Democracy and Democratization: The Third and Fourth Waves

Democracy and Democratization: The Third and Fourth Waves


Jane Leftwich Curry (Author)



Democracy has never been a simple topic nor is there any “one size fits all” model. Instead, democracy (government by the people), like its antithesis, “autocracy” (government by one), has come in many forms since it first appeared in ancient Greece. At its simplest, democracy is exactly what its Greek roots mean: “The people govern”. But, there, the simplicity ends. Polities from those earliest Greek city states to the most complex modern societies all call themselves “democracies” even though they differ in what their limits and electoral processes are and how they work.

What is consistent in most definitions of democracies is that they have regular ways for citizens to have a voice in their interests and expectations; clear freedoms such as freedom of speech, press, and association; and the “rule of law” which guarantees that their constitutional principles and rights are maintained and laws that are legitimately passed are enforced. This, ultimately, ensures that there are clear limits on what governmental authorities can do.

That said, democracy is also a regularly misused term. Some of the least open and most repressive countries in the world have called themselves democracies or People’s Democracies. And, there is no “one size fits all” definition of democracy beyond the requirements that “the people,” not simply the leaders, control. How and to what degree they can control what is done varies from system to system, as does the process by which they control.

Publication Date



Studium Europy Wschodniej UW


Political History | Political Science

Democracy and Democratization: The Third and Fourth Waves