Waylaid Dialectic

April 8, 2013

A&R on the Middle Class and Democracy

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 7:29 pm

Acemoglu and Robinson dispute the old argument that having a middle class is necessary for democracy by pointing to the example of democratically elected Berber chiefs in the Atlas mountains. I doubt this is the only example they could have used — many communities in Solomon Islands had non-hereditary selected leaders, for example, and I think careful examination would find, many small scale societies making use of something akin to democracy’s checks on power. However, the trouble is these examples, including that of the Berber, are still vastly different from the modern nation state. They are small enough and egalitarian enough societies to render large inequalities of wealth and power impossible. And it is the hollowing out of society associated with inequality that I imagine theorists of democracy hope a middle class can counter. Or, to put it another way, in small scale societies like those of the Berber and in Solomon Islands, most everyone *was* middle class, in the sense that they had about as much power and wealth as everyone else.

To be clear, I don’t know whether middle-class theories of democracy are correct but I don’t think the Berber can be used as evidence that they aren’t.



  1. Sounds spot on to me.

    Comment by MJ — April 10, 2013 @ 1:05 am

  2. Thanks MJ

    Comment by terence — April 10, 2013 @ 9:36 am

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