For almost a decade, Freedom House’s annual survey has highlighted a decline in democracy in most regions of the globe. Some analysts say this shows that the world has entered a "democratic recession." Others dispute that interpretation, emphasizing democracy’s success in maintaining the huge gains it made during the last quarter of the twentieth century.
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.
In 2017, the state of political rights and civil liberties around the world sunk to its lowest point in more than a decade. While the democratic powers grappled with their own internal problems, leading autocrats expanded their global efforts to undermine democratic institutions.
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.
Democracy’s retreat is real, yet alarmist reports of a global demise or crisis of democracy are not warranted.
“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.
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.
Analogies with interwar Europe are often misdirected. In the 1920s and 1930s, regime breakdowns occurred in struggling new democracies, but established democratic systems exhibited remarkable endurance.
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?
In 2016, established democracies figured prominently on the list of countries experiencing declines in freedom, while emboldened autocracies stepped up their repression at home and interference abroad.