Transitions to Democracy

Transitions to Democracy

Transitions to Democracy

Transitions to Democracy


Are the factors that initiate democratization the same as those that maintain a democracy already established? The scholarly and policy debates over this question have never been more urgent. In 1970, Dankwart A. Rustow's clairvoyant article "Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model" questioned the conflation of the primary causes and sustaining conditions of democracy and democratization. Now this collection of essays by distinguished scholars responds to and extends Rustow's classic work, Transitions to Democracy --which originated as a special issue of the journal Comparative Politics and contains three new articles written especially for this volume--represents much of the current state of the large and growing literature on democratization in American political science. The essays simultaneously illustrate the remarkable reach of Rustow's prescient article across the decades and reveal what the intervening years have taught us.

In light of the enormous opportunities of the post-Cold War world for the promotion of democratic government in parts of the world once thought hopelessly lost of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, this timely collection constitutes and important contribution to the debates and efforts to promote the more open, responsive, and accountable government we associate with democracy.


Lisa Anderson

In 1970 few American comparative political scientists were preoccupied by democracy and democratization. Issues of development and dependency, political order and revolution seemed far more compelling. In the issue of Comparative Politics in which Dankwart A. Rustow's article, “Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model,” originally appeared, other contributors addressed problems that were at least as significant at the time: Marxism in Africa, the military in politics, interest groups in the Soviet Union. These problems were important, but as the political predicaments that prompted their examination were superseded by other policy puzzles, the urgency of their analytical and theoretical contribution diminished as well.

Yet good social scientists are sometimes inspired to ask questions and explore issues that reflect not the policy considerations of the moment but instead the more eternal and universal dilemmas that constitute ordinary social and political life. Often these explorations fail to excite the readers of their day, preoccupied as they are with headlines and crises. Only later does the prescience of these remarkable exercises slowly become apparent as analysts, theorists, students, and teachers refer repeatedly to “the early article” that shaped their thinking.

“Transitions to Democracy” is one of these inspired exercises. While the cases cited very much reflect its time, Rustow's analytical perspective is far from dated. Indeed, though written well before the Spanish and Portuguese . . .

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