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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Theory of Human Development: A Cross-Cultural Analysis


This article demonstrates that socioeconomic development, cultural change and democratization constitute a coherent syndrome of social progress- a syndrome whose common focus has not been properly specified by classical modernization theory. We specify this syndrome as Human Development, arguing that its three components have a common focus on broadening human choice. Socioeconomic development broadens peoples' choice by increasing their individual resources; cultural change gives rise to self-expression values that let people seek for broader choice; and democratization institutionalizes effective rights, giving human choice a legal basis. Analysis of data from the World Values Surveys demonstrates: (1) that the syndrome of individual resources, self-expression values and effective rights is universal in its presence across nations, regions and cultural zones; (2) that this Human Development syndrome is shaped by a causal effect from individual resources and self-expression values on effective rights; and (3) that this effect operates through its impact on elite integrity, as the factor which makes given rights effective.

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