To what extent does democratisation promote development? Critics suggest the idea that democratisation fuels development has the relationship backwards. They feel that the authoritarian traits of newly developed states like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore played a critical part in explaining their development. Without denying such successes, this paper challenges the belief that democracy hampers development. In other words, development in authoritarian regimes is the exception and not the rule.
The first section offers a brief overview of the terms development and democratisation. The second reviews the literature by comparing those who feel democratisation has a role to play in development and those who do not. Highlighting weaknesses found in the literature, the third section suggests that the best path to development in failed authoritarian states requires support for “bottom-up” democratisation. This approach is tested in the fourth section by looking at how well it explains Tanzania’s developmental challenges and successes. The conclusion discusses how bottom-up democratisation helps explain development in countries like Tanzania and offers a better road map even if the promised results fall short of the East Asian experience.