Abstract. This article demonstrates that socioeconomic development, emancipative cultural change and democratization constitute a coherent syndrome of social progress – a syndrome whose common focus has not been properly specified by classical modernization theory. We specify this syndrome as ‘human development’, arguing that its three components have a common focus on broadening human choice. Socioeconomic development gives people the objective means of choice by increasing individual resources; rising emancipative values strengthen people's subjective orientation towards choice; and democratization provides legal guarantees of choice by institutionalizing freedom rights. Analysis of data from the World Values Surveys demonstrates that the linkage between individual resources, emancipative values and freedom rights is universal in its presence across nations, regions and cultural zones; that this human development syndrome is shaped by a causal effect of individual resources and emancipative values on freedom rights; and that this effect operates through its impact on elite integrity, as the factor which makes freedom rights effective.