Democracy is a mode of decision making through collective binding rules and policies over which the people exercise control. All members enjoy effective equal rights to take part in decision making processes. The recent trend of globalization is perceived by some theorists for a global need for democratic governance. The transferral of control to democratic regimes, often from formally authoritarian, dictatorial or absolutist powers has produced three major theories in the study of democratic transition.
Modernization; economic requisites. Structural or historical sociology; historical analysis, and transitional; elite initiatives. The debate over which theory best explains democratic transitions, can be detailed in discussing each theory and their critiques in turn. It is difficult to pin point one singular approach as a standalone theory to determine all transitions to democracy, as each state has its own particular criteria inclusive of economic, cultural and political demands at the time of transition. (Potter, David, 1997)
Modernisation theory links democratization with globalization; an aim to spread democracy, ultimately creating one uniform culture. Seymour Martin Lipset heads this field of democratization studies and draws on a mix of Weberian notions of the modern state and the preoccupation of classical sociology by describing the social transitions from feudalism to capitalism. Modernists predominantly use the examples of Britain and the United States, but also generalise throughout Western Europe during the ninetieth and twentieth centuries.
For these Western societies modernization is functionalist and economic in that it sees democracy as an outcome of capitalism. It associates economic growth casually with progress. Lipset presumes moderninity as a single universal experience, leading fundamentally to similar societies and states. Modernization perceives democracy to appear in those societies that are able to reproduce the traditional shift to capitalism and practice in a global economic market. (Grugel, Jean, 2002:49)
Modernization’s approach to democratic transition can be valued by the ability to specify the particular components of capitalism that make for democracy. However the relationship between capitalism and democracy is often excessively straightforward and lineal. Modernisation theory is often seemingly ahistorical, ethnocentric and too structural. Theorists frequently presume that all societies can replicate a transition which actually occurred at a particular instant in space and time. It does not recognise the complications of one society copying what occurred in a dissimilar society at a different time. Also it does not take into account of the changes which have taken place globally to mean that capitalism is now a global order rather than an economic system confined within the territorial boundaries of a particular nation states.
The late twentieth century political systems in places such as Iran, Ethiopia and Afghanistan saw a struggle between monarchical power and modernisation. The promotion of social, cultural and economic reform including political parties set to endanger the authority of the monarchy, a dilemma of success vs. survival, challenging the resolute flow of modernization (Huntington, Samuel P 1978:177).
Historical socialism or the structuralist approach to democratization arose in part out of a reaction to society based accounts of political change in the 1960’s and offers a state centred view, concentrating on the theory of bringing the state back in to politics. Structuralists are interested in the changing relationship within the state, especially in the Weberian sense of a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory to shape the political system. They admit an important role for collective actors, and that democracies do not come into being overnight, nor does democracy happen simply because some people will it into existence.
Structralists trace the transformation of the state through class conflicts over time, in order to explain how democracy, seen as state transformation has sometimes emerged. Structurallism also contains elements of a political economy for example the expansion of production for the market which could lead to social or class conflict, although economic change is not on its own regarded as determining political outcomes. Unlike the wave approach of modernization theory historical sociology identifies factors that are distinctive to particular cases. Barrington Moore identifies three case-specific routes to democratic transition. ‘The Bourgeois Revolution’ of Britain, France and the US. ‘Revolution from above’; Japan and Germany and the rise of Fascism and lastly ‘revolution from below’, in the case of Russia and China.