In This Review

The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions
The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions
By Stephan Haggard and Robert R. Kaufman
Princeton University Press, 1995, 391 pp

The 1980s saw a remarkable extension of democracy around the world, not only in former communist countries but throughout Latin America (except Cuba) and more selectively in Asia and Africa. It is natural to ask to what extent these developments were linked to the numerous economic crises of the 1980s. In this volume, two American political scientists address the relationship between economic conditions, economic policy, and the transition to democracy. Not surprisingly, the relationships are not simple, and they do not lend themselves to simple generalization.

No doubt some authoritarian regimes lost what little legitimacy they had when they failed to deliver prosperity to their people, and that failure sometimes led to irresistible pressure for more democratic government. But other regimes did not lose their legitimacy. In some cases a newly installed democratic government was able to take tough and effective economic measures leading to economic recovery and growth, in others not; most had difficulty with systematic and consistent follow-through.

The Haggard-Kaufman study examines in detail seven Latin American and five Asian countries that have made the transition to democracy since 1980. The authors find that the institutional setting of each country, as opposed to external events, is a critical influence on the success and sustainability of economic policy. The book offers much interesting detail and finely reasoned conjecture about a complex set of relationships.