Is Democracy in Decline?

Issue Date January 2015
Volume 26
Issue 1
Page Numbers 5-10
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For 25 years, the Journal of Democracy has been “taking the temperature” of democracy around the globe. Here in our twenty-fifth anniversary issue, we feel compelled to confront head-on the question of whether democracy is in decline. Why? There are two aspects to the answer, which although intertwined are in some measure separable. The first deals with what is actually taking place on the ground: How many countries are democratic? Is their number rising or shrinking? What is the situation with respect to such liberal-democratic features as freedom of the press, rule of law, free and fair elections, and the like? The second, more subjective, aspect concerns the standing of democracy in the world: How is it viewed in terms of legitimacy and attractiveness? It is in this latter dimension that the evidence, or at least the widespread perception, of decline is most striking. Democracy’s supporters must undertake a clear-eyed appraisal of democracy’s current decline and summon the resolve and seriousness of purpose needed to reverse it.