Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by David Deese
Chapter 9: Democracy and trade: which leads and how?
The spread of new democracies is one of the more important international phenomena characterizing the twentieth century. Despite the political importance of democratization, the role of international economic factors in producing democracy remains unexplained. A traditional approach to explaining democratization has focused on domestic factors such as internal economic development. Scholars such as Moore (1993), Boix and Stokes (2003) and Epstein et al. (2006) argue that democratization is produced through a process of internal development, typically captured in the growth of per capita GDP. This approach places significant weight on explaining democracy by reference to historical and developmental factors at the domestic state level. While domestic factors certainly play a critical role in producing movement toward democracy, states do not exist in a vacuum. Recent US experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and the integration of East European countries into the European Union demonstrate that international factors matter for democratization. International trade is a particularly important component of democratization that has not been examined in sufficient detail. Strong evidence exists that democratization is not solely driven by domestic development but also influenced by events outside of a country’s borders. Scholars have examined the impact of factors such as diffusion (Wejnert 2005; Gleditsch and Ward 2006) and international institutions (Whitehead 1996b; Pevehouse 2002) and have found evidence to suggest that international factors do have an important role for democratization.
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