Though some democratic governments will likely topple in the next few years, a "fourth wave" of deomocratization will then sweep the world, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government Samuel P. Huntington said last night at a speech in the Kennedy School of Government's Starr Auditorium.
Huntington spoke before 150 people at the annual foreign policy symposium sponsored by the Student Council of the Center for International Affairs (CFIA).
This year's event focused on the recent dramatic expansion of democracy on a world-wide scale.
Huntington called the democratization of more than 35 countries in the past two decades "perhaps the most significant political development in the late 20th century."
"Democracy seems to be breaking out in the most unusual places," he said, citing Mongolia, Nepal and Albania as examples.
Calling the current trend in government the "third wave" of democracy-the first two coming before World War I and after World War II--Huntington predicted that some authoritarian regimes may take hold in the coming years before a fourth wave of democracy hits.
"In the long term, democracy will continue to play an attractive role to people in all kinds of civilizations," he said.
Huntington attributed the recent democratic boom to the growing difficulty that authoritarian regimes face in attempting to legitimize themselves. In addition, he cited economic factors, the influence of the Catholic church and changes in the policies of other world powers.
"American ambassadors changed from being cookie-pushers to being freedom pushers," he said.
Huntington cited China as one country currently in an "economic transition zone" that will serve as a stepping-stone to democratization. He said he does not believe China will be a fully democratic nation before the end of the century, however.
He also cited public pressure as a contributing cause to worldwide democratization.
"Since World War II, democratic rhetoric has pervaded the world," Huntington said arguing that even auhoritarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union, can appear legitimate only through claims of up holding democratic ideals.
Three separate panel discussions--on democracy in Russia, South Africa and India--followed Huntington's speech.
The South African panel included African National Congress (ANC) member Rider Moloto and Waldemar Zastrau, the South African deputy consul-general for New York. This marked the first meeting of ANC and South African government representatives at Harvard, said Gordon N. Lederman '93, co-president of the CFIA Student Council.