Democracy and developing countries


The “old” and “new” powers involved in negotiations during transition period can span from military and political parties in Latin America, state and civil society in Eastern and Central Europe to ethnic tribes in Africa. Until the general consensus about the democracy as the only desirable regime is achieved, the country can be driven back to regression, as it happened in Nicaragua or Algeria. 5 Two main schools of thought emerged regarding the relationship between democracy and development. Some believe that strong, authoritarian government is needed to achieve the level of society “ready” for democratic changes.

Premature democratization, they claim, may cause ethnic tensions that can destabilize transition. Government, trying to avoid unpopular decisions and under pressure from various groups may distribute resources inappropriately and stall the economic growth. The others argue that democracy will promote civil, political, and property rights along with freedom of information, all necessary conditions for development. Regardless of these opposite theories, certain factors have been identified as prerequisites to establish and further sustain the democracy: social and economic development, class structure and political culture.

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An association between democracy and economic prosperity is definitely positive. Samuel Lipset concluded some forty years ago that democratic governments prevail in industrialized countries, and economic development is essential factor that leads into democracy. Without the GNP beyond the poverty level (roughly $2000 at the start of this century according to Seligson6), the country is not likely to establish and sustain the democracy. Furthermore, social development, expressed specifically in adult literacy, attributes to democracy also.

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Educated, literate population “is more likely to follow politics and participate. It is also more capable of defending its own interests”. 7 The level of adult literacy needed is at least 50%. The importance of class structure regarding the democratic movements lays in the historical facts. In his study “The Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy”, Moore identified three ways to modernization. In late 19th and early 20th century Germany, major development forces was strong state, supported by antidemocratic land owners and business class that depended on it.

Eventually, in Germany and later in counties with similar alignment of powers, antidemocratic and ultra-right regimes emerged. Second trend, visible in countries with centralized state, weak business class and large peasant class with repressive land owners such as China, resulted in communist revolution initiated by peasants. The third path, the one that ultimately led to democracy, occurred when modernization forces were strong bourgeoisie in conflict with land owners in internally divided state.

The conclusion that arises is following: only where a strong middle class, independent from the state and politically influential exists, can democracy thrive. Political culture, the last condition, relates to the cultural norms and values that can support democracy, such as realizing the importance and productivity of political involvement, accepting the outcome of elections, obeying unfavorable laws, tolerance toward different opinions and generally regarding democracy as the best form of government.

Lack of these values can render democracy unsustainable, especially in newly established countries that strive to achieve economic growth – the surveys in Russia, for example, showed that a considerable amount of the population think of communist era as more secure and stable, and does not care about civil liberties or minority rights. In a world as diverse as the one of developing countries democratic consolidation is not an easy process. Burdened by poverty, social injustice, competition for economic resources and inadequate bureaucratic and judicial systems, democratic governments of developing countries face many challenges.

These result in various attempts to address their country’s specific problems. Without the support of the population, and if unable to solve economic and social problems, some of the developing countries may regress into a more authoritarian regime, however, supported with economic and social growth, and raising political culture of the population to a higher level, many of them can sustain their democracies.

1 Haldemann, Howard, “The challenge of Third World Development”, 3rd Ed. (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2003, p. 28. 2 World Bank, http://www. html 3 Pereira, Anthony W. , “Democracies: Emerging or Submerging? “, Developing World 03/04, McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, Guilford, CT, 2003, p 124. 4 Haldemann, Howard, “The challenge of Third World Development”, 3rd ed. (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2003, p. 29. 5 Freedom House, http://www. freedomhouse. org 6 Haldemann, Howard, “The challenge of Third World Development”, 3rd ed. (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2003, p 36. 7 Haldemann, Howard, “The challenge of Third World Development”, 3rd ed. (Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2003, p. 36.

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Democracy and developing countries. (2021, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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