The Fate of Young Democracies

The Fate of Young Democracies

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In this book, Kapstein and Converse make use of a unique data base of all democratizations since 1960 to explore the reasons for backsliding and reversal in the world's fledgling democracies. Unlike an earlier generation of scholarship, which argued that poor economic performance was the major cause of democratic collapse, Kapstein and Converse find that the core of the problem lies with poor institutional design.
The recent backlash against democracy in such countries as Bolivia, Venezuela, Russia, and Georgia poses renewed concerns about the viability of this regime type in the developing world. Drawing on a unique data set of every democratization episode since 1960, this book explores the underlying reasons for backsliding and reversal in the world's fledgling democracies and offers some proposals with respect to what the international community might do to help these states stay on track toward political stability. Rejecting earlier scholarship on this topic, which focused on poor economic performance as the leading cause of democratic reversal, Kapstein and Converse argue that the core of the problem is found in the weak institutions that have been built in much of the developing world, which encourage leaders to abuse their power. Understanding the underlying reasons for democratic failure is essential if we are to offer policy recommendations that have any hope of making a difference on the ground.


"The Fate of Young Democracies is timely and intensely relevant. Though the challenges confronting young democracies have long occupied political scientists and economists, this is the first book to analyze them systematically. The authors reach a conclusion that is of utmost importance for both students and those in the professional community who are concerned with development and support for democratic institutions: the incentives of elected officials to pursue public policies in the public interest must play a central role in any assessment of democratic consolidation." 
--Philip Keefer, Lead Economist, Development Research Group, The World Bank

"A timely and provocative argument that challenges common wisdoms in the academic world and sends a clear message to policy-makers as well. A must-read for anyone interested in democratization and democracy promotion." 
--Nancy Bermeo, Nuffield Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Oxford

"Kapstein and Converse have issued a wake-up call to political leaders who tout the attributes of democratic change, but who then fail to invest the resources to make the transformation sustainable. This work presents empirical evidence that democracy is not a sure path to prosperity, even if it remains the best governance choice in the long term. We Americans should continue to support democratic development, but Kapstein and Converse warn that our approach should be grounded in an awareness that democracy in the developing world, where strong political and economic institutions are often absent, is highly susceptible to failure." 
--J. Brian Atwood, Dean, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

"Kapstein and Converse offer a rich course of data and theory on democratic transitions and reversals since 1960. They demolish old simplifications and insist we dig deeper to understand the institutional foundations of both pluralist politics and sustained economic growth. They find that new democracies are at high risk, yet show that certain policies are more likely to bring success. Policy professionals and students of democracy alike will change their thinking after reading this insightful work." 
--Jack Goldstone, Hazel Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

"Examines the role of democracy in promoting long-run political stability and economic growth, focusing on the differences between young democracies that manage to consolidate their regimes and those that backslide or revert to authoritarianism..." 
--Journal of Economic Literature

"...For academics, the study presents a wealth of opportunities for new research. For current or prospective policymakers, the book provides powerful food for thought on how best to administer foreign aid or direct the influence of an international organization. The Fate of Young Democracies lays the groundwork for a more nuanced understanding of the challenges facing democratization efforts around the globe." 
--Harvard Law Review

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