The Indigenous Roots of Representative Democracy

50 Pages Posted: 26 May 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: May 2015

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 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 (May 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21193. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2610490

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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