Democracy and Democratization: Processes and Prospects in a Changing World

By Georg Sørensen | Go to book overview
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class) will eventually bring better conditions for democracy. Some countries also have the institutional capacity for improving the current state of affairs (see Chapter 3). But from a democratic point of view, most of the nations in transition are not doing well as we approach the millennium.


CONCLUSION

In this chapter we have studied processes of democratization, first in a general sense and then with a focus on the current transitions toward democracy. It was stressed that it is impossible to draw up a general law to the effect that democracy will always emerge provided certain preconditions are present. It is more productive to conceive of an interplay between social, cultural, economic, and other conditions, on the one hand, and decisions taken by political actors, on the other.

No single factor can account for the contemporary surge toward democracy. Each case involves a complex pattern of internal and external elements; in each, various conditions interplay with different groups of actors. Furthermore, the movements toward democracy in different parts of the world during the last fifteen years must be explained in different ways. Within the scope of this book it is not possible to unravel the processes country by country. Therefore, we looked at events in major regions of the world and reviewed a few specific country examples in detail. One must always keep in mind the danger caused by hindsight: Explaining past events can easily become a search for the obvious because we already know what happened.

In more general terms, the process of transition to democracy can be described with a simple model. The background condition of the model is national unity, and the overlapping phases of the transitions are (1) the preparatory phase, characterized by a political struggle leading to the breakdown of the nondemocratic regime; (2) the decision phase, where clear-cut elements of a democratic order are established; and (3) the consolidation phase, where the new democracy is further developed, and, eventually, democratic practices become an established part of the political culture.

The phases do not represent a predetermined path that all countries will or must follow. There is no historical law that says that regimes must move from authoritarian to democratic; a more accurate description of the typical pattern in the developing world is an uneasy fluctuation between authoritarianism and frail democracy.

It was argued that the large majority of the current transitions are in the early phases of moving toward democracy. More specifically, they can be described as restricted democracies that are frail and unconsolidated and

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