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The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late 20th Century (The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series)

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806125169
ISBN-10: 0806125160
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) was the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard and former chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. He authored many books on comparative politics and military affairs and served as Coordinator of Security Planning for the National Security Council. He is a founder of the journal Foreign Policy and a former president of the American Political Science Association.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Julian J. Rothbaum Distinguished Lecture Series (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (March 15, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806125160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806125169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) was the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard and former chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. He authored and edited more than dozen books.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
While not as heavily theoretical as some of Huntington's other works, this book is laden with apercus about why and how countries develop democracies, especially in the most recent wave (just to clarify, the first wave started in the early 1800's, the second occurred after World War II, and the third began in 1974 and included the countries liberated by the end of communism in the late 1980's.) The success of democratization is tied to various factors - the type and strength of the authoritarian regime that is facing this choice, its willingness to permit democratization, the strength of the movement that seeks to democratize, and that country's conditions (i.e. has it attempted to democratize before? How does religion affect the culture of that country?) Huntington's genius is to look at scores of seemingly disparate cases and discern patterns where democratization succeeds and fails.
An interesting side note is Huntington's analysis of why countries democratize. Each wave had its own conditions, but several variables merit mentioning. As a country industrializes, it becomes increasingly difficult for an authoritarian regime to maintain its monopoly on power, which becomes more diffused. Industrialization also fosters the growth of a questioning middle class that becomes more vocal as its wealth increases (not to mention a vibrant working class that is also a vital force for democracy, as Rueschemeyer, Stephens, and Stephens note in Capitalist Development and Democracy.) In addition, authoritarian regimes inevitably weaken over time as they fail to meet expectations and public dissatisfaction increases; they also become stale and are usually incapable of renewing themselves. They eventually lose legitimacy as the coalition of interests that supports them begins to splinter. Just a few more headaches for Jiang Jemin and his crew.
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With his book, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991), Samuel P. Huntington introduced us to the third wave of democracy which had been transforming the world since its inception in 1974, and sparked a firestorm of academic literature on why this particularly successful democratic wave had come about and remained for so long. He identifies five changes in the world that paved the way for the latest wave of transitions to democracy: 1) the deepening legitimacy problems of authoritarian governments unable to cope with economic failures; 2) the burgeoning economies of many countries, which have raised living standards, levels of education and urbanization, while also raising civic expectations and the ability to express them; 3) changes in religious institutions which have made them more prone to oppose governmental authoritarianism than defend the status quo; 4) the push to promote human rights and democracy by external actors such as the US, the USSR under Gorbachev, and the European Community; and 5) the "snowballing" or demonstration effects, enhanced by new international communications, of democratization in other countries.

These five changes that Huntington identifies become his five independent variables that bear influence on his dependent variable, democratization. Huntington feels it is important to clarify his dependant variable:

The dependant variable of this study is not democracy, but democratization. The purpose is to explain why some countries that were authoritarian became democratic in a particular period of time. The focus is on regime change, not regime existence...
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Format: Paperback
"The Third Wave" by Samuel Huntington is a good introduction into democratization studies. Huntington, same as in his other books, uses a light style without too much specialist vocabulary and gives numerous fascinating examples from the history of the countries that underwent systemic transformation after 1974. Since his book is a comparative study, though, it leaves out many details crucial for understanding the specific path of democratization adopted in a given country. It also does not pay enough attention to the process of consolidation which has just began when the book was published. "The Third Wave, however, is just the right book for a beginning democratization student. I think even the critics of "The Clash of Civilizations" will be satisfied with "The Third Wave", which is less ideological and more fact-focused than Huntongton's most famous work.

Kamil Marcinkiewicz
University of Passau, Germany
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Format: Paperback
I'd avoided reading this book for years. I thought Huntington was old news as far as political science was concerned. The Third Wave after all was history. However, Huntington provides a rich and nuanced theory of democratization. He doesn't try to simplify his theory to achieve artificial parsimony, but rather observes what happened and tries to explain it. There are times when I wish he was a bit more systematic with his evidence, but he does cover the entire spectrum of countries that democratized. By his own admission, Huntington's theory seeks to explain the Third Wave - it doesn't necessarily explain democratization writ large. Nonetheless, I'm sure some of his analysis will carry over.
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