Recently, scholars have been identifying a global explosion of democracy as a
sharply distinctive period within Huntingtons Third Wave of democratization. So far
the role of modernization has not been analyzed with particular regard to this out -
standing phase of democratization. Given that modernization has both economic and
cultural aspects, we test two prominent theses. First, we test Przeworski and Limongis
claim that transition to democracy does not derive from economic modernization.
Using a graded measure of regime change, we present evidence to the contrary.
Second, we test Ingleharts finding that modern mass attitudes play a negligible role in
promoting regime change to democracy. To the contrary again, we show that one
aspect of cultural modernization, namely mass-level liberty aspirations has a positive
impact on democratic change even stronger than economic modernization. Third, we
unfold the concept of Human Development to establish a more general argument of
the causal mechanism in the modernization-democratization nexus. Our data cover 60
societies of the World Values Surveys, representing nearly 50 per cent of all regime
changes in the world since 1972.