Democracy Support and Development Aid: The Case for Principled Agnosticism

Issue Date October 2010
Volume 21
Issue 4
Page Numbers 27-34
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The theories and practices of both democracy support and development assistance are presently going through a period of profound change. The development and democracy domains alike recognize that both institutions and politics matter. Institutions provide the formal and informal “rules of the game” within which both democratization and development efforts play out. Politics inevitably shapes the dynamics of reform. The development process follows the classic patterns of any evolutionary system: 1) Change is cumulative. 2) The trajectory of change varies according to the (country-) specific. 3) Cumulative path dependence can generate a very wide dispersion of patterns, with no necessary convergence. The evolutionary approach deepens rather than retreats from the insight that institutions and politics matter for development, but it also points to a more nuanced approach than simply calling for “good governance.”