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Fundamentalist attitudes and the export of democracy

Listed author(s):
  • Luca Correani

    (University of Tuscia, Department of economics - Viterbo, Italy)

Is democracy exportable? A present-day political doctrine seems to recommend exporting democracy to those countries where diffused religious and social values do not allow the spontaneous growth of democratic institutions. In this paper we present a model that allows us to study the dynamics induced by the exogenous imposition of democracy, when the society is dominated by antidemocratic preferences. We analyze the dynamics of the distribution of democratic values in a population where agents have heterogeneous preferences about democracy, distinguishing between fundamentalist-antidemocratic agents and democratic agents (implicit references to Moslem societies are pervasive in this paper). Cultural traits and norms are acquired through a process of intergenerational cultural transmission and socialization. The driving force in the equilibrium selection process is the education effort exerted by parents; this depends on the distribution of democratic values in the population and on expectations about future policies affecting formal and informal institutions. The main result is that when fundamentalism is sufficiently diffused in all institutional dimensions of social life, the imposition of formal democratic rules do not significantly affect social preferences. This occurs because the existing democratic types perceive their children’s “conversion” to fundamentalism as less costly than the utility cost perceived by fundamentalist types when their children adopt democratic preferences: so fundamentalists’ education effort dominates the dynamic of preferences. As soon as the exogenous imposition is removed the system will again converge to fundamentalist and antidemocratic institutions. We argue that shortsighted behaviour like this by democratic agents might be strongly correlated to the level of economic development. On the other hand the model shows how a cruel fundamentalist dictatorship can not wholly destroy democratic preferences in the population; the sole result is a fictitious homologation of manifested attitudes, with no preferences dynamics and the previous real attitudes immediately emerging as soon as dictatorship falls. JEL classification: E13; P16 Keywords: Democracy, Cultural change, Formation of Preferences

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Development and Comp Systems with number 0501011.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: 25 Jan 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpdc:0501011
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 15
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  1. Zak, Paul J. & Feng, Yi, 2003. "A dynamic theory of the transition to democracy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 1-25, September.
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