Class, mobility, and democratic political culture in Taiwan: An empirical exploration of 1984, 1990, and 1996

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Richard Ratcliff


Class, Mobility, Democratic, Political culture, Taiwan, China

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


This study examines socioeconomic changes, political changes, and the linkage between the two processes during a period of turbulent political transformation in Taiwan. It concerns whether citizens of Taiwan have learned about democratic values in the process of the nation's struggle for democracy and whether democratic values have been received universally or differentiated among different social cleavages, in particular class and mobility groups. At the macro level, this analysis delineates the interplay of domestic and international forces that promoted rapid changes in the socioeconomic and political structures in Taiwan over the past five decades. In particular, this study focuses on the most recent developments--the years 1984, 1990, and 1996 are chosen to capture the dynamics of these structural changes.

At the micro level, clear intergenerational mobility trends and growing consensus on democratic values over the three selected years are found, marking substantial changes in socioeconomic and political structures. In addition, belief in democratic political culture is to a great extent explained by one's class position, mobility experiences, and other social stratified characteristics. This analysis finds that, over the years, each democratic value is determined by a unique combination of social cleavages. In general, younger intellectuals or men with higher education who had been in the upper classes for generations and at the same time felt themselves holding the upper status for some time are most likely to support democratic political culture and its dimensions. Class and education are the two most critical social cleavages. The intellectual class and the highly educated have always been the most liberal in their support of a culturally democratic environment. This implies that an enlarged base of the intellectual class and the improvement of the nation's level of education may be helpful in promoting the support of democracy in the future.

This study offers strong empirical evidence that Taiwanese society is likely to develop toward a more open and a more culturally democratic environment. Although political subcultures are observed, almost all groups have experienced substantial growth in their support of democratic values throughout the twelve years. Therefore, differentiated political subcultures may affect the pace of democratization, but not the principle direction toward democracy.


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