Democracy as a political movement has seen great triumphs in the last two decades, but it remains weak, vulnerable, or nonexistent in many corners of the world. These reflections by a renowned political sociologist and his student survey the general state of knowledge of when, where, and how democracy takes root. Of course, many factors bear on the likelihood of a democratic breakthrough, and Lipset's famous insight (that the richer a nation is, the greater its chances of sustaining democracy) still holds four decades after it was first advanced in his landmark study Political Man. But the triggers of democratic transition are more difficult to identify, and by no means follow inevitably from modernization and development. In the end, Lipset and Lakin argue that culture is particularly important. Missing from this otherwise exhaustive study is a discussion of the impact of democratization efforts from abroad. But the importance of such efforts is implicit in their conclusion that, at the end of the democratic century, the easy work is done and the hard work remains.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Political and Legal From This Issue