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  • Cited by 18
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2019
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Book description

One of the greatest challenges in the twenty-first century is to address large, deep, and historic deficits in human development. Democracy at Work explores a crucial question: how does democracy, with all of its messy, contested, and, time-consuming features, advance well-being and improve citizens' lives? Professors Brian Wampler, Natasha Borges Sugiyama, and Michael Touchton argue that differences in the local robustness of three democratic pathways - participatory institutions, rights-based social programs, and inclusive state capacity - best explain the variation in how democratic governments improve well-being. Using novel data from Brazil and innovative analytic techniques, the authors show that participatory institutions permit citizens to express voice and exercise vote, inclusive social programs promote citizenship rights and access to public resources, and more capable local states use public resources according to democratic principles of rights protections and equal access. The analysis uncovers how democracy works to advance capabilities related to poverty, health, women's empowerment, and education.


'This important book documents the existence of a significant 'democracy advantage' in the form of Brazilian municipalities that have been able to improve a number of key social indicators by expanding participatory institutions, adopting rights-based social programs, and building local state capacity. Given the multiple crises that have beset Brazil’s national-level politics in recent years, the publication of Democracy at Work is especially timely as a reminder that local actors can construct their own pathways to well-being.'

Kent Eaton - University of California, Santa Cruz

'Democracy at Work convincingly demonstrates that 'thicker democracy' really does improve social outcomes. The authors deploy the analytical leverage of the subnational comparative method, grounded in extraordinary empirical evidence, to show both the independent and interactive effects of participatory public institutions, inclusive safety nets and capable local governments.'

Jonathan Fox - Accountability Research Center, School of International Service, American University

‘Democracy at Work is an impressive, even exemplary, piece of scholarship.’

Jared Abbott and Benjamin Goldfrank Source: Comparative Politics

‘Wampler, Sugiyama, and Touchton’s exciting book Democracy at Work promises a deep dive into the black box of democracy with all of its ‘messy, contested, and time-consuming features’ … Democracy at Work is sure to become essential reading for any student of participatory democracy and developmental studies, as well as anyone seeking to understand the micro-level pathways that cultivate well-being beyond the broad stroke of economic growth and regime type.’

Maggie Shum Source: The Developing Economies

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