While discussing modernization and democracy as well as their interdependence, it is necessary to consider the fundamentals of both issues in detail. First of all, it should be pointed out that modernization theory is considered to be extremely important for the processes of democratization. As far as politics and modernization are recognized to be closely interdependent issues, one can probably make a conclusion that certain changes in the developing world were caused by interaction of the issues of discussion.
In order to understand modernization-democracy link, the advantages and disadvantages concerning the issues’ interdependence, it is necessary to analyze the reasons of the processes of modernization and the ways they transformed democratic prospects.
Modernization is mostly associated with a model of social evolutionism, which main purpose is to transform certain issues (political, social, etc.) from traditional to advanced, improved or modern.
When speaking about the meaning of democracy, there is a need to point out that there are four aspects of the term, which must be taken into consideration. For instance, one is to remember that the term is associated with collective decision making; therefore, the kind of equality among supporters of the political unit can be regarded as one of the characteristic features of democracy.
The fact that there are many various kinds of groups, which can be regarded as democratic is another important aspect democracy is based on. In other words, there can be “democracy in families, voluntary organizations, economic firms, as well as states and transnational and global organizations” (Christiano, 2006, para. 3). It is also important to remember that there are no normative questions democracy can be associated with. Finally, the equality in democracy is considered to be a relative issue.
Generally, it must be noted that the impact of modernization on the democratic prospects should be regarded rather ambiguously, as the distorted nature of various political processes cannot provide us with a reliable understanding of democracy development in different parts of the world.
Taking into account the fact that modernization theory is based on certain cultural values, one is to keep in mind that some democratic values seem to be of the same origin; thus, modernization and democracy involve some common variables, which are connected.
In other words, it is obvious that causal linkages between modernization processes and democratic ones exist for a long time. Grigore Pop-Eleches (2009) highlights the interdependence between the issues and states that “modernization theory has recently made an unexpected comeback as an explanation of cross-national regime patterns, as several statistically sophisticated approaches have assessed the impact of socio-economic development on the initiation and survival of democracy” (p. 1).
In my opinion, the processes of modernization are to be based on strong democratic principles, if democracy represents a highly formal kind. As far as some concepts of democracy can be regarded as rather dangerous, there is a strong need to remember about morally desirable forms of the political unit.
So, on the one hand, one can probably make a conclusion that modernization requires democracy, if the conceptions of humanity and society are inherently fair; on the other hand, one can also state that modernization does not require democracy, as democratic methods are regarded as inappropriate and undesirable.
I am a supporter of the first assumption, as democracy is considered to be extremely important for our society and the processes of modernization should be based on the basic principles of democracy. However, I also understand that the idea seems to be utopian, as numerous conflicts between various political regimes cannot be neglected.
While analyzing the article written by Ronald F. Inglehart and Christian Welzel (2010), one is to keep in mind the basic issues concerning the role of modernization in democratization. Thus, the authors state that:
Certain mass attitudes that are linked with modernization constitute attributes of given societies that are fully as stable as standard social indicators; when treated as national-level variables, these attitudes seem to have predictive power comparable to that of widely-used social indicators in explaining important societal-level variables such as democracy; national-level mean scores are a legitimate social indicator; and one gets maximum analytic leverage by analyzing data from the full range of societies (p. 551-567).
In other words, it seems that without democracy modernization processes will have no sense. Of course, the topic of discussion is rather contradictory, as the problems of democratic citizenship cannot be ignored. The sorts of criticisms concerning a variety of problems of democratic principles give us an opportunity to suppose that in future the situation can become worse. However, on the other hand, some solutions on the kinds of democratic problems should also be taken into account.
Elite theory of democracy, interest group pluralism, neo-liberalism, the self-interest assumptions, etc. should be carefully analyzed, in order to understand for sure whether modernization needs democracy or no. My own assumptions seem to be quite hypothetical, as I consider the so-called ideal or correct democracy.
Adam Przeworski and Fernando Limongi (1997) state that “Modernization consists of a gradual differentiation and specialization of social structures that culminates in a separation of political structures from other structures and makes democracy possible” (p. 2). Thus, there are the so-called causal chains, which must be taken into account, while analyzing the process of democratization.
For instance, it should be noted that industrialization, education, the process of creating towns, interaction, conscription, etc. seem to represent the sequence of peculiar causal chains, which form social changes and give rise to the final stage of modernization – democratization.
The idea of successful economic development is also associated with democratic influences. For this reason, some countries consider modernization as a necessary step to become political democracies. To my mind, the most important issue, which cannot be neglected, is that many politicians do not understand that democracy is not a product of modernization.
On the contrary, modernization gives democracy an opportunity to survive; thereby, modern approaches to the concepts of democracy are to be developed. Modernization requires democracy, because most of its cultural variables are based on the kind of a political unit. Still, it must be repeated that without democracy, there will be no modernization.
One of the major contradictions concerning the question whether modernization requires democracy or no, is reflected by the idea that “events during critical historical junctures can lead to divergent political–economic development paths, some leading to prosperity and democracy, others to relative poverty and non-democracy” (Robinson et al., 2009).
“Lipset first established the theoretical link between the level of development of a given country and its probability of being democratic” (Wucherpfennig & Deutsch, 2009). In our days, the interdependence between modernization and democracy seems to be obvious; although various contradictions of democratic principles are difficult to analyze.
Christiano, T. (2006). Democracy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from:
Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2010). Changing Mass Priorities: The Link between Modernization and Democracy. Michigan Population Studies Center. Retrieved from:
Pop-Eleches, G. (2009). Communist Development and the Post-Communist Democratic Deficit. Princeton University. Retrieved from:
Przeworski, A., & Limongi, F. (1997). Modernization: Theories and Facts. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved from:
Robinson, J., Acemoglu, D., Johnson, S., & Yared, P. (2009). Reevaluating the Modernization Hypothesis. Harvard.edu. Retrieved from:
Wucherpfennig, J., & Deutsch, F. (2009). Modernization and Democracy: Theories and Evidence Revisited. Livingreviews.org. Retrieved from: