Stalled Democracy: Capital, Labor and the Paradox of State-Sponsored Development

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In this ambitious book, Eva Bellin examines the dynamics of democratization in late-developing countries where the process has stalled. Bellin focuses on the pivotal role of social forces and particularly the reluctance of capital and labor to champion democratic transition, contrary to the expectations of political economists versed in earlier transitions. Bellin argues that the special conditions of late development, most notably the political paradoxes created by state sponsorship, fatally limit class commitment to democracy. In many developing countries, she contends, those who are empowered by capitalist industrialization become the allies of authoritarianism rather than the agents of democratic reform.

Bellin generates her propositions from close study of a singular case of stalled democracy: Tunisia. Capital and labor's complicity in authoritarian relapse in that country poses a puzzle. The author's explanation of that case is made more general through comparison with the cases of other countries, including Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Egypt. Stalled Democracy also explores the transformative capacity of state-sponsored industrialization. By drawing on a range of real-world examples, Bellin illustrates the ability of developing countries to reconfigure state-society relations, redistribute power more evenly in society, and erode the peremptory power of the authoritarian state, even where democracy is stalled.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In a detailed study of Tunisia, Bellin finds that some governmental development schemes that explicitly encourage the private sector can better enable private capital and labor to defend their interests. . . It contributes to our understanding of the relationship between development and democratization throughout the world."—Foreign Affairs

"Bellin's explicitly comparative, cross-national framework offers readily generalizable findings."—Perspectives on Politics

"This is a smart, elegantly written book rich in empirical detail and theoretical argument."—International Journal of Middle East Studies

"Laying out a clearly stated argument about"stalled democracy" (democracy stunted between autocracy and fully accountable government), Eva Bellin deftly elaborates the empirical underpinnings for the development of 'contingent' democrats whose level of support for democracy varies according to material self-interest. Both capital and labor, tied to the state's political and economic apron strings, find it difficult if not impossible to sever connections that serve to promote and protect their interests. Yet Bellin's sophisticated analysis leaves open the possibility that such democracy might be"unstalled" under conditions such as rapid growth, ideological change, or integration into the global economy."—John Entelis, Fordham University

"Stalled Democracy is a beautifully written book. EvaBellin's clear writing reflects not only style but clear thinking. From the outset, the reader knows precisely what is at stake here."—Joel Migdal, University of Washington

"In the excitement about transitions to democracy after the Cold War, many analysts didn't notice the countries that failed to live up to their promise. Some, like Algeria, descended into civil war but most sank into political paralysis. In Stalled Democracy, Eva Bellin has produced one of the first serious efforts to examine this phenomenon. Drawing on a clear and compelling examination of recent reform efforts in Tunisia, she shows that late, state-sponsored development may cripple the very social actors—capital and labor—which have served as the historical engines of democratization elsewhere. Bellin makes a persuasive case that we must reconsider the received wisdom about development and democracy."—Lisa Anderson, Columbia University

"Those who wish to encourage democracy in places like Saudi Arabia and Syria had better read Bellin to understand some of the conditions under which the relevant social forces may promote such development."—Clement M. Henry, The University of Texas at Austin

Foreign Affairs
Will state-sponsored industrialization produce capitalists and labor strong enough to pluralize power, thereby nudging authoritarian states toward democracy? In a detailed study of Tunisia, Bellin finds that some governmental development schemes that explicitly encourage the private sector can better enable private capital and labor to defend their interests. But the latter two remain at best "contingent democrats." Disinclined to risk the relatively privileged status that the authoritarian state grants them, these groups will champion democracy only to the extent that the state ceases offering special treatment. This study of "stalled democracy" explains much about Tunisia, which has exhibited reasonably positive economic performance in recent years alongside a dismal human rights and democratization record. But more important is that it contributes to our understanding of the relationship between development and democratization throughout the world. A concluding chapter presents short comparative studies of state relations with labor and capital in Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and several states outside the Middle East.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801439421
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eva Bellin is Myra and Robert Kraft Professor of Arab Politics in the Department of Politics and the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University.

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Table of Contents


1. Genesis of the Private Sector in Tunisia: The Logic of State Sponsorship

2. The Developmental Paradox: Capital's Emergent Power and Autonomy

3. A Checkered Alliance: State Sponsorship of Labor

4. Influence under Constraint: The Trajectory of Labor's Power and Autonomy

5. Capital and Labor: Agents of Democratization?

6. Stalled Democracy in Comparative Perspective

Appendix 1: Comparative Wage Rates in Forty-one Countries, 1990

Appendix 2: Number of Strikes in Tunisia, 1970–1994

Appendix 3: Organizational Structure of the Union Générale de Travailleurs Tunisiens

Appendix 4: Membership Numbers in the Union Générale de Travailleurs Tunisiens


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