World Politics

Review Article

On the Third Wave of Democratization: A Synthesis and Evaluation of Recent Theory and Research

Doh Chull Shina1*

a1 Professor of Political Studies at Sangamon State University and research associate at its Center for Public Affairs


This article synthesizes significant findings of theoretical and empirical research on the third wave of democratization. It addresses a number of central questions. What changes have been taking place in the study of democracy and democratization over the past two decades? How have the concepts of democracy and democratization been redefined for a new generation of scholars oriented to action and advice? What developments in the measurement of the two concepts have been stimulated by the quickening pace of democratization? What has been learned about the dynamics of democratization itself? What mixes of democratic institutions and rules offer the “best” prospect for democratic consolidation? What kinds of strategies and tactics have been prescribed for encouraging democratic reforms in those countries that remain nondemocratic? What are the prospects for the third wave of democratization?

Doh Chull Shin is Professor of Political Studies at Sangamon State University and research associate at its Center for Public Affairs. He is currently writing a book on the impact of democratization on the quality of life in Korea with a grant from the Aspen Institute. He will also continue with research on his democratization project in 1994–95 at Seoul National University, with funding from the National Science Foundation.

* I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Foundation for Advanced Studies in International Development in Tokyo, the East-West Center in Honolulu, and Sangamon State University's Institute for Public Affairs in Springfield, Ill. For helpful comments at various stages of this research, I thank Bruce Koppel and Mathiah Algappa of the East-West Center, Gordon Hein of the Asia Foundation, Conrad Rutkowski of the State of New York, Arend Lijphart of the University of California, Yasunori Sone of Keio University, Sung Chul Yang of Kyunghee University, and Craig Brown and Jack Van Der Slik of Sangamon State University. Special thanks are due to Maria Richardson, who edited several versions of this article.