Subject: Democratic decline

April 2021, Volume 32, Issue 2

Tanzania: The Authoritarian Landslide

With brutal resolve, the ruling party sought not merely to win an election, but to annihilate the opposition. Now, with President John Magufuli gone, that strategic rationale will likely only grow stronger.

April 2021, Volume 32, Issue 2

Uganda’s Fraudulent Election

Longtime president Yoweri Museveni, his ruling party, and his increasingly militarized regime opened 2021 with a grossly unfair election. But time may be on the side of Uganda’s young voters and their hunger for change.

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April 2021, Volume 32, Issue 2

Why the Future Is Democratic

The swelling pessimism about democracy’s future is unwarranted. Values focused on human freedom are spreading throughout the world, and suggest that the future of self-government is actually quite bright.

January 2021, Volume 32, Issue 1

The End of the Backsliding Paradigm

Like the “transition paradigm” before it, the concept of democratic backsliding threatens to flatten our perceptions of complex political realities. Examples from East-Central Europe illustrate the ambiguous dynamics at play in many troubled democracies.

January 2021, Volume 32, Issue 1

Sri Lanka: The Return to Ethnocracy

The return to power, via elections, of the Rajapaksa family signals the consolidation of a Sinhalese Buddhist ethnocracy. But there are reasons to hope it will not take a turn toward full despotism.

October 2020, Volume 31, Issue 4

Covid vs. Democracy: India’s Illiberal Remedy

India’s covid-19 response has accelerated the country’s slide toward competitive authoritarian rule by centralizing decision making, undermining federalism, and providing new pretexts for stifling dissent.

July 2020, Volume 31, Issue 3

A Glimpse of the Way Forward

For all the concern over authoritarianism’s advance, the competence of governance may be what determines the next chapter in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship.

July 2020, Volume 31, Issue 3

South Korea’s Democratic Decay

Although South Korea is praised for its success at fighting covid-19, the triumph came at a cost to rights and privacy, and is drawing attention away from a larger drift toward illiberalism and bitterly factionalized politics.

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

30 Years of World Politics: What Has Changed?

Democracies are grappling with an era of transformation: Identity is increasingly replacing economics as the major axis of world politics. Technological change has deepened social fragmentation, and trust in institutions is falling. As our most basic assumptions come under question, can liberal democracy rebuild itself?

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

The End of History Revisited

Is liberal democracy the endpoint of history? The ongoing democratic recession, growing disaffection among citizens, and rising populism pose new challenges to this view. Yet testing Francis Fukuyama’s much-criticized thesis requires us to consider not only liberal democracy’s internal contradictions, but also those of its authoritarian rivals.

January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

The Instinct for Freedom

The mass protests that have taken place in 2019 in Hong Kong and elsewhere show that people’s desire for liberty cannot be extinguished.

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July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Polarization versus Democracy

Why do ordinary people vote to return to office undemocratic incumbents? New survey experiments in several countries suggest that many voters are willing to put their partisan interests above democratic principles—a finding that may be key to understanding democratic backsliding.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: Threats to Pluralism

In the world’s largest democracy, liberalism is in retreat, as evidenced by a pattern of assaults on minorities, press freedom, and the independence of key cultural and intellectual institutions.

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October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Democracy’s “Near Misses”

What factors help a democracy to survive a crisis? A study of cases in which democracy suffered a steep decline, yet ultimately recovered and endured, offers new insights. In moments of crisis, unelected and nonmajoritarian actors can play a pivotal role.

October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Crisis of Confidence

Public-opinion data from Pew Research Center show that global support for representative democracy is widespread, but often thin. Amid rising economic anxiety, cultural unease, and political frustration, citizens are increasingly open to alternative systems of government.

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy

Across the West, economic, demographic, and cultural shifts have spurred the rise of populists who embrace majoritarianism and popular sovereignty while showing little commitment to constitutionalism and individual liberty. 

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Undemocratic Dilemma

The ability of liberal democracies around the world to translate popular views into public policy has been declining. Yet there is no easy way to overcome this trend without weakening the capacity of governments to solve some of the most pressing challenges of the coming decades.

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Fading Allure

Is liberal democracy the only suitable type of government for a strong, modern society? A quarter-century ago, the answer seemed to be a clear yes. But today the picture is much cloudier.

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Eroding Norms and Democratic Deconsolidation

“Democratic deconsolidation” on the level of attitudes and beliefs is real, and behind it lies a disturbing rise in tolerance for antisocial behavior, especially among the young. 

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April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

The 2016 U.S. Election: The Populist Moment

Rising populism in the U.S. and beyond is calling into question the liberal-democratic bargain that has defined the postwar era. What led to Americans’ present revolt against elites, and what are its implications?

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January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Signs of Deconsolidation

Political scientists have long assumed that “democratic consolidation” is a one-way street, but survey evidence of declining support for democracy from across the established democracies suggests that deconsolidation is a genuine danger.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

On Democratic Backsliding

Old-fashioned military coups and blatant election-day fraud are becoming mercifully rarer these days, but other, subtler forms of democratic regression are a growing problem that demands more attention.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

While “autocracy promotion” presents a real danger, its influence so far has been limited. Because authoritarian regimes are concerned first with furthering their own interests, their interventions often have contradictory effects, sometimes even inadvertently fostering greater pluralism.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

Transition Leaders Speak

A review of Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, edited by Sergio Bitar and Abraham F. Lowenthal.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Is Democracy in Decline?

As the Journal of Democracy celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, there are serious reasons to worry about the state of democracy.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Weight of Geopolitics

Can democracy prosper when democratic countries are in geopolitical retreat? History cautions against the notion that democracy will inevitably prevail.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Crisis and Transition, But Not Decline

Rather than being in decline, democracy is in crisis due to the gap between the democratic ideal and how democracy is actually being practiced. It will survive by transitioning into a new, as yet unknown, form.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Myth of Democratic Recession

In contrast to the conventional wisdom that democracy is in retreat worldwide, the evidence tells a different story: The state of global democracy has been stable over the last decade and is actually better than it was in the 1990s.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Facing Up to the Democratic Recession

Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last decade, and committed and resourceful engagement by the established democracies is necessary to reverse this trend.

October 2014, Volume 25, Issue 4

Flirting with Disaster

A review of The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present by David Runciman.

July 2014, Volume 25, Issue 3

The End of the Transitions Era?

Regime change will always be a feature of political life, but we are unlikely to see again transitions to democracy on the scale of the “third wave.”

April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

The Freedom House Survey for 2013: The Democratic Leadership Gap

Civil-liberties scores have notably declined over the past several years, while political-rights scores have slightly improved—perhaps because modern authoritarians have begun to adopt subtler means of repression. Overall, however, freedom experienced a global decline for the eighth straight year in 2013.

October 2013, Volume 24, Issue 4

Separated at Birth?

A review of The Promise of Power: The Origins of Democracy in India and Autocracy in Pakistan by Maya Tudor.

April 2011, Volume 22, Issue 2

Sri Lanka: From Turmoil to Dynasty

Having only recently emerged from a prolonged and remarkably bitter civil war, Sri Lanka is now slipping steadily under the hardening authoritarian control of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family.

January 2001, Volume 12, Issue 1

Pakistan’s Predicament

The military regime of General Musharraf has been less repressive than many had feared, but there is little sign that it is overcoming the deep-seated problems that led to the failure of Pakistani democracy.

July 2000, Volume 11, Issue 3

Is Pakistan the (Reverse) Wave of the Future?

Pakistan’s descent into authoritarian rule starkly depicts the “triple crisis of governance” that threatens many third-wave democracies. If these problems of governance are not addressed, a new “reverse wave” of democratization could be imminent.

July 1995, Volume 6, Issue 3

Venezuela Falters

A review of Strong Parties and Lame Ducks: Presidential Partyarchy and Factionalism in Venezuela, by Michael Coppedge and Democracy for the Privileged: Crisis and Transition in Venezuela, by Richard S. Hillman.