The initial optimism that greeted the onset of the “Third Wave” of democratization has cooled with the instability of many new democracies and the proliferation of stable competitive authoritarian regimes. These disappointments have produced a return to structural theories emphasizing the constraints posed by underdevelopment, resource endowments, inequality, and ethno-religious cleavages. We argue, however, for a sharper focus on the political mechanisms that link such factors to the emergence of democracy, including the extent of institutionalization in new democracies and the still understudied role of civil society and the capacity for collective action. The international dimensions of democratization also require closer analysis. We also underline a methodological point: The quest for an overarching theory of democracy and democratization may be misguided. Generalizations supported by cross-national statistical work yield numerous anomalies and indicate the need for approaches that emphasize combinations of causal factors, alternative pathways, and equifinality.


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