1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics


From Chapter 11 – Democracy and the Politics of Poverty Reduction

Even though poverty has been eradicated under certain types of authoritarian rule, the aim of this chapter is to convey an understanding of how it can be eliminated within a democratic context, given that democracy, rights, freedom and choice are essential components of development. Although democracies offer opportunities for participation and contestation in policy making, redistributive outcomes cannot be taken for granted, given differences in the capacity of groups to organize, contest and influence public policy in different contexts. The challenge lies in forging democratic states that are both developmental and socially inclusive.

This chapter is organized as follows
  • Section 1 of this chapter highlights recent trends in democratisation and conceptualizes the links between democracy and redistribution, including the roles of interest groups and social movements in the politics of redistribution.
  • Section 2 discusses the constraints of technocratic styles of governance and aid conditionality on policy space.
  • Section 3 examines three types of domestic constraints to pursuing redistributive policies: limited industrialization, the uneven quality of democratic institutions, and ethnic diversity.
  • Section 4 analyses the conditions under which democracies deliver redistributive outcomes by examining five cases involving activism by interest groups and social movements.
  • Section 5 draws conclusions and spells out implications for policy.

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