In July 2016 and January 2017, the Journal of Democracy published two articles on “democratic deconsolidation” by Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk. These essays not only generated a great deal of commentary in the media, but also stimulated numerous responses from scholars focusing on Foa and Mounk’s analysis of the survey data that is at the heart of their argument.
Several prominent experts approached the Journal asking if we would publish their critiques of the Foa and Mounk articles. This created a dilemma for us. Given our space constraints and our commitments to authors writing on other topics, there was no way we could publish these critiques quickly enough to keep pace with discussion in other forums.
Moreover, given their extensive reliance on graphics and the necessarily technical character of arguments about the interpretation of survey data, there was no way that we could accommodate these critiques within the usual confines of our print issues. The Journal has always sought to make its articles reader-friendly to non-academics. Accordingly, we strictly limit the length of articles and avoid extensive use of graphics and endnotes. We also edit articles intensively and with great care to make them as accessible as we can to political practitioners and activists, as well as to a general audience. It would have been an insuperable task, especially given our small editorial staff, to try to adhere to these standards with regard to these critiques of Foa and Mounk.
Therefore, in a departure from our usual practice, we have decided to make three of these critiques—by Amy C. Alexander and Christian Welzel; Pippa Norris; and Erik Voeten—available to readers exclusively on our website, along with a reply by Foa and Mounk. The three critiques and the reply may be viewed below.
Our regular readers will note that they do not resemble typical Journal of Democracy articles. They have not been condensed or edited by us, and they contain extensive graphics. An advantage of presenting them solely online, however, is that we are able to display these graphics in full and in a much more readable form than would be possible in our print edition.
We are pleased to be able to make available in this way a timely discussion of some of the important issues raised by the Foa and Mounk articles, and we hope that interested scholars will find this exchange useful. As is the case with all articles in the Journal, our parent organization, the National Endowment for Democracy, does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here, which are those of the authors.
–The Editors, 28 April 2017 (updated 26 June 2017)