A comparative study of the impact of neoliberal trade agreements and the ideology of political elites on democratization processes: The cases of ASEAN, MERCOSUL, and NAFTA

Edgar J Marcolin, Purdue University


This study examines three trade agreements that share a common commitment to increased trade and yet have political regimes that vary in their levels of democratic practice. The literature on democratization processes is extensive and scholars identify a number of causal and intervening variables, or even antecedent or necessary conditions, to explain how societies achieve higher standards of democracy. Following John Stuart Mill's method of differences, the study compares processes of democratization in three regional economic agreements - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUL), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - by contrasting ramifications of two competing theories; modernization theory and elite theory. More specifically, it tests the hypothesis that increased levels of trade lead to higher democratic standards. As an alternative, it seeks a different explanation by testing the role that the ideology of political elites plays in those processes. Because of the different social, political, economic and cultural backgrounds of those agreements, I believe this study might help us better direct our focus and future efforts in explaining such a complex phenomenon as democracy.^




Harry Targ, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Political Science, International Relations

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