What comes first: democracy, wealth or personal growth?
A few years ago I came across this analysis of human development across the world (PDF link below). Their conclusion is that there is a consistent sequence that leads to democracy: economic development –> cultural changes (e.g. more individual autonomy, freedom, secularity) –> democracy.
Together with Jared Diamond’s resource-based explanation for variations in economic development, this paints a comprehensive picture of how things got to be the way they are.
And there are some really cool charts!