Issue 3, August 2008
|What Factors Influence the Development of Democracy?|
Extrapolating from the history of individual countries and best practice literature and research, key factors emerge that seem to affect the construction and durability of meaningful democratic government, in both electoral and liberal terms. As Democracy expert Michael Mandelbaum has observed, nations must have both the intention to create democracy and the capacity to do so. This is often described using a plant metaphor and the factors that go into the creation of “hothouse” conditions for the flourishing of different varieties of democracy.
The factors affecting a country’s prospects for democratic maturation may be internal or external. It is important to note that many of the variables discussed below act as proverbial double-edged swords – alone they can each promote, retard, or obstruct democratization, depending on how, when, and where they play out. Moreover, each factor affects another in a complicated algorithm that often defies replication. This underscores the difficulty of assembling a formula that will ensure movement toward true democracy. One thing nearly all experts agree on is the case-sensitive nature of democratization – the process will be unique in every country, and it is not a foregone conclusion that democracy will be achieved everywhere.
Sequencing: Does it make a difference whether the electoral or the liberal components of democracy come first?