The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy

49 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2015

See all articles by Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

Jeanet Sinding Bentzen

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Jacob Gerner Hariri

University of Copenhagen - Department of Political Science and Department of Economics

James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: December 2014

Abstract

We document that rules for leadership succession in ethnic societies that antedate the modern state predict contemporary political regimes; leadership selection by election in indigenous societies is associated with contemporary representative democracy. The basic association, however, is conditioned on the relative strength of the indigenous groups within a country; stronger groups seem to have been able to shape national regime trajectories, weaker groups do not. This finding extends and qualifies a substantive qualitative literature, which has found in local democratic institutions of medieval Europe a positive impulse towards the development of representative democracy. It shows that contemporary regimes are shaped not only by colonial history and European in influence; indigenous history also matters.

For practitioners, our findings suggest that external reformers' capacity for regime-building should not be exaggerated.

Suggested Citation

Bentzen, Jeanet and Hariri, Jacob and Robinson, James A., The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy (December 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2553916 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2553916

Jeanet Bentzen (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Ă˜ster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

Jacob Hariri

University of Copenhagen - Department of Political Science and Department of Economics ( email )

Solbjerg Plads 3
Copenhagen, DK-2100
Denmark

James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2839 (Phone)
617-495-8292 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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