The Resource Curse And Democratic Development: Understanding the Role of the Petro-Economy in Shaping Democracy
Haverford College. Department of Political Science
Place of Publication
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The resource curse is not a novel theory within the academic community. Academics and policymakers alike have utilized this theory in an attempt to describe the paradoxical relationship between economic underdevelopment and natural resource wealth. However, the relationship between resource wealth and the development of democracy is a more recent area of investigation. Just as theorists have shown that natural resource wealth can actually lead to stunted economic growth and greater political conflict within many countries, they have also begun to illustrate that high levels of natural resources can actually have detrimental effects on the development of democracy within resource-rich nations. No natural resource illustrates this phenomenon better than oil. For example, in 1980 oil-producing states made up just over 25 percent of the world's autocracies. By 2008, oil producers constituted over 40 percent of the world’s autocracies, indicating that petroleum-rich states have made up a growing fraction of the remaining authoritarian regimes in the world. Nigeria and Venezuela, however, have appeared to escape certain elements of this disturbing trend. Nigeria and Venezuela are far from ideal democracies. They are each labeled as "partly free" by freedomhouse.org. Nevertheless, Nigeria and Venezuela have made significant strides in comparison to many of their oil-producing counterparts. This inquiry will investigate the role that oil has played in shaping the politics and the pursuit of democracy in Nigeria and Venezuela. Moreover, I will test the experiences of these two countries against the main theories regarding the effects that natural resource wealth, particularly petroleum wealth, has on the development of democracy. Additionally, this investigation will demonstrate the extent that the oil economies of these two countries have had on preventing even further democratic development.