World Politics

Research Article

Modernization: Theories and Facts

Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongia1a2*

a1 New York University

a2 University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Abstract

What makes political regimes rise, endure, and fall? The main question is whether the observed close relation between levels of economic development and the incidence of democratic regimes is due to democracies being more likely to emerge or only more likely to survive in the more developed countries. We answer this question using data concerning 135 countries that existed at any time between 1950 and 1990. We find that the level of economic development does not affect the probability of transitions to democracy but that affluence does make democratic regimes more stable. The relation between affluence and democratic stability is monotonic, and the breakdown of democracies at middle levels of development is a phenomenon peculiar to the Southern Cone of Latin America. These patterns also appear to have been true of the earlier period, but dictatorships are more likely to survive in wealthy countries that became independent only after 1950. We conclude that modernization need not generate democracy but democracies survive in countries that are modern.

Adam Przeworski is Professor of Politics at New York University. His recent books include Democracy and the Market (1991), Economic Reforms in New Democracies (with Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira and José María Maravall, 1993), and Sustainable Democracy (coauthored, 1995). He is currently working on a project concerning the impact of political institutions on economic performance.

Fernando Limongi is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the author of recent articles on the Brazilian legislative process and the party system. He is currently working on a project concerning the impact of political institutions on economic performance.

* We appreciate comments by Mike Alvarez, José Antonio Cheibub, Fernando Cortés, hairy Diamond, John H. Kautsky, Seymour Martin Lipset, Alejandro Lopez, José Maria Maravall, Guillermo O'Donnell, and Susan Stokes. This work was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation no. SES-9022605.