Democracy and Democratization



Democracy has several different meanings. The biggest distinction being whether or not you are considering a  procedural definition or substantive definition. Regime change can occur within democracies during development or breakdown. The modernization theory talks about how economic development increases the likelihood of democratization. Several other theories also exist like how political culture helps to shape the potential for democracy.

Dickovick and Eastwood, 2016 p. 122-3.

Learn Some Terms


Procedural Definition of Democracy

Substantive Definition of Democracy

Is it even a democracy? What is the nature/level of the democracy?
  • Political Rights
    • Free and fair elections, most can vote
    • Regularly scheduled/held elections
    • Real choice among candidates (multiple political parties)
    • Open elections that allow most any individual to run for office
  • Civil Liberties
    • Freedom of speech and expression
    • Freedom to access information/ freedom of press
    • Freedom of assembly/ able to join interest groups and parties

  • Participation, social inclusion, and involvement in civil society
  • Equity and/or equality by gender, race, ethnicity, etc.
  • Accountability (lack of corruption, performance of institutions)
  • Public knowledge and awareness (level of civil society)
  • Poverty, inequality, etc.

Dickovick and Eastwood, 2016 p. 122-3.

Essential Questions:

  • In what ways are we able to classify a regime as a democracy? Are there more specific classifications than ‘democratic’?
  • How can a regime democratize of face democratic breakdown? What might happen should this occur?
  • How do democracy and economic development interact?
  • Is it possible to argue that democracy is a result of only economic success, political culture, institutions, or agents of change? Essentially, do the theories of democratization overlap?


Robert Mackey, “The Retreat Of Global Democracy Stopped In 2018” The Economists (8 Jan. 2019).

Arjun Neil Alim, “Slavoj Zizek Says ‘The Dream of Universal Liberal Democracy Is Over’ “,The Independent (17 Apr. 2019)

What causes democracy? 

Modernization theory (Lipset)
Cultural theories
Systemic or structural theories
Domestic institutional theories
Agency-based theories
A theory that traces democracy to broad social changes especially economic development and the changes that accompany it.These theories attribute democratization and democratic consolidation ton cultural variables that predispose some countries to democracy and prevent or hinder democracy in other places.These theories  situate countries in an international environment where major powers or global trends may condition whether democracy emerges or not.These theories find that the advent and success of democracy depend on the forms of political institutions within a country (such as political parties and interest groups, or the ways branches of government are shaped).These theories argue that individual actors, or small groups of actors, are the drivers of change in regime types (whether democratic or authoritarian).

Comparative Chart:

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 

United Mexican States

The Federal Republic of Nigeria 

The Russian Federation

The People’s Republic of China

The Islamic Republic of Iran

Free and Fair Elections? YESYESYESNONONO
Regularly Scheduled/Held Elections YESYESYESYESNOYES
Real choice among candidates (multiple political parties)YES YESYESNONONO
Open Elections that allow most any individual to run for office?YES YESYESNONONO
Freedom of Speech and ExpressionYES YESYESNO SOMESOME
Freedom to access information/freedom of the press?YES NOSOMESOMENOSOME
Freedom of assembly/able to join interest groups and parties?YESSOMEYESNOSOMENO
Social Democracy
YESYES (?)NO NO Bureaucratic AuthoritarianismNO

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