By Daniela Castillo Esquivel - Student of International Relations

Three waves of democracy have passed and while each one contributed in a different way, they all accomplished the same goal: promote and preserve democracy. But, just as these waves shifted the distribution of power and provided a different perspective, it is time to shift to a different wave. Instead of focusing on a possible (or already seen) fourth wave of democracy, it is necessary to focus on the constant wave of education.

Democratization is the process of a political regime becoming democratic and it is divided into three main waves lasting from 1826 to 1926, 1943 to 1962, and in 1974 (Kauffman, 2018). The reason why these waves are so relevant to the Social Science field is because of their contributions, their clearness, and what they represent to democracy. From the expansion of suffrage to the independence of colonies, democracy has grown because of these movements/waves. So, why focusing on something else if the past waves have provided a great development for democracy? Do all these results are not enough to prove the importance of democratic waves?
Just as there were three waves of democracy, there were also three reverse waves.

These waves occurred after each wave of democratization (in the years 1920-1935 and 1945-1970 approximately) and had the same impact (Hegre, 2014, para. 1). Focusing on the democracy itself is not enough and, like a wave, it will always backslide. It is not about diminishing the importance of democratic waves and its actors (like governments and politicians), but about understanding that education has a major influence and stability.

There are no reverse waves in education, you cannot unlearn something, and knowledge will never be harmful. This massive, non-stopping wave of education is the key to developing a strong and long-lasting democracy, or most importantly, a democratic culture. As seen in the results of a study between education and democracy: “increasing levels of education among the population have a positive effect on levels of democracy (...). The results also tell us that an additional year of schooling increases the “steady-state” value of democracy” (Alemán & Kim, 2015, p.6). With education comes knowledge and with knowledge comes informed, auto-sufficient, and active citizens, which are all important in order to maintain a democratic state.

Why focusing more on education than on the concept of democracy and its waves? A system can be well written by the best professionals and following all the rules, but it means nothing if people do not understand or respect it. “Governance institutions in (...) autocracies had grown more dysfunctional, less independent, and more prone to corruption” (The fourth wave of democratization, s.f., p.3). By directing more time and resources in understanding and improving the wave of education not only the levels of corruption, violence and ignorance would be reduced, but the whole society would grow. It is then, with a proper inclusion of education in democracy, that we will all be able to surf the wave rather than letting it drown us.


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• Alemán, E. & Kim, Y. (2015). The democratizing effect of education. Research and Politics.

• Hegre. H. (2014). Why does democratization occur in waves?
• Kauffman, C. M. (2018). Democratization.
• The fourth wave of democratization. (s.f.).