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Modernization and Democracy Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 5th, 2019

Modernization refers to a process through which a society improves its socials aspects and economic and political capabilities. On the other hand, democracy refers to the vesting power on the people so that they can exercise it directly and independently through various means.

Economic enhancement is attained through industrialization while political capabilities improve through the process of bureaucratization (Inglehart, 1997). The issue regarding the correlation between modernization and democracy has undergone endlessly debates.

There exists a close relationship between democracy and modernization. Modernization facilitates the conditions conducive for development. A combination of various aspects of the society plays a vital role in the process of modernization, which must include democratization to be complete.

An analysis of varied cultural aspects demonstrates that some cultures are more conducive to processes of modernization and democratization compared to others. An analysis of Catholicism and Protestantism clearly demonstrates this phenomenon. The idea of modernity first emerged in protestant countries considering their early modernization. On the other hand, countries practicing Catholicism modernized and democratized late (Wucherpfennig & Deutsch, 2009).

This aspect and the time lag factor concerning the onset of the process of modernization have led to the cold reception of democratic transformation in some countries. This confirms the historical experience which tends to indicate that late modernizing societies have had delayed democratization.

Late modernizing countries encountering underdevelopment in terms of the economic, infrastructural and other aspects have the state playing a central role in the society especially concerning the economic life. This, to some extent, delays the emergence of economic independence. As a result, there is hindrance to democratization because an independent middle class is crucial in the realization of a functioning and stable democracy.

A democratic system is crucial for sufficient development to occur in any society. Lack of democracy hampers development and make is considerably difficult to preserve the results of the already achieved development. Almost all human endeavors aim at attaining freedom and thus democracy.

The process of modernization affects almost all aspects of life. In this regard, it brings about occupational specialization, urbanization, enhanced education and economic growth among others. These changes initiate a self-reinforcing process, which causes various changes in the society. Of all the changes, the most significant are the transformation in social life and political institutions.

In this regard, there is mass participation in various aspects such as politics, which lead to the establishment of democratic political institutions (Berman, 2009). Democracy entails the socio-economic conditions that create and maintain an environment that supports democracies. In order to promote democracy, modernization, which is largely the socio-economic development, is essential.

Improved socio-economic status brings about emphasis on value of self-expression and increased priority to freedom of choice. In this regard, the public desires democracy and attempts to repress such demands have adverse effects especially on economic effectiveness (Fukuyama, 1995). In addition, modernization produces changes in the worldviews of the societies that have experienced it.

Regarding religion, which is a central component in various aspects of our lives and influences democracy, modernization makes it less influential. The worldview of people who do not attach much importance to religion is not as restrictive as that of the people who regard religion highly. Modernization, which entails economic development, facilitates trust, tolerance, political activism, gender equality and the freedom of expression.

It facilitates long-term social and cultural transformations. All these factors enhance democracy. Modernization enhances independence and abilities of people motivating their demand for democracy as it increases emphasis on self-expression values, which is a central component of democracy in any society.

Therefore, there is a close relationship between modernization, self-expression values and democracy. People attain freedom through socio-economic endowment an aspect considerably facilitated by modernization. When people are fully dependent on a central power to cater for their various needs, their freedom of self-expression and thus democracy becomes compromised. In this regard, they are unable to demand for the respect on human rights, justice and participation in government matters.

However, with an independent class of people who are aware of their rights, there is more vigilance on how the relevant authorities handle matters affecting the people (Przeworski & Limongi, 1997). This large independent population has at its disposal effective means through which they can ensure that their demands are addressed.

Individuals gain such power through modernization, which brings about changes in various aspects of the common man’s life. History indicates that they were more leaders that were dictatorial in the early years of modernization owing to the poor socio-economic endowment during that era. Since the people mostly depended on a central power to address all their issue, those in power exploited the opportunity to oppress their subjects excessively.

During that time, people rarely questioned the authority, as they were more concern about accessing basic needs. As modernity grew and various opportunities opened up for people to improve their lives, uprisings against oppressive leadership started to emerge in various parts of the world.

Even today, there are leaders that are more oppressive in the developing countries as compared to the developed world. Analysts have attributed this phenomenon to the late onset of modernization in developing countries and thus a significant number of people still dependent on the state to cater for most of their needs. The considerable level of modernization in the developed countries has boosted self-expression values and thus the high level of democracy in these countries.


Berman, S. (2009, March 12). What to Read on Modernization Theory | Foreign Affairs.

Home | Foreign Affairs. Retrieved from

Fukuyama, F. (1995). Confucianism and Democracy. Democracy and Human Rights, 6(2), 20-33.

Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and postmodernization: cultural, economic, and Political change in 43 societies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Przeworski, A., & Limongi, F. (1997, January). MODERNIZATION Thoeries and Facts.

JSTOR:. Retrieved from

Wucherpfennig, J., & Deutsch, F. (2009). Modernization and Democracy: Theories and Evidence Revisited. Living Reviews in Democracy. Web.

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