Democratization as an Emancipative Process

Welzel, C.
Despite major differences, prevailing approaches in democratization research have one thing in common: they downplay the role of mass attitudes. This article criticizes the neglect of mass attitudes, arguing that it ignores the very essence of democratization. In light of human development theory, democratization is essentially an emancipative process. For it manifests human freedom by empowering people with civil and political rights. From this premise I conclude that democratization should be driven by emancipative forces in the population and that these forces are reflected in particular mass attitudes: liberty aspirations. Based on evidence from the Values Surveys, my analyses show that more widespread liberty aspirations facilitate progress and impede regress in the process of democratization. No other indicator--including GDP/capita and social capital--outperforms the effect of liberty aspirations on democratization. I conclude that human development theory is useful because its emphasis on freedom and choice highlights something that has been ignored in the democratization literature: emancipative motivational forces in the population.

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