Western Europe over the past five hundred years democratic peace thesis liberalism to correlate the development process in politics with parallel advances in peace, economics, education, social organization and technology. Over the past two decades, a democratic revolution has been sweeping the world, starting in Latin America, then spreading through Eastern Europe and most recently across Africa. This is a vast increase from even a decade ago.
Inspite of its enormous contribution to social development, the process responsible for the emergence and successful adaptation of democratic institutions in society is not yet well understood. For every success, there are instances in which the introduction of democratic institutions has failed or quickly reverted to authoritarian forms of government. Most studies of the origin of democracy focus on one or a number of important factors and circumstances that seem to be associated with its emergence. This paper argues for a more comprehensive approach that views all the contributing factors as expressions of a more fundamental process of change in the society. There is not and may never be a single formula for what constitutes democracy. However, underlying these different forms is a common principle. The central thesis of this paper is that the rise of democratic forms of government has been the result of a revolutionary shift in the relative importance and positions accorded by society to the individual and to the collective.
This shift involved a movement toward a more balanced relationship between the rights and interests of the collective and the rights and interests of individuals. In order to appreciate the import and magnitude of this shift, it should be recognized that until recently the individual occupied a distinctly subordinate position in society. Democratic values and institutions did not arise as a direct contradiction of authoritarian forms of governance. Rather they emerged by a gradual change in the principles that governed the distribution of power in society. An oligarchy of military strength, divine right, aristocratic lineage and land gradually gave way to an oligopoly of wealthy merchants. The parliaments of the first stage were congresses of feudal lords. The genesis of democracy can be traced back to the Greek city-state of Athens.
The democratic idea of a government responsible to the governed, of trial by jury and of civil liberties of thought, speech, writing and worship have been stimulated by Greek history. Emphasis on liberty and the studies related to man were the main tenets of ancient Greece. The democracy propounded by the Greeks enjoyed a short span of life. The Romans, successor to Greek ideas and institutions, at first seemed to embrace Athenian democratic principles. The regime of the Romans was a mixture of kingship, aristocracy and democracy. Its aim was the collective welfare of the society. Centuries of relative physical security and stability under the feudal system led to the re-emergence of long suppressed human energies and aspirations.