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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

6 - RENTIER DEMOCRACY IN COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE

Summary

The theoretical argument developed in this study, in contrast to recent work on the political effects of natural resource wealth, posits the existence of a democratic effect of resource rents. The theory also suggests conditions under which this democratic effect may become more important, relative to the authoritarian effects of resource wealth, and thereby generates hypotheses to help explain variation in political outcomes across resource-rich countries. The statistical analysis of cross-section time-series data presented in Chapter Four is broadly consistent with these hypotheses, and the Venezuelan case study developed in the previous chapter suggests not only that resource rents have had a democratic effect in Venezuela—a country with a highly unequal distribution of wealth in the relatively well-developed, non-resource sectors of the economy—but also that the mechanisms emphasized in this book can help explain both the stabilization and the destabilization of Venezuelan democracy.

Nonetheless, as discussed earlier, other theories might conceivably be consistent with the evidence presented so far, particularly with respect to the cross-national variation uncovered by the statistical analysis; moreover, Venezuela provides just one case (albeit a rich and informative one) with which to evaluate the theory empirically. In this chapter, I therefore analyze evidence from Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Botswana, leaving detailed examination of other cases to future work. (Several other cases, including cases for which the theory would predict an authoritarian effect of rents, are considered in the concluding chapter.)