With the noticeable decline in democracy globally, legal scholars are now questioning what seemed to be settled definitions of ‘democracy’. In response to these developments, the presentation offers a legal critique of the definitions of ‘democracy’ and ‘democratisation’, and provides an alternative. The argument consists of two parts. The first examines dominant definitions of democracy and democratisation, explaining how they frame and constrain our understanding of these terms. The second offers a political process theory of democracy and democratisation, drawing upon the social science and political science literature. The value of this literature is that it explains the interaction between the citizen and the state in the wider social systems of democratic states. It contributes to the conference theme of ‘Democracy and the Future of Public Law’ by providing a theory that better accounts for variation and change in the extent and character of democracy in the legal context.