Democratization of Transforming Nations Research Paper Starter

Democratization of Transforming Nations

(Research Starters)

This paper will take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to nations' conversion to democracy (as well as newly formed states that have installed democratic institutions) throughout history, as well as look ahead at the potential fate of the democratic system. In doing so, the reader will gain a better understanding of why some states adopt democratic institutions while others follow a different path along history.

Keywords Authoritarian; Democracy; External Democratization; Internal Democratization; Regime

Sociology of Politics


In 1939, a mere two decades after the First World War devastated the European continent, war again broke out as the newly resurgent German military staged an invasion of neighboring Poland. The rise of the fascist Nazi regime in Europe forced many of the region's great minds into hiding or exile. Among them was the German philosopher, critic, and author Thomas Mann. A Nobel Prize winner, Mann wrote of law abidance and the joys of life and never gave into the notion that militarism and fascism would survive long term. He put his faith into a theoretical system in which the people were in charge and capable of removing incompetent or counterproductive leaders. He wrote that democracy was a fresh and naturally human system, an inspiration for peace-loving progressives. "Democracy is tirelessly human," he said, "and timelessness always implies a certain amount of potential youthfulness" ("Thomas Mann on Democracy," 2007).

Since the British Empire was driven out of the colonial predecessor to the United States, democracy has become, for the most part, the system of choice for new nations. Its basic principles alone are incentives for installation in a new country, with its emphases on protection of the rights of all citizens, limited government interference, and high degrees of both political participation and representation. The systems that were thus installed over the centuries after the American Revolution were specific to the needs of the nation at hand, to be sure, but draw heavily from the core ideals of pure democracy.

This paper will take a closer look at the factors that have contributed to nations' conversion to democracy (as well as newly formed states that have installed democratic institutions) throughout history. It will also discuss the potential fate of the democratic system. In doing so, the reader will gain a better understanding of why some states adopt democratic institutions while others follow a different path along history.

A Brief History of Democracy

One of the more revered architectural sights in London is the Guildhall, which has served as the city's center of government since the Middle Ages. The structure was built beginning in 1411 and survived both the Great Fire of London and the German Blitz. Then again, the property has a history that dates back much farther, to a time during which the Roman Empire maintained control over Britons. In 54–55 BCE, Julius Caesar's armies seized the region, creating important trade and political networks that worked to the benefit of the empire. In the early second century CE, the emperor Hadrian built a Roman amphitheater on the site of what would one day become the Guildhall.

In 1993, archeologists exploring the grounds beneath Guildhall found evidence of one of the darker practices of the Romans, unearthing the bones of large animals as well as humans that had died for the entertainment of audience members. Further investigation revealed evidence of another practice in addition to that of gladiators. Pottery with the Latin word non was also located, indicating that the site was also used for secret ballots and voting. In other words, some of the earlier forms of democracy were unearthed on the same site where violence and bloodshed occurred (Muhlberger & Paine, 1998).

To trace the source of what has become the common democratic system is a difficult undertaking. In ancient Greece, for example, the earliest democratic practices could be traced as far back as the fifth century BCE, but debates continue as to whether such systems truly utilized the input of the masses or whether an elite class of citizens qualified to lead on the masses' behalf. What is known about the democratic institutions of the era, however, is that they grew enormously popular — by the time of Aristotle, hundreds of democracies had come into being among the 1,500 or so separate city-states that comprised ancient Greece (Cartledge, 2001).

In fact, democracy is a broad term applied to a political system designed to encourage popular participation in governmental decision making, protect the rights of the individual, limit government intrusion and repression, and encourage an open and free society. These are not practicable applications, of course; rather, they are ideals, created as broad guidelines for governmental institutions and leaders. The framework of democracies, at least within the ancient Greek paradigm (which still holds largely true), is found in two forms. The first is the "direct democracy," which grants power to the people directly. Direct democracies entail the entire citizenry taking part the decision-making process for the system. Of course, such frameworks are best applied in groups or systems of relatively small populations, such as small towns, tribes, and even unions. The second framework is "representative democracy," which is more commonly applied in larger political arenas with greater numbers of citizens. This form of democracy involves the people electing officials to govern on their behalf (Bureau of International Information Programs, 2008).

Like snowflakes, it is rare to find two completely similar democracies. There is a logical explanation for this fact, and it rests with the very people democracy is implemented to protect. Each society has its own goals, priorities, and issues. Some are the longtime victims of repression. Others have grown tired of their own respective systems' corruption or disconnect from the people. As these priorities and perspectives become evident, democratizing societies apply the principles of such a system in the proportions they seek. Hence, each democratic system, while culling what is needed from the theoretical fundamentals introduced more than two millennia ago, in practice takes on a shape and political life of its own.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's Index of Democracy 2012, there are 116 democracies in the world — twenty-five are considered "full" democracies (such as the United States, Japan, and Sweden); fifty-four are deemed "flawed" (such as South Africa, Latvia, and Slovakia); and thirty-seven are so-called hybrids (which have hints of democracy mixed in with authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, Venezuela, and Haiti).

Following the end of World War I, the twentieth century saw an increased push for democratization in the international community. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the war, deconstructed the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires and started the trend. By the middle of the century, particularly following World War II, the concepts put forward by United States president Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points (originally proposed in 1918) influenced scores of new governments in decolonized Africa and Asia to institute democratic governments in the new nations. There was another explosion of new countries occurring at the end of the twentieth century with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989—31 new nations were created or reconstituted between 1990 and 2012, including the former Soviet states, the former Yugoslavia, and South Sudan (Apps, 2012). Of those new nations, the vast majority are what the Democracy Index deems either full, flawed, or hybrid democracies.

Clearly, the rapid creation of myriad democracies over the course of the twentieth century underscores the popularity of the installing democratic elements in the infrastructures of new nations. The question is thus posed: Why do nations democratize? This paper will next turn to an in-depth analysis of this important question.

Why Democracy?

Why choose democratic principles as contributors to (if not the primary drivers of) an independent state? For many nations, the desire to limit government intervention or to enhance popular...

(The entire section is 3677 words.)