Democracy and capitalist revolution

Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira

In Économie Appliquée, tome LXV, 2012, n. 4, p. 111-139


Democracy became the preferred and consolidated form of government only in the twentieth century. The new historical fact that led to the change of preference from aristocratic rule to democracy is the Capitalist Revolution, which changed the manner of appropriating the economic surplus from violence to the market. This is the first necessary condition for democracy. The disappearance of the fear of expropriation, the rise of middle classes, and the pressures of the poor are the complementary historical facts. After these four conditions were fulfilled, the elites ceased to fear that they would be expropriated if the poor won universal suffrage. The theory presented here does not predict transitions, since often countries turn democratic without the historical conditions being fully realized, but it predicts democratic consolidation, since no country that has completed its capitalist revolution falls back into authoritarianism.


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