How Democracies Emerge: Lessons from Europe

Issue Date January 2007
Volume 18
Issue 1
Page Numbers 28-41
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The best way to understand how stable, well-functioning democracies develop is to analyze the political trajectories such countries have actually taken. The political backstory of most democracies includes struggle, conflict, and even violence. Problems and failures can in retrospect often be seen to be integral parts of the long-term processes through which non-democratic institutions, elites, and cultures were delegitimized and eventually eliminated, and their democratic successors forged. Understanding past cases is a crucial step toward putting today’s democratization and democracy promotion discussions into the proper intellectual and historical context.