Discussion paper

DP2278 Democratization or Repression?

Regimes controlled by a rich elite often collapse and make way for democracy amidst widespread social unrest. Such regime changes are often followed by redistribution to the poor at the expense of the former elite. We argue that the reason why the elite may have to resort to full-scale democratization, despite its apparent costs to themselves, may be that lesser concessions would be viewed as a sign of weakness, spurring further unrest and more radical demands. The elite may therefore be forced to choose between repression and the most generous concession, a transition to full democracy.


Acemoglu, D and J Robinson (1999), ‘DP2278 Democratization or Repression?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 2278. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp2278