Inequality and Democratization

45 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2008

See all articles by Ben W. Ansell

Ben W. Ansell

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations

David J. Samuels

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 2008

Abstract

The impact of economic development on democratization has long concerned social scientists, with prominent recent research focusing on the effects of economic inequality and factor specificity. Boix (2003) suggests that democratization is likelier when economic equality is high and factor-specificity is low. Acemoglu and Robinson (2006) argue that democratization is more likely when inequality is at middling levels. Both arguments assume that democratization is a function of autocratic elites' relative fear of the costs of redistribution at different levels of inequality. Drawing on contractarian political theory, we suggest that democratization is not about demands for redistribution from the elite; it is about demands for protection from the state. This alternative theoretical approach generates different predictions about the relationship between inequality and democratization, and suggests that land and income inequality impact democratization differently. Autocracies with unequal land distribution are less likely to democratize, while autocracies with substantial income inequality are more likely to democratize.

Keywords: Democracy, Democratization, Inequality

Suggested Citation

Ansell, Ben W. and Samuels, David J., Inequality and Democratization (June 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1144087 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1144087

Ben W. Ansell

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

David J. Samuels (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Political Science ( email )

Minneapolis, MN 55455-0410
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.polisci.umn.edu/~dsamuels/

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