Subject: Political culture

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April 2024, Volume 35, Issue 2

America’s Crisis of Civic Virtue

The problem for democracy today is not capitalism; it is a decline in public honesty and civility. But there is an opportunity to revive our sense of national community, if we seize it.

January 2024, Volume 35, Issue 1

Why Separatism Is No Match for Democracy

Separatists encounter a fundamental paradox: The very political flexibility that allows their aspirations to flourish in a democratic setting also provides the tools to snuff out their movements. It explains why they almost never succeed.

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April 2023, Volume 34, Issue 2

Iraq’s Mafia State

Although Saddam fell twenty years ago, the politicians who have come after him still think like Baathists. But a new generation has begun making itself heard. It believes in Iraq as a nation and it understands democracy as more than a source of spoils to be divided among groups.

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July 2022, Volume 33, Issue 3

How Zelensky Has Changed Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky is far more than a brave wartime leader. He began changing the tenor and direction of Ukrainian politics long before the people made him their president.

April 2022, Volume 33, Issue 2

Why Democracy Fuels Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories are not the sole preserve of dictatorships, but a global phenomenon. Worse, the political competition that is inherent to democracy is driving the spread of lies, fake schemes, and half-truths.

October 2021, Volume 32, Issue 4

The Age of Political Fragmentation

Just as public frustration with democracy is mounting across the West, social turmoil and new technologies are splintering the very political authority governments need to act.

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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

Japanese Democracy After Shinzo Abe

The retirement of the country’s longest-serving prime minister leaves in place a “continuity administration,” and with it some troubling questions about whether liberal democracy’s “soft guardrails” are being eroded.

October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

Can Egypt’s Democratic Hopes Be Revived?

In 2011–13, the undemocratic political outlook of both secular and Islamist actors helped to ensure the failure of democracy in Egypt. Today, the populace appears to have backed away from democratic demands, yet pockets of resilient activism offer a basis for hope.

July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Egyptian Youth’s Digital Dissent

The military-backed regime of President al-Sisi seems secure, but study of the Egyptian internet reveals that the regime has failed to win over the young.

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Catalonia: The Perils of Majoritarianism

Spain’s system of Autonomous Communities had functioned fairly smoothly for decades following the country’s democratic transition, but events in Catalonia are putting it under unprecedented strain.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: The Establishment Overreacts

Charges that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party threaten liberal-democratic safeguards are best understood as the overheated reaction of an insular elite that is still struggling to come to terms with its democratic displacement from power.

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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.

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Why Putinism Arose

Read the full essay here. This essay argues that the sources of the current revival of Russian authoritarianism lie in the country’s economic and political history. Among the major factors behind President Putin’s rise and consolidation of power, it cites an ideological overemphasis on the state that fosters hostility toward human rights and liberties; deeply…

April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

Southeast Asia: Voting Against Disorder

Rodrigo Duterte’s rise to the presidency of the Philippines reflects a broader trend in Southeast Asia of voters favoring politicians who elevate order above law. What does the history of “voting against disorder” in Indonesia and Thailand imply for the future of democracy in the Philippines?

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

Violence Against Women in Politics

The use of force and intimidation against women trying to take part in politics is a growing problem in many places. Such violence assumes a number of different forms, but all aim to keep women as women out of public life.

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

Tunisia’s Islamists and the “Turkish Model”

Ennahda has long felt an especially strong kinship with Turkey’s AKP, which has seen as representing a combination of piety, prosperity, and democratic credibility. How might their relationship be affected by the AKP's more recent authoritarian turn?

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Rise of “Localism” in Hong Kong

The September 2016 Legislative Council election marked the rise of a new political force that emphasizes the specific interests and identity of Hong Kong. It has especially been championed by many of the young people who swelled 2014’s Umbrella Movement protests.

July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

Hungary’s U-Turn: Retreating from Democracy

The great achievements of Hungary’s 1989–90 transition—including democracy, rule of law, market-oriented reform, and pluralism in intellectual life—are being dismantled as the world looks the other way.

July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

China After the Reform Era

The post–post-Mao era has now begun. The reforms that brought economic growth and greater openness to China are being unwound, while an assertive new leader strikes off in a populist and nationalist direction.

April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2

Millennials and East Asia’s Democratic Future

East Asia’s millennials have grown up in an age of rapid socioeconomic progress, allowing them to become better educated, more urbanized, and more technologically connected than previous generations. Will they use their collective power to become agents of democratic change?

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October 2014, Volume 25, Issue 4

From Politics to Protest

The protests that have been erupting around the world may signal the twilight of both the idea of revolution and the notion of political reformism.

October 2013, Volume 24, Issue 4

Democracy and the Quality of the State

What is the relationship between high-quality state administration and democracy? A look back at modern Greece and Italy, along with Germany and the United States, provides some insights.

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April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Democratization Theory and the “Arab Spring”

In light of the “Arab Spring,” how should students of democratic transition rethink the relation between religion and democracy; the nature of regimes that mix democratic and authoritarian features; and the impact of “sultanism” on prospects for democracy?

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April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Why Greece Failed

Greece was an early success story of the “third wave,” but since the 2008 financial crisis, it has become a poster child for the pains of austerity and unrest. Its troubles at one level are fiscal and economic, but there is a political dimension that may be even more critical.

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

Southeast Asia: In The Shadow of China

Given Southeast Asia’s relatively high level of socioeconomic development, we might expect it to be a showcase of democracy. Yet it is not. To grasp why, one must look to deeper factors of history and geography.

October 2012, Volume 23, Issue 4

European Disintegration? The Sources of Extremism

The EU is experiencing a somewhat paradoxical phenomenon: On the one hand, it has been a tremendously successful club, promoting democracy and open societies within its borders and in its neighborhoods. On the other hand, the language of national rivalry and of class struggle is re-entering public discourse, especially within the eurozone. 

October 2012, Volume 23, Issue 4

Politics in Crisis?

Although politics today is in critical condition—some even say it is dying—it is all the more important to revive it.

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

The Languages of the Arab Revolutions

The upheavals that have been shaking the Arab-Muslim world are revolutions in discourse as well as in the streets. Arabs are using not only traditional and religious vocabularies, but also a new set of expressions that are modern and represent popular aspirations.

April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

Southeast Asia: Thailand’s Uneasy Passage

In 2011, Thais reelected a party backed by deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Why is his brand of populism so irrepressible, and what can be done to reconcile the voting power of Thailand’s rural lower classes with the establishment dug in around the Thai monarchy?

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations

Of all the “Arab Spring” countries, so far only Tunisia has managed to make a transition to democracy. Tunisians now have a chance to show the world a new example of how religion, society, and the state can relate to one another under democratic conditions.

January 2011, Volume 22, Issue 1

The Split in Arab Culture

A powerful “salafist” public norm has taken root in the Arab world, becoming the main symbol of resistance to Westernization. At the same time, however, new cultural forces in the private domain are promoting a dynamic of secularization.

July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

The Rise of “State-Nations”

Must every state be a nation and every nation a state? Or should we look instead to the example of countries such as India, where one state holds together a congeries of “national” groups and cultures in a single and wisely conceived federal republic?

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April 2010, Volume 21, Issue 2

Democracy and Deep Divides

How do democracies deal with the deep divisions created by race, ethnicity, religion, and language? The cases of Canada, India, and the United States show that democratic institutions—notably, competitive elections and independent judiciaries—can bridge divides and build stability, but they must find a way to manage the tension between individual and group equality.

April 2010, Volume 21, Issue 2

What Makes Legislatures Strong?

A review of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey by M. Steven Fish and Matthew Kroenig, and Legislative Power in Emerging African Democracies edited by Joel D. Barkan.

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January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Populism, Pluralism, and Liberal Democracy

In recent years, scholars have begun to focus on the sources of "authoritarian resilience." But democracy has also shown surprising resilience, in part because the disorders to which it is prone tend to counteract each other.

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January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Why Are There No Arab Democracies?

Democracy has held its own or gained ground in just about every part of the world except for the Arab Middle East. Why has this crucial region remained such infertile soil for democracy?

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Democratic Triumph, Scholarly Pessimism

By any measure, democratization has achieved remarkable advances over the past twenty years. Why, then, have so many of the leading works written on the topic during this period been so full of gloom?

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: A New Rights Consciousness?

Read the full essay here. Despite the suppression of the Tiananmen Uprising of 1989, popular protest in China has by all accounts escalated steadily over the ensuing two decades. These protests have spread to virtually every sector of Chinese society, prompting more than a few observers to proclaim the emergence of a “rising rights consciousness”…

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: Rural Protest

Read the full essay here. Although China’s farmers did not play a large role in the 1989 protests, they have been quite contentious since. Rural unrest has been triggered in part by reforms and in part by savvy “peasant leaders” who quickly seize opportunities that appear. Recently, many protest leaders have concluded that tame forms…

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: Middle-Class Mobilization

Read the full essay here. Some of the many China stories to attract attention recently have involved NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) protests by largely middle class crowds gathering to demand a greater say in urban development plans. This article argues that such protests a) are a significant addition to the already complex landscape of…

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: Online Activism

Read the full essay here. Online activism is an integral part of the broader landscape of citizen activism in contemporary China. It assumes a variety of forms, from cultural and social activism to cyber-nationalism and online petitions and protests. Technological development and social transformation provide the basic structural conditions. A fledgling civil society of online…

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July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: Authoritarian Impermanence

Like all contemporary nondemocratic systems, the Chinese system suffers from weak legitimacy at the level of regime type. The most likely form of transition for China remains the model of Tiananmen, when three elements came together: a robust plurality of disaffected citizens, a catalytic event, and a split in the leadership. Had China chosen the…

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

Scottish Democracy in a Time of Nationalism

The Scottish National Party proposes to free Scotland from its supposed tutelage to London, but betrays habits of political centralism and elitism that raise questions about the quality of democracy an independent Scotland would enjoy.

July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

The Turnover in El Salvador

In March 2009, El Salvador saw its first peaceful alternation of power since independence, as the FMLN, a former guerilla movement that laid down its arms in 1992, finally won the presidency.

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April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Religion and Democracy

The secularization hypothesis has failed, and failed spectacularly. We must find a new paradigm to help us understand the complexities of the relationship between religion and democracy.