Democracy and Democratization


SummaryTermsEssential QuestionsHeadlinesMajor Theories and IdeasPast AP QuestionsComparative Chart



Democracy has several different meanings that can be representative or direct. The biggest distinction being whether or not the definition is procedural or substantive. 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. (1) 

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.
  • Many more classifications

Essential questions-

  1. In what ways are we able to classify a regime as a democracy? Are there more specific classifications than ‘democratic’?

  2. How can a regime democratize of face democratic breakdown? What might happen should this occur?

  3. How do democracy and economic development interact?

  4. 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?

Practice Key Terms on Democracy Here:

1.  James Tyler Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2017. Pg. 144


Major theories

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).

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