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Adam Przeworski

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Title: Adam Przeworski  
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Adam Przeworski

Adam Przeworski (Polish: ; born May 5, 1940, Warsaw) is a Polish-American professor of Political Science. One of the main important theorists and analysers of democratic societies, theory of democracy and political economy, he is currently a full professor at the Wilf Family Department of Politics of New York University.

Born in 1940 in Warsaw, Poland, Przeworski graduated from Warsaw University in 1961. Soon afterwards, he moved to the United States, where he received his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in 1966. He taught at the University of Chicago, where he was awarded with the title of Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor. He also held visiting appointments in India, Chile, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain (Juan March Institute), and Switzerland. Since 1991, Przeworski has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2001 shared the Woodrow Wilson Prize for the book Democracy and Development. 2010, he was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for "raising the scientific standards regarding the analysis of the relations between democracy, capitalism and economic development". To date, he has authored 13 books and numerous articles.

Przeworski was a member of the September Group of Analytical Marxists, but left the group in 1993.[1]

Capitalism and Social Democracy

In Capitalism and Social Democracy Przeworski argues that European socialist parties in the first half of the 20th century faced a sequence of electoral dilemmas. The first dilemma was whether or not to participate in bourgeois elections, when universal suffrage was progressively established in Europe. The question was whether or not participation would contribute to the struggle for socialism or strengthen the capitalist order.[2] According to Przeworski, most socialist parties have opted to get involved in elections, since it was a means to advance some of the interests of workers in the short run and, as references to Friedrich Engels and Eduard Bernstein illustrate in Przeworski’s book, to move toward socialism.[3]

The decision to participate in bourgeois elections led to another dilemma, according to Przeworski: given that manual workers were not the numerical majority in any European country, to win elections they had to choose whether or not to compromise their socialist principles and adopt a social democratic agenda to attract the support of allies, especially the middle class.[4] Such compromise had major consequences for socialist parties, including the withdrawal of support of workers,[5] the abandoning of extra-parliamentary tactics,[6] and progressively the defection from socialist policies when in power.[7]

Critiques to Przeworski’s account of the dilemmas of social democratic parties have been at least twofold. First, it has been shown that numerical majority is not necessary for social democratic parties to control governments,[8] which implies that social democratic parties do not necessarily need to sacrifice workers’ votes to win elections.[9] Second, Gøsta Esping-Andersen has argued that Przeworski is mistaken in attempting to differentiate reformist and revolutionary policies, since “we have no accepted criteria for deciding which actions will merely reflect the status quo and which will accelerate historical transformation”.[10] Esping-Andersen suggests that policies that leftist parties adopt should be compared based on how they aid the process of class unity.[11]

Major works

Recent works


  1. ^ G. A. Cohen, Marx's Theory of History, expanded edition (Oxford, 2000), p. xix.
  2. ^ Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy, p. 13.
  3. ^ Adam Przeworski, “Capitalism and Social Democracy”, p. 13, 17, 30-1.
  4. ^ Adam Przeworski, “Capitalism and Social Democracy”, pp. 23-9.
  5. ^ Adam Przeworski, “Capitalism and Social Democracy”, p. 106.
  6. ^ Adam Przeworski, “Capitalism and Social Democracy”, p. 15.
  7. ^ Adam Przeworski, “Capitalism and Social Democracy”, pp. 30-5.
  8. ^ Leif Lewin, Ideology and Strategy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
  9. ^ King, Desmond S.; Wickham-Jones, Mark (1990). "Social Democracy and Rational Workers". British Journal of Political Science 20 (3): 387–413.  
  10. ^ Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Politics against Markets (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 9.
  11. ^ Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Politics against Markets (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 10.


  • Adam Przeworski New York University. Official Web Page. Faculty.
  • Gerardo L. Munck interview with Przeworski (in English (2003, 62 pages, pdf) (in Spanish)
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