The Transition to Liberal Democracy

Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira

in Democracy and Public Management Reform

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199261185
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601507 | DOI:
 The Transition to Liberal Democracy

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Two related historical facts welcomed liberal democracy or the liberal-democratic state. On one hand, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, social contract theory imposed a major setback to the divine legitimacy of political rulers. On the other hand, the capitalist revolution–embracing the mercantile, the industrial, and the liberal revolutions–changed the basic way of appropriating the economic surplus. This no longer depended on the state’s control but increasingly depended on the realization of profits in the market. For the first time in history, authoritarian regimes ceased to be a necessary condition for the ruling classes’ survival. Democracy turned gradually into synonym of the good state. Eventually, with the acknowledgement of political rights–specifically of universal suffrage––liberal democracy emerged. This process took one century–the time for the bourgeois ruling class to stop fearing expropriation by the poor who democracy entitled to vote.

Keywords: definition of democracy; economic surplus; elites' democracy; expropriation; liberal democracy; liberal democratic state; poliarchy; political rights; profits; rational motives; universal suffrage

Chapter.  5128 words. 

Subjects: Politics

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