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Haggard and Kaufman: The political economy of democratic transitions

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Haggard and Kaufman. 1995. The political economy of democratic transitions. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Handout from class:

The value of this book, as I see it, lies not in the specifics of the cases under consideration (middle income countries), but in the method of analysis. In contrast to other literature on transitions that focuses primarily on strategic choice making by authoritarian and opposition elites (eg, Przeworski 1991), the authors demonstrate the importance of the contextual variables that structure the choices and strategies adopted by the elites in moments of transition. The authors focus on two types of variables -- economic and institutional -- that determine the political agenda, the interests, and capabilities of the central actors in the democratization drama (p. 366). In a sense, this book can be understood as a statement that "context matters." We cannot understand the strategic interaction of key elites during transitions without understanding the economic and institutional factors involved. The analytic focus of this book is on the way economic conditions and the balance of power among competing socio-political interests shape the reconstruction of constitutional and party systems at the time of transition.

The key substantive claims of the book are as follows:

Part 1: Why authoritarian regimes withdraw

CHAPTER 1: (see figure 1.1 for a quick summary, page 38)

1.Economic crisis accelerated (perhaps even caused) the collapse of authoritarian regimes in a number of countries � particularly in Latin America and Africa, where the shocks were profound. The effect is strongest in middle-income countries. Poorer countries can remain authoritarian more easily (b/c there is less social development/organization).

2.The fate of authoritarian regimes during economic crisis depended on three variables: a. the role of private sector business groups; b. the role of middle-income and popular-sector organizations; c. the role of the military and political elites who controlled the apparatus of coercion

3.The proximate cause to the exit of authoritarian regimes can almost always be found in splits within the politico-military elite. The crucial question is how economic conditions play a role in creating divisions within this elite.

4.Military regimes that were divided were less competent at managing crisis.


1.The capacity of outgoing leaders to shape the transition depended on underlying economic conditions and whether or not the outgoing elite had dealt with the crisis competently or not. Outgoing elites had much greater control of negotiations in cases where the crisis had been managed. Negations occurred over new constitutions and terms of contestation.

Part 2: Explaining the difference in policy outcomes among crisis and non-crisis transitions

In the second section of the book the authors analyze how differences in economic starting points and the nature of the transition affected the capacity of new democratic governments to make economic policy. In part 1 the dependent variable was institutional outcomes. Here the dependent variable is economic policy.


1.Two key variables affected the policy and performance in new democracies: the authority of the executive and the structure of the party system (extent of its fragmentation and polarization). Polarization and/or fragmentation were impediments to resolving fiscal and monetary problems.

Part 3: Economic Consolidation

CHAPTER 9 and 10:

1.Economic growth and reducing inequality appear to be important for consolidating democracy.

2.Consolidation also depends on the development of political institutions that can mediate policy debates and coordinate relations among contending social and economic interests.