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Democratization is the transition from authoritarian or semi-authoritarian systems to democratic political systems, where democratic systems are taken to be those approximating to universal suffrage, regular free and fair elections , a civil society, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary.

Factors that have long been assumed to lead to democratization include: a large middle class; participation in the community of Western nations; and/or a capitalist economy, among other factors.

Recent empirical research by Michael Aleprete , John Hickman , and Philip Reeves analyzing the statistical determinants of democratization suggests that the two most important factors leading to democratization include the total size of the economy and similarity of military alliances with those of the United States. The evidence for other commonly mentioned factors, such as the presence of a large middle class, high per capita GDP, and culture defined in terms of Western Christianity do not have statistically significant associations with democracy.

Although democratization is most often thought of in the context of national or regional politics, the term can also be applied to international bodies (e.g the United Nations where there is an ongoing call for reform and altered voting structure s) and corporations. In firms, the traditional power structure was top-down direction and the boss-knows-best; this is quite different from consultation , empowerment (of lower levels) and a diffusion of decision-making (power) throughout the firm.

Further reading

  • Thomas Carothers . Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve. 1999. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for Interantional Peace.
  • Frederic C. Schaffer . Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture. 1998. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univerity Press.
  • Fareed Zakaria. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. 2003. New York: W.W. Norton.

Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38