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Is Liberal Democracy Feasible in Developing Countries?


Liberal democracy has been difficult to institute and sustain in developing countries. This has to do both with ideational factors—the absence of a liberal tradition prior to electoral mobilization—and structural conditions—the prevalence of mass mobilization along identity rather than class cleavages. This paper considers the conditions under which liberal democracy emerges and speculates about its future in developing countries.

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Fig. 1


  1. The evidence that democracy leads to higher growth is generally considered to be weak. However, a recent paper by Acemoglu et al. (2014) makes a strong case that it does.

  2. See, for example, Boix (2003), Acemoglu and Robinson (2009), and Ansell and Samuels (2014).


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This paper was prepared for the 50th Fiftieth Anniversary Conference of Studies in Comparative International Development, Brown University, October 30, 2015. I am grateful to conference participants, especially Peter Evans and Peter Gourevitch for very helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Dani Rodrik.

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Rodrik, D. Is Liberal Democracy Feasible in Developing Countries?. St Comp Int Dev 51, 50–59 (2016).

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  • Liberal democracy
  • Developing countries