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  • Economic Reform and Democracy

In October 1994, the Journal of Democracy published a special issue exploring the relationship between economic reform and democracy. The 12 essays in that issue grew out of a conference sponsored by the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C., in May of that year. Proud as we were of that effort, we thought that the vast scale and undeniable importance of the topic left other issues and perspectives still needing to be explored. To supplement the original 12 essays, then, we have commissioned the four essays that follow from a distinguished group of contributors.

Padma Desai, who served as a discussant at our May conference, assesses the hurdles facing economic reform in postcommunist Russia. Henri Barkey analyzes the interplay between economic liberalization and the political dynamics affecting regimes in the predominantly authoritarian Middle East. Nicolas van de Walle takes a realistic yet hopeful look at how pressures for both democracy and economic reform might play out on the African continent. And Carol Graham explains the crucial role that social “safety nets” can play in both easing necessary but painful economic change and fostering democracy in developing societies.

Unfortunately, we were unable to include in this issue a planned article on the role of trade unions in economic adjustment. We are happy to report, however, that an essay on this subject by William A. Douglas will appear together with all the others in a book to be published in September 1995 by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

We believe that these 17 essays as a whole will represent an unusually wide-ranging, readable, and up-to-date contribution to one of the most important international policy debates taking place today. While the authors advance some sharply divergent views, they are also in striking agreement on the ultimate importance of economic reform for democracy, and on the possibility of pursuing economic reform through democracy if countries follow the right strategies and adopt the right institutional arrangements. Indeed, democracy can be a crucial resource in helping to build a long-term public consensus in support of economic reform.

The Editors, 10 March 1995


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