Structural Conditions and Democratization

Issue Date July 2015
Volume 26
Issue 3
Page Numbers 144-156
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

Read the full essay here.

Scholars and policy-makers have long known that the process of democratization is shaped by both short-term political events and by long-term structural factors. In this article, we look at patterns in three key structural factors that play a major role in democratization – income, ethnic fragmentation and state quality. We find that both democratic and autocratic regimes have on average become stronger in terms of these key variables in the last twenty years. By contrast, hybrid regimes, which are often thought by scholars to be the most “available” for democratization now face greater structural challenges than before. We also demonstrate using simple empirics that structurally advantaged autocracies and democracies are more stable than their structurally disadvantaged counterparts and that hybrid regimes with multiple structural disadvantages are more likely to slip in terms of democratization than hybrids in better circumstances. These patterns, we argue, are bad news for those who have been looking for a new wave of democratization, but they also suggest that a full-blown authoritarian reverse wave is equally unlikely.

About the Authors

Grigore Pop-Eleches

Grigore Pop-Eleches, associate professor of politics and public and international affairs at Princeton University, is the author of From Economic Crisis to Reform: IMF Programs in Latin America and Eastern Europe (2009).

View all work by Grigore Pop-Eleches

Graeme B. Robertson

Graeme Robertson, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes: Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia (2011).

View all work by Graeme B. Robertson