Chronology of Modern Democracy

compiled by Steve Muhlberger, Nipissing University for the World History of Democracy site

2: The View of Samuel P. Huntingdon

from his 1991 book,  The Third Wave: Democratization in the late twentieth century

Samuel P. Huntingdon is a well-known thinker on the subject of democracy, and in November of 1989, he was invited to deliver the Julian J. Rothbaum lectures at the University of Oklahoma on the largely unexpected political changes then in Europe and elsewhere.   In those lectures, Huntingdon put the democratization of the late 1980s in a larger perspective, by pointing out that waves of democratization had occurred in the past.    He also identified "reverse waves," in which countries that had for a while been democratic reverted to authoritarian forms of government -- sometimes, indeed to redemocratize at a later time.

In The Third Wave:  Democratization in the late twentieth century (Norman and London, 1991), the book that derived from those lectures, Huntingdon used a procedural definition of democracy (p. 7):   "A twentieth-century political system [is] democratic to the extent that its most powerful collective decision makers are selected through fair, honest, and periodic elections in which candidates freely compete for votes and in which virtually all the adult population is eligible to vote...[Democracy] also implies the existence of those civil and political freedoms to speak, publish, assemble, and organize that are necessary to political debate and the conduct of electoral campaigns."

Huntingdon's definition and description of the three waves of modern democratization is only a part of a rich book, but a particularly useful one.   The chart below is adapted from one on pp. 14-15 of The Third Wave.   Note that it does not take into account many events since early 1991, most especially the splitting of the Soviet Union into its constituent republics.  The terminology "democratized," "authoritarian," "reverted to authoritarianism" is my own; Huntingdon's graphic presentation distinguishes between "democratic or semidemocratic phases" or "Nondemocratic phases of previously democratic countries."
 
Countries
in Category
Number of Countries
in Category
1st Wave
1828-1926
(long wave)
 1st Reverse
1922-42
 2nd Wave
1942-62
2nd Reverse
1958-1962
3rd Wave
1974-
3rd 
Reverse? (to 1991)
Category A
Australia
Canada
Finland
Iceland
Ireland
New Zealand
Sweden
Switzerland
U.K.
U.S.
10
These countries democratized in the first wave and have remained democratic since
Democratic
Democratic Democratic Democratic Democratic
Category B
Chile
1
Democratized Democratic Democratic
Reverted to Author-
itarianism
Democratized Democratic
Category C
Austria
Belgium
Colombia
Denmark
France
W. Germany
Italy
Japan
Netherlands
Norway
10
Democratized
Reverted to Author-
itarianism
Democratized
Democratic Democratic Democratic
Category D
Argentina
Czechoslovakia
Greece
Hungary
Uruguay
5
Democratized
Reverted to
Authori-
tarianism
Democratized
Reverted to Authori-
tarianism
Democratized Democratic
Category E
East Germany
Poland
Portugal
Spain
4
Democratized
Reverted to
Authori-
tarianism
Authoritarian
Authoritarian Democratized Democratic
Category F
Estonia
Latvia
Lithuania
3
Democratized
Reverted to
Authori-
tarianism
(Huntingdon
eliminated these countries from his chart)
Category G
Botswana
Gambia
Israel
Jamaica
Malaysia
Malta
Sri Lanka
Trinidad &
Tobago
Venezuela
9
   
Democratized in the second
wave and have remained democratic 
since
Democratic Democratic Democratic
Category H
Bolivia
Brazil
Ecuador
India
South Korea
Pakistan
Peru
Philippines
Turkey
9
    Democratized
Reverted to 
Authori-
tarianism
Democratized Democratic
Category I
Nigeria
1
    Democratized
Reverted to Authori-
tarianism
Democratized
Reverted to Authori-
tarianism
Category J
Burma
Fiji
Ghana
Guyana
Indonesia
Lebanon
6
    Democratized
Reverted to 
Authori-
tarianism
Authoritarian Authoritarian
Category K
Bulgaria
El Salvador
Guatemala
Haiti
Honduras
Mongolia
Namibia
Nicaragua
Panama
Romania
Senegal
11
        Democratized Democratic
Category L
Sudan
Suriname
2
     
Reverted to 
Authori-
tarianism
Democratized
Reverted to 
Authori-
tarianism
Democratic Countries  
33 (max.)
11 (min.)
51 (max.)
29 (min.)
 62 (max.)
  59 (min.)
Net Change  
+33
-22
+40
-22
+33
-3
Total Countries 
71