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By Adam Przeworski

The essay reviews some theoretical and methodological problems involved in the study of the transition to democracy. Two explanations frequently cited to explain breakdowns of authoritarian regimes are examined first. I argue that loss of legitimacy is not a sufficient condition of breakdown of such regimes and that what is required for liberalization is an open break within the ruling bloc. The coherence of the ruling bloc is highly vulnerable to any signal that a conflict may be impending.

The latter part of the essay is devoted to the analysis of conditions for a democratic compromise. The argument is that substantive compromises are not possible since democracy means that outcomes of conflicts are at least to some extent uncertain. Institutional compromises can be developed, however, in such a way as to provide sufficient guarantees for the conflicting parties. The only problem is that these guarantees may have to be so strong that democrati.zation will be limited to formal political arrangements, with no consequences for the social and economic structure of the society.


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