Democratization is the process or trend by which democratic means of government proliferate or are asserted. The concept is a crucial influence on contemporary international politics in the context of a global order perceived to be led by Western states which happen to also be democracies. Democratization in general is also considered to represent a trend in human history where popular rule in some form grew wider through the political thought of several major philosophers and the revolutions that had a tremendous influence on the Enlightenment period. A series of revolts directed at monarchs and the nobility in certain countries led to greater calls for republican or democratic rule and the consequential backlash of fearful elitists. The American and French revolutions are said to define this modern wave of democratic governance.

Following World War I, an alliance of the United States, France and Great Britain defeated a German-led alliance that saw several newly formed Eastern European states, the successor state Turkey and the defeated Germany converted into countries where rule was vested in some sort of popularly elected government. The unstable economic situation in the wake of the Great Depression and the unaddressed political grievances of World War I propelled authoritarian parties into power where they swept away major democratic initiatives. Beforehand, Italy and Japan had already undergone transformations where power was concentrated in a select few. With the rise of Nazi Germany, German democracy was dissolved in favor of the one-party system; then Eastern European states lost their democratic freedoms first to Germany and then to communist Soviet Russia.

In the wake of the World War II, democracy is said to have experienced a brief surge with the new-found independence of several formerly European colonies, much like the independence of Eastern European states after World War I. Additionally, an unprecedented flow of investment into the defeated Axis Power states of World War II helped to lay a sturdier foundation for democracy in Germany and Japan, which have since become economic staples of the global economy and a projection of Western democratic ideals to non-democratic neighbors, mainly China. Across Africa and Asia, several countries selected democratic systems to rule themselves in the wake of the British Empire's withdrawal and contraction. Most importantly, Israel and India, despite their tendencies toward socialism and the early domination of a single party on the political scene, rarely saw political suppression and fostered democratic societies despite heavy ethnic diversity and tension.

During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union are said to have undermined the spread of democratic principles by supporting authoritarian governments to block the influence of each other's rival in their respective countries. A number of coups in the Third World, particularly in South America and most famously Argentina, were supported by the American government. However, the collapse of the Soviet economy and subsequently the Soviet Union weakened the leaders of the Communist bloc to the point that several leaders conceded to unfettered elections and lost badly to liberal rivals. Since the early 1990s, the former Soviet Union has been considered the center of democratic development, particularly following mass non-violent political movements in Ukraine, Russia and Kyrgyzstan in the 2000s against perceived electoral fraud or authoritarianism.

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States began to promote democracy in Muslim countries as a strategy against youth discontent and the further encroachment of religious fanaticism. The country initiated a nation-building effort in Afghanistan after toppling the Taliban, then aimed to create a democratic regime in Iraq representing the long-oppressed Shiite majority there. Many have been critical of the idea that democracy could be imposed on these countries, either because it would be resented as imperially coerced or as negligent of the values by which native groups would choose to govern themselves. The pursuit of aforementioned policies in Iraq and Afghanistan has been associated with the the wars there that have grown incredibly unpopular. As a result, an isolationist tone came to predominate American political culture toward the end of the Bush administration, something the Obama campaign utilized in promising withdrawal from both countries. Following the beginning of the Arab Spring and with the rule of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak collapsing, Barack Obama reintroduced American support for democracy's advancement in the Arab world. The Arab Spring additionally changed conventional wisdom that Arab populations would not welcome some sort of American support for the introduction of democracy. The humanitarian intervention in Libya and criticism of American ally Bahrain has reinvigorated American support for democratization according to some, while the rhetoric is seen to be detached from tangible policy changes according to others.

Democratization: Selected full-text books and articles

Democratization: Theory and Experience By Laurence Whitehead Oxford University Press, 2002
Civil Society and Democracy in Japan, Iran, Iraq and Beyond By Falsafi, Shiva Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 43, No. 2, March 2010
Transitions to Democracy By Lisa Anderson Columbia University Press, 1999
The International Dimensions of Democratization: Europe and the Americas By Laurence Whitehead Oxford University Press, 2001 (Revised edition)
Korea's Democratization By Samuel S. Kim Cambridge University Press, 2003
Democratization in the Middle East: Experiences, Struggles, Challenges By Amin Saikal; Albrecht Schnabel United Nations University Press, 2003
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.