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  • Author: Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Until a few years ago, many argued that liberal democracy was the most just and attractive political regime. The most prominent manifestation of this optimism was Francis Fukuyama’s thesis of the “end of history.” Ironically, many of the same social scientists who dismissed Fukuyama’s work out of hand at the time were themselves committed to equally far-reaching assumptions. Now, as the tides of history are rapidly turning, the hypotheses of theory are being reversed. Indeed, some authors today predict that as the conditions that made liberal democracy possible fade away, it is likely to be supplanted by illiberal democracy, competitive authoritarianism, or outright dictatorship. Such conclusions risk being just as rash as the more optimistic ones that preceded them.
  • Topic: Democracy, Populism, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Francis Fukuyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Since the publication of the Journal of Democracy began in 1990, the political climate has shifted from one of democratic gains and optimism to what Larry Diamond labels a “democratic recession.” Underlying these changes has been a reorientation of the major axis of political polarization, from a left-right divide defined largely in economic terms toward a politics based on identity. In a second major shift, technological development has had unexpected effects—including that of facilitating the rise of identity-based social fragmentation. The environment for democracy has been further transformed by other slow-moving changes, among them the shift toward neoliberal economic policies, the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lowered expectations regarding democratic transitions. Sustaining democracy will require rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy, while resisting those powers that aspire to make nondemocratic institutions central.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Legitimacy, Democratic Decline
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ronald J. Deibert
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Social media have been battered in recent years by growing concerns about disinformation, privacy breaches, and the spread of harmful speech. This article itemizes the problems surrounding social media and political authority in the form of “three painful truths”—so termed because, although there is an emerging consensus around these points, many people are reluctant to squarely acknowledge the depth of the problems and the fundamental changes that would be required to mitigate them. The first painful truth is that the social-media business is built around personal-data surveillance, with products ultimately designed to spy on us in order to push advertising in our direction. The second painful truth is that we have consented to this, but not entirely wittingly: Social media are designed as addiction machines, expressly programmed to draw upon our emotions. The third painful truth is that the attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media also propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability. Moreover, the fine-grained surveillance that companies perform for economic reasons is a valuable proxy for authoritarian control.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Social Media, Surveillance, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Milan W. Svolik
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: When can we realistically expect ordinary people to check the authoritarian ambitions of elected politicians? An answer to this question is key to understanding the most prominent development in the dynamic of democratic survival since the end of the Cold War: the subversion of democracy by elected incumbents and its emergence as the most common form of democratic breakdown. This article proposes an explanation according to which political polarization undermines the public’s ability to serve as a democratic check: In polarized electorates, voters are willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan interests. The article presents evidence that supports this claim; raises questions about the real-world relevance of conventional measures of support for democracy; and highlights the importance of understanding the role that ordinary people play in democratic backsliding.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Polarization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sheri Berman, Maria Snegovaya
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Across Europe and many other parts of the world, traditional parties of the left seem to be in terminal decline. While there are many reasons for this, we argue that the most important was the left’s shift to the center on economic issues during the late twentieth century. Although this shift made some sense in the short-term, over the long-term it had deleterious, perhaps even fatal, consequences: It watered down the left’s distinctive historical profile; rendered socialist and social-democratic parties unable to take advantage of widespread discontent over the fallout from neoliberal reforms and the 2008 financial crisis; created incentives for parties to emphasize cultural and social rather than economic or class appeals; and undermined the representative nature of democracy. The shift in the left’s economic profile, in short, deserves center stage in any account of its decline. Moreover, this shift and its consequences have been crucial to the rise of a nativist, populist right and to the broader problems facing democracy today in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as other parts of the world.
  • Topic: Democracy, Populism, Liberalism, Leftist Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Amichai Magen
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Global rates of terrorism have skyrocketed since 9/11, yet the aggregate increase tells us very little about the distribution of attacks across different regime types. Contrary to the traditional scholarly view and popular perceptions in the West, reasonably high-quality democracies enjoy a robust and growing “triple democracy advantage” in facing the scourge of post-9/11 terrorism. Not only are liberal democracies and polyarchies less prone to terrorist attacks than all other regime types, but the rate of increase in the number of attacks among these democracies is substantially lower in comparison to other regime types, and they are significantly better at minimizing casualties.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, War on Terror
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alexander Cooley, John Heathershaw, J.C. Sharman
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: A growing body of analysis has explored how kleptocrats systematically capture and loot their domestic state institutions, but scholars and policy makers have paid less attention to how globalization enables grand corruption, as well as the laundering of kleptocrats’ finances and reputations. Shell companies and new forms of international investment, such as luxury real-estate purchases, serve to launder the ill-gotten gains of kleptocrats and disimbed them from their country of origin. Critically, this normalization of “everyday kleptocracy” depends heavily on transnational professional intermediaries: Western public-relations agents, lobbyists and lawyers help to recast kleptocrats as internationally respected businesspeople and philanthropic cosmopolitans. The resulting web of relationships makes up a “transnational uncivil society,” which bends global-governance institutions to work in its favor.
  • Topic: Corruption, Normalization, Kleptocracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Over the past decades, the ability of liberal democracies around the world to translate popular views into public policy has declined. This is a result of two major developments: Legislatures have become less reflective of popular opinion because of the growing role of money in politics. At the same time, they have also become less powerful because of the growing importance of bureaucratic agencies, central banks, judicial review, free trade, and international institutions. But there are no easy solutions, since some of these institutions are needed to meet high expectations on government performance. The “technocratic dilemma” thus poses a real threat to liberal democracy’s ability to meet the public’s twin demands of responsiveness and performance.
  • Topic: Economics, Governance, Democracy, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ivan Krastev, Stephen Holmes
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: For countries emerging from communism, the post-1989 imperative to “be like the West” has generated discontent and even a “return of the repressed,” as the region feels old nationalist stirrings and new demographic pressures. The origins of the region’s current illiberalism are emotional and preideological, rooted in rebellion at the humiliations that accompany a project requiring acknowledgment of a foreign culture as superior to one’s own. Further contributing to illiberalism in the region is a largely unspoken preoccupation with demographic collapse—resulting from aging populations, low birth rates, and massive outmigration—which manifests as a fear that the arrival of unassimilable foreigners will dilute national identities and weaken national cohesion.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Post Cold War, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Democracies can collapse or erode beyond repair, but they can also suffer substantial yet “non-fatal” deterioration in the quality of democratic institutions, and then experience a rebound. Such “near misses” have received little or no attention in the new wave of scholarship on why democracies die (or survive). This article develops the concept of a democratic near miss. It first considers numerical metrics of democratic quality as a means of identifying near misses, but finds that these metrics provide inconsistent and conflicting guidance. Instead, this essay uses a case study method—focusing on Finland in 1930, Colombia in 2010, and Sri Lanka in 2015—to capture the dynamics of democratic near misses. These cases suggest that nonmajoritarian actors, including political-party elites and unelected judges and bureaucrats, have a critical role to play in averting democratic erosion.
  • Topic: Culture, Military Affairs, Democracy, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Finland, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Global Focus