Economic development has been argued to be a key factor in the stability of democratic societies, as noted by Seymour Lipset and Przeworski et al., however, it does not necessarily ensure stability as much as it fosters its development and maintenance. Lipset’s Some Social Requisites of Democracy outlines many social and institutional requirements for the maintenance of a democratic government, including the necessity of free, fair and competitive elections, taken from Joseph Schumpeter’s qualifications for a democratic regime. Lipset’s piece outlines important social consequences that may arise from an unstable economic system in a state, including the split between lower and upper classes, rather than a unified national culture, which could in turn result in the emergence of social norms that limit the political participation mainly of the lower class, consequences which would make the formation of a democratic state difficult or even impossible.
The effects of such events would demonstrate the opposite side of the argument that economic development ensures democratic stability, however, the argument it cannot be upheld solely by successful economic development and steady rates of inflation. Even though it is easier for a society to share middle class and democratic goals and values, the continuous harmony between economic classes in the state is not as pertinent as is the creation of institutions and a bureaucratic system based on these shared values, which ensure democratic stability most of all.
Even though poor democracies are at risk of failing, as mentioned in Przeworski et al., and it is the success of the economy over time that allows citizens to come together to create a bureaucratic system to maintain the democratic state, the economic stability of a state over a certain GDP level over time does not play as crucial a role in the success of the democracy, as in Greece for example. Although Greece has struggled financially, the democratic state has not crumbled under economic strain. The institutions and bureaucratic practices have endured, as well as the strong parliamentary system, which just reelected the prime minister in these difficult times, rather than resorting to drastic measures that could endanger the democratic values of the state. Greece’s democratic stability, even through economic instability, demonstrates the point that economic development is not the essential quality for democratic stability, rather a complimenting piece of the puzzle.
Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy. By Seymour Martin Lipset.
What Makes Democracies Endure? By Adam Przeworski, Michael Alvarez, Jose Antoni Cheibub & Fernando Limongi.