Patrimonial Barriers to Political and Economic Development

Eric N. Budd


As apparent reality among many post-colonial states of the third world is that some states attained democratization and economic development more successfully than others. Corollarily, the more successful nations or developmental states do not share the patrimonial nature that other states possess. In the attempt to explain this phenomenon, one hypothesis purports that there is an inverse correlation between a nation’s level of patrimonialism and a nation’s degree of economic development and democratization. Patrimonialism thus represents a barrier to both economic growth and democracy. In the economic sphere, while developmental states adopt strategic industrial policies toward industrialization and put a high premium on efficiency and productivity, patrimonial states cater to particularistic interests rather than national development. In the political realm, the same antithetical rule holds for democratic states, as political power is based upon the rule of law and political parties act as mobilizing interest groups. In patrimonial states, the ruler is above the law and the parties function to cater to patronage politics; thus, the state becomes detrimental to democratic consolidation. Through a structured system of rankings for the degree of patrimonialism of some twenty-five states, the paper shows how patrimonialism poses a potential barrier to stable democratic polities and the promotion of economic growth.


Patrimonial Barriers, Political Development, Economic Development,

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