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Modernization and Democratization Essay

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Updated: May 15th, 2018

Modernization can be defined as a set of symptoms of social changes in relation to industrialization. one set of these symptoms is motion which infiltrate through all phases of life to make life more comfortable by improving standards of living, enhancing economic growth and development, reducing mortality rate by increasing life expectancy among others.

Modernization also means discarding ones way of life and accepting civilization, urbanization, or occupational specialization.

Modernization results in improved social life, transformed political institutions, and may even bring in increased political participation, which may result in the recognition of democratic institutions. This paper gives an in-depth analysis of modernization as it tries to relate it to the concept of democratization.

Modernization started as early as the 19th century but became apparent in the 20th century. Some scholars believed that, by abolishing all the property owned by private enterprises and individuals, inequalities, and exploitation would be reduced.

On the other hand, capitalist theorists argued that, economic development would result in improvement in standard of livings, which would finally result in democracy. Democratization can therefore be defined as the system of letting people decide for themselves (Haggard and Kaufman 17).

In politics, the term democratization refers to the transition from an authoritarian government to one that is liberal. An authoritarian government leads people through dictatorship whereas in a democratic government, there is freedom. When country achieves democratization, leaders are elected by a majority vote thereby creating competition in politics, the market becomes liberal, and traders can trade anywhere and in almost every thing.

Many scholars have been holding many conflicting debates as to whether democratization results from modernization. Some strongly hold that, democratization has its roots in modernization because, once a country become civilized and people get to learn more about their rights, then for democracy begins.

In an authoritarian government, citizens are exploited and denied their rights for instance their right to land because they are assumed to be ignorant about rights and freedoms. However, with modernization, people are exposed and meet other people and are able to realize and point unto the areas where they are receiving unfair treatment from the law officials. There are mainly three forms of democratization; behavioral, attitudinal, and constitutional.

A system is said to be experiencing behavioral democratization when there are no factors, for instance from the economic or political systems that are knocking down the regime. Attitudinal democratization occurs when majority of the citizens in a given country are willing to adopt democratic principles. Last but not least, constitutional democratization becomes evident when regulations and laws are put in place in order to prevent the system from falling (Linz and Stepan 62).

Before the Second World War, democratization was a term that was only found in dictionaries and many scholars had not developed an interest in it. However, towards the end of the war, many scholars were interested in knowing why some governments would choose to replace their political systems with laissez-faire democracies.

They were amazed at how some countries such as Europe would adopt the rule of law to ensure that, its citizens enjoyed their liberties in a political, social, and economic perspective (Karl 23). That is when most scholars defined this shift in political systems as a democratization wave.

Since 1970s, many developing countries have made democratic reforms by shifting their systems to liberal systems in other times referred to as “the western democracies.” They are called western democracies because they emerged from the western countries such as East Asia, and Europe.

To explain the factors that lead to democratization, scholars have come up with three theories namely structural, transitional, and modernization. Using the structural theory, democratization is believed to have emerged from the change in structures belonging to the state and some intermediary power.

On the other hand, transitional scholars believe that, democratization is caused by inventiveness made by political intellectuals. According to modernization scholars, democratization is led by economic development made by the state.

Out of the three theories, modernization seems to carry more weight than the others do and it was actually the first theory to explain the democratization process. According to Rustow (338), economic development is responsible for all the major changes that occur in a country.

It is through economic development that, a nation gains stability even in the global world. Economic development is a result of increased industrialization, urbanization, and literacy levels. According to Lipset (73), more often that not the underdeveloped rural areas lack political democracy simply because their development level is very low.

It would be true to say that, modernization leads to democratization. However, there are other factors attributed to democratization, such as change in structures but modernization seems to be leading. It also looks logical given that most of the countries with liberal economies are actually the ones that have high economic development.

Most countries in Africa and Asia are yet to achieve democratization because their economic development is still very low and unless it rises, they may continue to be led by authoritarian governments.

Works Cited

Haggard, Stephan and Kaufman, Robert. The political economy of democratic transitions. Lisa Anderson: Transitions to Democracy, 1999

Karl, Terry Lynn. Dillemmas of Democratization in Latin America. New York: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Linz, Joseph and Stepan, Andrew. Problems of democratic transition and consolidation. New York: John Hopkins University Press, 1996

Lipset, Samuel M. Some social requisites of democracy: Economic development and political legitimacy, American Political science Review 53 (1) 1959, pp. 69-105

Rustow, D. A. Transitions to Democracy: Toward a Dynamic Model, Comparative politics 2 (3) 1970, pp. 337-363

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