Development and Democracy: What Have We Learned and How?

Development and Democracy: What Have We Learned and How?

Development and Democracy: What Have We Learned and How?

Development and Democracy: What Have We Learned and How?

Synopsis

Development and Democracy confirms the robust relationship between levels of economic development and democracy, but suggests that globalization is a key variable in determining the tenuous nature of this relationship in the periphery of the world economy. It raises new questions about the role of social classes in democratization, and points to the importance of including the nature of the state as a factor in the study of democratization. A further important finding is that countries with mixed legal systems correlate less positively with democracy than do countries with more homogenous legal systems. Moreover, Development and Democracy shows conclusively that the way researchers design their studies has a major impact on their findings.

Excerpt

One does not have to be a Marxist to accept the notion that economic development shapes our world and determines the prospects for democratic government. Ever since Seymour Martin Lipset published his seminal work on this relationship more than four decades ago, scholars have been discussing the impact of industrialisation, modernisation and economic growth on political decision-making processes. the overwhelming amount of evidence collected unambiguously corroborates a straightforward thesis: in each and every empirical study a significant positive correlation between economic development and democracy is reported. Yet, in spite of this remarkable and rather unusual consensus about the empirical record, controversies and disputes did not wane. On the contrary. the relationship between economic development and democracy is still a never-ending story; apparently invulnerable to fashions and whims, and irrespective of the amount of empirical evidence compiled.

It is not difficult to come across the reasons for the continuous attention paid to the political consequences of economic development. From the very beginning of the debates it was clear that the empirical record consisted of correlations and that explanations in causal terms were extremely complicated and controversial. Exactly because the empirical record is so comprehensible and undisputed, widely deviating interpretations are presented all the time. Besides, the third and fourth waves of democratic transition underlined the need for much more analytical rigidity in this area. Is economic development a prerequisite for the transition of authoritarian regimes into democratic regimes? Or are its main consequences related to the persistence or stability of existing democracies? Does economic development improve the level of democratic decision making in the short run and is that a contribution to the long-term stability of these regimes? and shouldn't we consider the opportunity that liberal democracy facilitates economic development instead of the other way around? Analytical confusion and evident under-specification of explanations seem to be as characteristic of this research area as broad conformity about the empirical record.

The present volume does not constitute yet another popular account of the debates about the Lipset thesis in the light of rapid transformations of authoritarian regimes or the fact that democracy developed into 'the only game in town'. Neither does it present a simple solution to the theoretical and

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