Democratization (or democratisation) is the transition to a more democratic political regime. It may be the transition from an authoritarian regime to a full democracy, a transition from an authoritarian political system to a semi-democracy or transition from a semi-authoritarian political system to a democratic political system. The outcome may be consolidated (as it was for example in the United Kingdom) or democratization may face frequent reversals (as it has faced for example in Argentina). Different patterns of democratization are often used to explain other political phenomena, such as whether a country goes to a war or whether its economy grows. Democratization itself is influenced by various factors, including economic development, history, and civil society.

Causes of democratization Number of nations 1800-2003 scoring 8 or higher on Polity IV scale. This graph shows the number of nations in the different categories given above for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005. There is considerable debate about the factors which affect or ultimately limit democratization. A great many things, including economics, culture, and history, have been cited as impacting on the process. Some of the more frequently mentioned factors are: Wealth. A higher GDP/capita correlates with democracy and while some claim the wealthiest democracies have never been observed to fall into authoritarianism, Hitler would be an obvious counter-example that would render the claim a truism.[1] There is also the general observation that democracy was very rare before the industrial revolution. Empirical research thus lead many to believe that economic development either increases chances for a transition to democracy (modernization theory), or helps newly established democracies consolidate.[1] Some campaigners for democracy even believe that as economic development progresses, democratization will become inevitable. However, the debate about whether democracy is a consequence of wealth, a cause of it, or both processes are unrelated, is far from conclusion. Education. Wealth also correlates with education, though their effects on democratic consolidation seem to be independent.[1] Better educated people tend to share more liberal and pro-democratic values. On the other hand, a poorly educated and illiterate population may elect populist politicians who soon abandon democracy and become dictators even if there have been free elections. The resource curse theory suggests that countries with abundant natural resources, such as oil, often fail to democratize because the elite can live off the natural resources rather than depend on popular support for tax revenues. On the other hand, elites who invested in the physical capital rather than in land or oil, fear that their investment can be easily damaged in case of a revolution. Consequently, they would rather make concessions and democratize than risk a violent clash with the opposition.[2] Market economy. Some claim that democracy and market economy are intrinsically linked. This belief generally centers on the idea that democracy and market economy are simply two different aspects of freedom. A widespread market economy culture may encourage norms such as individualism, negotiations, compromise, respect for the law, and equality before the law.[3] These are seen as supportive for democratization. Social equality. Acemoglu and Robinson argued that the relationship between social equality and democratic transition is complicated: People have less incentive to revolt in an egalitarian society (for example, Singapore), so the likelihood of democratization is lower. In a highly unequal society (for example, South Africa under Apartheid), the redistribution of wealth and power in a democracy would be so harmful to elites that these would do everything to prevent democratization. Democratization is more likely to emerge somewhere in the middle, in the countries, whose elites offer concessions because (1) they consider the threat of a revolution credible and (2) the cost of the concessions is not too high.[2] This expectation is in line with the empirical research showing that democracy is more stable in egalitarian societies.[1] Middle class. According to some models,[2] the existence of a substantial body of citizens who are of intermediate wealth can exert a stabilizing influence, allowing democracy to flourish. This is usually explained by saying that while the upper classes may want political power to preserve their position, and the lower classes may want it to lift themselves up, the middle class balances these extreme positions. Civil society. A healthy civil society (NGOs, unions, academia, human rights organizations) are considered by some theorists to be important for democratization, as they give people a unity and a common purpose, and a social network through which to organize and challenge the power of the state hierarchy. Involvement in civic associations also prepares citizens for their future political participation in a democratic regime.[4] Finally, horizontally organized social networks build trust among people and trust is essential for functioning of democratic institutions.[4] Civic culture. In The Civic Culture and The Civic Culture Revisited, Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba (editors) conducted a comprehensive study of civic cultures. The main findings is that a certain civic culture is necessary for the survival of democracy. This study truly challenged the common thought that cultures can preserve their uniqueness and practices and still remain democratic. Culture. It is claimed by some that certain cultures are simply more conductive to democratic values than others. This view is likely to be ethnocentric. Typically, it is Western culture which is cited as "best suited" to democracy, with other cultures portrayed as containing values which make democracy difficult or undesirable. This argument is sometimes used by undemocratic regimes to justify their failure to implement democratic reforms. Today, however, there are many non-Western democracies. Examples include India, Japan, Indonesia, Namibia, Botswana, Taiwan, and South Korea. Human Empowerment and Emancipative Values. In Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy,[5] Ronald Inlgehart and Christian Welzel explain democratization as the result of a broader process of human development,[6] which empowers ordinary people in a three-step sequence. First, modernization gives more resources into the hands of people, which empowers capability-wise, enabling people to practice freedom. This tends to give rise to emancipative values that emphasize freedom of expression and equality of opportunities. These values empower people motivation-wise in making them willing to practice freedom. Democratization occurs as the third stage of empowerment: it empowers people legally in entitling them to practice freedom.[7] In this context, the rise of emancipative values has been shown to be the strongest factor of all in both giving rise to new democracies and sustaining old democracies.[8] Specifically, it has been shown that the effects of modernization and other structural factors on democratization are mediated by these factors tendencies to promote or hinder the rise of emancipative values.[9] Further evidence suggests that emancipative values motivate people to engage in elite-challenging collective actions that aim at democratic achievements, either to sustain and improve democracy when it is granted or to establish it when it is denied.[10] Homogeneous population. Some believe that a country which is deeply divided, whether by ethnic group, religion, or language, have difficulty establishing a working democracy.[11] The basis of this theory is that the different components of the country will be more interested in advancing their own position than in sharing power with each other. India is one prominent example of a nation being democratic despite its great heterogeneity. Previous experience with democracy. According to some theorists, the presence or absence of democracy in a country's past can have a significant effect on its later dealings with democracy. Some argue, for example, that it is very difficult (or even impossible) for democracy to be implemented immediately in a country that has no prior experience with it. Instead, they say, democracy must evolve gradually. Others, however, say that past experiences with democracy can actually be bad for democratization — a country, such as Pakistan, in which democracy has previously failed may be less willing or able to go down the same path again. Foreign intervention. Democracies have often been imposed by military intervention, for example in Japan and Germany after WWII.[12][13] In other cases, decolonization sometimes facilitated the establishment of democracies that were soon replaced by authoritarian regimes. For example, in the United States South after the Civil War, former slaves were disenfranchised by Jim Crow laws during the Reconstruction Era of the United States; after many decades, U.S. democracy was re-established by civic associations (the African American civil rights movement) and an outside military (the U.S. military). Age distribution. Countries which have a higher degree of elderly people seems to be able to maintain democracy, when it has evolved once, according to a thesis brought forward by Richard P. Concotta in this article[14] in Foreign Policy. When the young population (defined as people aged 29 and under) is less than 40%, a democracy is more safe, according to this research.