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Pathways to Freedom

Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions

Editors: Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative; Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, and Terra Lawson-Remer
Authors: , Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies, Grzegorz Ekiert, Professor of Government, Harvard University, , Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, , Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program, Carlos Pio, Professor of International Political Economy, Universidade de Brasilia, Adjunct Professor, Australian National University, George Soroka, Ph.D. candidate, Harvard University, Jan Teorell, Professor of Political Science, Lund University, and Andrew Wilson, Senior Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations, Reader in Ukrainian Studies, University College London

Pathways to Freedom - pathways-to-freedom
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Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

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Price $2.99 ebook / $14.99 paper

264 pages
ISBN 978-0-87-609566-9


Many developing countries have launched transitions from authoritarianism to democracy over the past twenty-five years. While some have succeeded in building relatively strong democracies with shared prosperity, others have stumbled.

As a wave of change continues to unfold across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, the policy-relevant insights that can be gleaned from recent transitions are more salient than ever. Through case studies on Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, and Ukraine, Pathways to Freedom explores the structural factors and policy choices that shaped eight important transitions—some successful, others less so. The case studies focus on six themes: socioeconomic inclusion and exclusion, economic structure and policies, civil society and media, legal system and rule of law, government structure, and education and demography. Additional chapters examine these themes in light of the quantitative evidence on democratization and highlight concrete policy recommendations from across the case studies.

With concise historical analysis and forward-looking prescriptions, Pathways to Freedom offers an authoritative and accessible look at what countries must do to build durable and prosperous democracies—and what the United States and others can do to help.

Professors: To request an exam copy, contact Please include your university and course name.

Bookstores: To order bulk copies, please contact Ingram. Visit, call 800.234.6737, or email ISBN: 978-0-87609-566-9

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Click on a chapter title below to access a preview of the chapter and download links for supplementary graphs, timelines, and reading lists.

Political and Economic Lessons From Democratic Transitions
by Isobel Coleman and Terra Lawson-Remer

  • Isobel Coleman and Terra Lawson-Remer draw lessons from across the country cases and identify the structural factors and policy choices that matter most to the outcome of transitions. Introduction »

Statistical Evidence
by Jan Teorell

  • Jan Teorell evaluates a range of political, economic, and social factors in light of the quantitative evidence on democratization. Chapter Preview »

by Shannon K. O'Neil

  • Shannon O'Neil charts the gradual decline of Mexico's "perfect dictatorship" and its replacement by a relatively strong democracy with a growing middle class.
    Chapter Preview »

by Carlos Pio

  • Carlos Pio analyzes Brazil's transition from military rule to democracy and from economic instability to growth and social inclusion. Chapter Preview »

by Grzegorz Ekiert and George Soroka

  • Grzegorz Ekiert and George Soroka examine Poland's wholesale transformation from a Communist state to a successful and prosperous democracy anchored in the West.
    Chapter Preview »

South Africa
by John Campbell

  • John Campbell explores South Africa's remarkable transition to nonracial democracy alongside its failure to extend economic opportunity to most blacks. Chapter Preview »

by Joshua Kurlantzick

  • Joshua Kurlantzick analyzes Indonesia's political, security, and economic achievements since the fall of longtime dictator Suharto in 1998, as well as the country's remaining challenges. Chapter Preview »

by Joshua Kurlantzick

  • Joshua Kurlantzick chronicles the winding path of Thailand, which appeared poised for democratic consolidation in the 1990s but has since degenerated into instability and uncertainty. Chapter Preview »

by Andrew Wilson

  • Andrew Wilson analyzes Ukraine's failure to build a market-oriented democracy based on the rule of law, despite the promise of the Orange Revolution, which captured global attention in 2004. Chapter Preview »

by John Campbell

  • John Campbell explores Nigeria's transition, which, though successful in moving from military to civilian governance, has perpetuated a political system marked by corruption and patronage and an economy dominated by oil. Chapter Preview »

Strategies for Successful Democratization
by Isobel Coleman and Terra Lawson-Remer

  • Isobel Coleman and Terra Lawson-Remer offer seven recommendations for leaders in transitioning countries and those seeking to support them in building prosperous and successful democracies. Conclusion »

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