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The Middle East Revolt's Place In History | The New Republic


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I think we are in the midst of a great "third reverse wave" in history while simultaneously undergoing a worldwide "fourth wave" that is taking half the sky.

"Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote that all the great events of the past 700 years—from the Crusades and English wars that decimated the nobles, to the discovery of firearms and the art of printing, to the rise of Protestantism and the discovery of America—had the ineluctable effect of advancing the principle of equality. Political scientist Samuel Huntington went further and identified several historical waves of democratization. The First Wave began with our own revolution in 1776, which was quickly followed by the French Revolution. The Second Wave followed the victory of the Allies in World War II.

The Third Wave, according to Huntington’s thesis, was a global process that began in 1974 with the fall of the military government in Portugal and the death in 1975 of Francisco Franco, followed in both countries by successful democratic transitions. It then spread to Latin America, Asia, Central Europe and Africa, with the number of countries judged to be democracies in the Freedom House annual surveys more than tripling from 39 in 1974 to a high of 123 in 2005. This wave was the result of several factors, including economic growth, the spread of democratic values that undermined the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes, policy changes in Europe and the United States, and the demonstration effect of earlier transitions that Huntington called “snowballing.” To this thesis, Huntington also added the idea of “reverse waves,” or reactions against democratic progress, the first being the rise of fascism and communism in the 1920s and ‘30s, and the second the resurgence of authoritarianism in Latin America, Africa, and Asia in the 1960s and ‘70s."

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