Does Landholding Inequality Block Democratization? A Test of the 'Bread and Democracy' Thesis and the Case of Prussia?

Date Published:

Jul 1, 2008


Does landholding inequality block democratization? This classic question in the study of political regimes concerned Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, and Alexander Gerschenkron. It is also a question that has recently attracted the attention of leading “new structural” political economists interested in the sources of regime change. Echoing Gerschenkron’s evocatively titled Bread and Democracy in Germany, these scholars have returned to the question of how preindustrial patterns of inequality—namely, landholding inequality—might exert an enduring and underappreciated effect on the chances for democratic transitions.3 The new literature utilizes the most advanced tools of political economy to examine historical and contemporary cases of democratization, generating competing accounts of how the preexisting distribution and mobility of economic resources affect regime change.


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