Actor-centred transition research is closely connected with the onset of the third wave of democracy in the mid-1970s. It challenges earlier attempts by structuralist and functionalist theories that sought to identify universal requisites of democratic rule based on the experience of established Western democracies. Regime transitions are always open-ended and different phases of successful democratization processes are not necessarily shaped by the same actors and conditions. In this chapter two main strands of the actor-centred transition paradigm are presented. Descriptive empirical transition approaches reduce complexity by subsuming frequent actor constellations under a limited number of ideal-typical modes of transition. Rational choice approaches, in turn, translate those same actor constellations into a sequence of strategic situations that predict the outcome of liberalization and democratization processes, assuming utility-maximizing behaviour on the part of relevant elites. Finally, the requirements of democratic regime consolidation that ensures persistence are discussed.
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