Get access

Globalization and the Strengthening of Democracy in the Developing World


  • I am grateful to Hayward Alker, Barry Ames, David Bearce, Ross Burkhart, Sarah Brooks, Michael Goodhart, Stephan Haggard, Mark Hallerberg, Evelyn Huber, Layna Mosley, Paul Nelson, Dennis Quinn, Simon Reich, Sebastian Saiegh, Samira Salem, Ravi Sundaram, Robert Walters, the anonymous reviewers for AJPS, and the participants of the Sullivan Lecture Series in International Political Economy at the Kellogg Institute of Notre Dame and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University for comments on earlier versions of this draft. Marcus Kurtz helped provide access to important data sources. Special thanks to Ross Burkhart, Siddharth Chandra, Pierre Englebert, John Odell, and James Robinson for both inspiration and detailed comments. Burge Hayran and Florencia Tateossian provided excellent research assistance.

Nita Rudra is assistant professor of international affairs, University of Pittsburgh, 3210 Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (


Scholars and policy makers have long assumed that trade and financial liberalization encourages developing countries to become more democratic; yet no one has developed formal hypotheses about the causal relationship between globalization and democracy. This article shows that these two trends are indeed related, but not necessarily in the direct manner that has commonly been postulated. Combining theories of embedded liberalism and conflict-based theories of democracy, the model presented here depicts the process that affects decisions to strengthen democracy as trade and capital flows increase. I argue that increasing exposure to international export and financial markets leads to improvements in democracy if safety nets are used simultaneously as a strategy for providing stability and building political support. Empirical evidence is provided by econometric analysis covering 59 developing countries for the time period 1972–97.