Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (xiii, 349 pages) : color illustrations, color maps.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Richard Lachmann

Committee Members

Aaron Major, Glenn Deane


Democracy, Democratic transition, Elite-Driven Democratization, Nigeria, South Korea, Third Wave of Democratization, Democratization, Elite (Social sciences)

Subject Categories



The topic of the dissertation is the third wave of democratization: Authoritarian regimes on earth around 1975 mostly gave way to democratic regimes by 2000. How did it happen? Why did democracies massively emerge even in the poorest countries where democracy was least expected? Why did global democracy increase in number but decline in quality? I inquire what factors promoted the third wave in what manners. To answer the question, I employ a mixed-methods approach, taking a sequential design of quantitative-to-qualitative methods. Event history analysis is conducted to test the factors of democratic transitions. Alternative theories are proposed based on the results and further tested through comparative historical analysis of South Korea and Nigeria. Employing elite conflict framework, those proposed theories focus on ruling elite’s roles in promoting democratic transition. Importantly, democratic transition in the third wave rarely meant realizing true democracy, but usually meant ruler’s adopting multi-party election to claim democracy. The latter is defined as nominal democratization. My main argument is that elite-driven democratizations are responsible for the rapid but nominal democratizations of many less-developed countries in the third wave. As less-developed countries were faced with political legitimacy crises due to poor economic performance, ruling elite chose democratic transition as a means of appeasing the people, but did so nominally so that they would not lose much. Also, ruling elite of less-developed countries chose democratic transition to appeal to international financial donors and attract more capital for industrialization than nearby competitors. Two important factors emerged from the case studies of South Korea and Nigeria. First, the legacies of democratic institutions kept promoting nominal democratization. The legacies were born as the United States and the British Empire installed the initial governments of post-independence Korea and Nigeria and filled them with those who were docile to great powers but failed their nationals. The legacies were further entrenched, as those unrepresentative elites consolidated their power. Second, because of different structures of the ruling elites in both countries, they employed different strategies for competing with one another and pacifying the people, but eventually converged to nominal democratization and stabilized their collective interest.

Included in

Sociology Commons