Merchants of Modernity: Business, Development, and Democracy in Developing Countries

September 30, 2010
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm

Merchants of Modernity: Business, Development, and Democracy in Developing Countries from National Endowment for Democracy on Vimeo.


Ann Bernstein
Centre for Development and Enterprise (South Africa)

Moderated by

Marc F. Plattner
International Forum for Democratic Studies

In her new book, The Case for Business in Developing Economies, former Reagan-Fascell Fellow Ann Bernstein argues that “just doing business” can have unintended positive consequences for society. These include potentially transforming the trajectory of national economies; boosting the forces for modernization; strengthening civil society; expanding human rights and the rule of law; and unleashing pressures for democratization. In this sense business, far from being a conservative force supporting the status quo or an essentially malign power that needs to pay a social penalty to offset the negative consequences of its pursuit of profit, is a constant agent of social change.

Ms. Bernstein explained her argument that economic rationality inadvertently leads to individuals with modern attitudes and to the creation of civil society, which in turn facilitate human rights, pluralism, and democracy. The market, she contended, is a driver of democratic development.


Ann Bernstein is the executive director of the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) in South Africa, one of the country’s leading social and economic policy think tanks, which focuses on the role of business and its contribution to development. Ms. Bernstein has published extensively on democracy, development, and policy-making in South Africa, including Migration and Refugee Policies (with M. Weiner, 1999), and Business and Democracy: Cohabitation or Contradiction? (1999). In 2005 she was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C. In 2007 she joined the board of directors of the Brenthurst Foundation.