Development Theory

Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 8-41

First online:

Development strategy and regime type: Why doesn’t democracy matter?

  • Brain F. Crisp

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The development strategy literature argues that autonomous bureaucrats in authoritarian Asian NICs followed successful export-led growth strategies while Latin American policymakers were pressured by mobilized sectors to maintain doomed import substitution industrialization. What is more, this ISI strategy made the consolidation of democracy impossible. However, my research on Venezuela indicates that ISI and democracy can be made compatible—the democratic state was penetrated by business and labor, those avenues for penetration were protected from electoral politics, and the relative participation of business and labor remained fluid. How are recently established democracies being made compatible with a new market-oriented development strategy? Evidence from East Asia and Latin America indicates that the transition to market-oriented economies and the institutionalization of participation by key sectors have not gone together. Policymakers are trying to isolate bureaucrats from public pressure and centralize power away from bodies vulnerable to electoral oversight. The “deinstitutionalization” of democratic politics may make the relationship between regime type and development strategy unstable.