As an American citizen who has lived through the Bush administration’s failed attempt to affectively intervene and establish democracy in the Middle East, it was initially hard to grasp Inglehart and Welzel’s argument, “modernization theory implies that the United States should welcome and encourage economic development around the world”(Inglehart and Welzel, 15). However, after fully reviewing their piece, Development and Democracy: What We Know about Modernization Today, I now understand that the reason the Bush administration failed to implement democracy in Iran was because they neglected to realize that “democracy is likely to emerge and survive only when certain social and cultural conditions are in place” and got involved “without first establishing internal security and overlooked cultural conditions that endangered the effort” (Inglehart and Welzel, 1). I now understand that democratization isn’t as swift or strait forward as one who grew up in a democratic high-income nation would believe, since “the value systems of high-income countries differ dramatically”(Inglehart and Welzel, 7) than those of lower-income nations, such as Iran.
So one may ask, is it possible to implement democracy in a traditional low-income society with traditional gender roles and strong religious affiliation such as Iran? The answer: present day modernization theory, which implies that “economic and technological development brings a coherent set of social and political changes” (Inglehart and Welzel, 6). With the empirical example of Iran, in 2008, “the United States Congress appropriated $60 million for programs to promote democracy, the rule of law and governance in Iran” (Stephen J. Hadley). If the U.S. had understood that in such a deeply historic and religious nation such as Iran, simply putting money into their government will not fortify democracy. Rather, Inglehart and Welzel would argue that putting emphasis on social issues and rights such as the “value on individual freedom and self-expression” will set a stable foundation for the insurgence of democracy (Inglehart and Welzel, 7). Certainly, “democracy is unlikely to survive in a society torn by distrust and intolerance”(Inglehart and Welzel, 14), however, if modernization theory is fundamentally applied, then “in the long run”, democratization is more likely to arise. If applied, “once set in motion, it tends to penetrate all aspects of life, bringing occupational specialization, urbanization, rising educational levels, rising life expectancy, and rapid economic growth” (Inglehart and Welzel, 1).
Although modernization theory is a very complex set of ideas with long term benefits, if applied correctly I believe it would increase democratization significantly and resume the international hold that has be placed on democratic growth over the last decade.
2009. Inglehart, Ronald and Welzel, Christian. “Development and Democracy: What We Know about Modernization Today”.Foreign Affairs.