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Authoritarian and Democratic Transitions in National Political Systems

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
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Considerable comparative political development research has shown that there is a positive relationship between societies' levels of socio-economic development and their political development. Cutright (1963) formulated an explicitly equilibrium theory concerning this relationship. His data on 77 nations for the 1940-60 period showed that while most were "in equilibrium" in the sense that their level of political party competition was what would be "expected" when this was regressed on their level of socio-economic development, a number of nations were extremely "out of equilibrium". Chile and the Philippines had been much more democratic than "expected" on the basis of their relatively low level of socio-economic development, while Spain, Portugal and Saudi Arabia were the most extreme outliers in the opposite direction. Qualitative data from the political history of these five countries are examined to test equilibrium theoretic predictions. As predicted, Chile and Philippines moved toward greater equilibrium by becoming less democratic (more authoritarian) in the 1970s, while Spain and Portugal had transitions from dictatorships to democracy during the same decade. Only one of the five countries-Saudi Arabia-has (to date) remained in disequilibrium, contrary to the prediction.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, 02912, U.S.A.


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