Russell J. Dalton, Cambridge, 2014).


    • Winner of the 2014 Stein Rokkan Prize for Comparative Social Science Research, European Consortium for Political Research
    • Winner of the 2014 Alexander L. George Award for Best Book in Political Psychology, International Society for Political Psychology

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