Subject: Democratic decline

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April 2024, Volume 35, Issue 2

Power, Performance, and Legitimacy

Around the world, democracy has lost steam. If we are to regain the momentum, we must harness these essential elements and wage the struggle with the conviction that the times demand.

April 2024, Volume 35, Issue 2

Indonesia’s High-Stakes Handover

Indonesians have just elected a former general accused of human-rights abuses, with little respect for democratic institutions. The country’s democracy has not failed, but it may soon be fighting for its life.

October 2023, Volume 34, Issue 4

Democracy’s Surprising Resilience

Despite worry of an authoritarian resurgence, the vast majority of “third wave” democracies are enduring. Democracy, buoyed by economic growth and urbanization, is outperforming most people’s expectations or fears.

October 2023, Volume 34, Issue 4

The Rise of Theocratic Democracy

Theocratic democracy, the de facto grand bargain between religious groups and political leaders, offers key insights into the relationship between faith, freedom, and the global democratic recession.

July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

How Oppositions Fight Back

Behind today’s authoritarian wave are democratically elected leaders who use and abuse institutions to undermine the system that brought them to power. But with the right strategies, opposition forces can slow or stop these would-be autocrats.

July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

Is India Still a Democracy?

In this symposium, the Journal of Democracy brings together leading scholars of India to perform a biopsy on the state of that country’s fragile democracy, and to offer us a prognosis for its future.

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July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

Why India’s Democracy Is Dying

Under Narendra Modi, India is maintaining the trappings of democracy while it increasingly harasses the opposition, attacks minorities, and stifles dissent. It can still reverse course, but the damage is mounting.

July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

Modi’s Undeclared Emergency

Since the beginning of the second Modi government, an emboldened BJP has launched a steady, comprehensive, and unprecedented attack on civil liberties, personal rights, and free speech across India.

July 2023, Volume 34, Issue 3

The Exaggerated Death of Indian Democracy

It is true that politics under the BJP is a break from the past. But attempts to reduce the country’s present condition to democratic backsliding misunderstands the moment and is an injustice to India’s journey as a democracy.

April 2023, Volume 34, Issue 2

The Iraq War and Democratic Backsliding

The global democratic decline of the last two decades is rarely discussed in the same breath with the 2003 decision by the United States and Britain to invade Iraq. But the roots of our present disorder can be traced to that disastrous and foolhardy war of choice.

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October 2022, Volume 33, Issue 4

Debate: Why Democracies Survive

Democracies are under stress, but they are not about to buckle. The erosion of norms and other woes do not spell democratic collapse. With incredibly few exceptions, affluent democracies will endure, no matter the schemes of would-be autocrats.

October 2022, Volume 33, Issue 4

Debate: The Danger Is Real

Analysis that subtly defines away problems is not going to help democracies survive the threats they now face. The fear is warranted.

October 2022, Volume 33, Issue 4

Debate: Questioning Backsliding

It is no easy feat to agree on how democratic backsliding should be measured. No surprise scholars are coming up with strikingly different results.

October 2022, Volume 33, Issue 4

Debate: A Quiet Consensus

We welcome the common ground. The challenge ahead is to protect democracies genuinely in peril, while not losing valuable time and resources chasing authoritarian ghosts.

January 2022, Volume 33, Issue 1

Coup in Tunisia: Transition Arrested

Tunisia’s once-promising democratic transition had long failed to de-liver on its promises. It was a crisis waiting to be exploited. Kais Saied is simply the man who set it aflame.

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.

October 2021, Volume 32, Issue 4

India’s Endangered Democracy

Shortcomings in governance and electoral administration may be accelerating India’s slide to autocracy. Were these flaws embedded in Indian democracy from the start?

April 2021, Volume 32, Issue 2

Tanzania: The Authoritarian Landslide

With brutal resolve, the ruling party sought not merely to win an election, but to annihilate the opposition. Now, with President John Magufuli gone, that strategic rationale will likely only grow stronger.

April 2021, Volume 32, Issue 2

Uganda’s Fraudulent Election

Longtime president Yoweri Museveni, his ruling party, and his increasingly militarized regime opened 2021 with a grossly unfair election. But time may be on the side of Uganda’s young voters and their hunger for change.

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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

The End of the Backsliding Paradigm

Like the “transition paradigm” before it, the concept of democratic backsliding threatens to flatten our perceptions of complex political realities. Examples from East-Central Europe illustrate the ambiguous dynamics at play in many troubled democracies.

January 2021, Volume 32, Issue 1

Sri Lanka: The Return to Ethnocracy

The return to power, via elections, of the Rajapaksa family signals the consolidation of a Sinhalese Buddhist ethnocracy. But there are reasons to hope it will not take a turn toward full despotism.

October 2020, Volume 31, Issue 4

Covid vs. Democracy: India’s Illiberal Remedy

India’s covid-19 response has accelerated the country’s slide toward competitive authoritarian rule by centralizing decision making, undermining federalism, and providing new pretexts for stifling dissent.

July 2020, Volume 31, Issue 3

A Glimpse of the Way Forward

For all the concern over authoritarianism’s advance, the competence of governance may be what determines the next chapter in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship.

July 2020, Volume 31, Issue 3

South Korea’s Democratic Decay

Although South Korea is praised for its success at fighting covid-19, the triumph came at a cost to rights and privacy, and is drawing attention away from a larger drift toward illiberalism and bitterly factionalized politics.

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

30 Years of World Politics: What Has Changed?

Democracies are grappling with an era of transformation: Identity is increasingly replacing economics as the major axis of world politics. Technological change has deepened social fragmentation, and trust in institutions is falling. As our most basic assumptions come under question, can liberal democracy rebuild itself?

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January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

The End of History Revisited

Is liberal democracy the endpoint of history? The ongoing democratic recession, growing disaffection among citizens, and rising populism pose new challenges to this view. Yet testing Francis Fukuyama’s much-criticized thesis requires us to consider not only liberal democracy’s internal contradictions, but also those of its authoritarian rivals.

January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

The Instinct for Freedom

The mass protests that have taken place in 2019 in Hong Kong and elsewhere show that people’s desire for liberty cannot be extinguished.

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July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Polarization versus Democracy

Why do ordinary people vote to return to office undemocratic incumbents? New survey experiments in several countries suggest that many voters are willing to put their partisan interests above democratic principles—a finding that may be key to understanding democratic backsliding.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

India Under Modi: Threats to Pluralism

In the world’s largest democracy, liberalism is in retreat, as evidenced by a pattern of assaults on minorities, press freedom, and the independence of key cultural and intellectual institutions.

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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.

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Populist Challenge to Liberal Democracy

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. 

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April 2018, Volume 29, Issue 2

The Undemocratic Dilemma

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.

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Liberal Democracy’s Fading Allure

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.

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Eroding Norms and Democratic Deconsolidation

“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. 

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April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

The 2016 U.S. Election: The Populist Moment

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?

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January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Signs of Deconsolidation

Political scientists have long assumed that “democratic consolidation” is a one-way street, but survey evidence of declining support for democracy from across the established democracies suggests that deconsolidation is a genuine danger.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

On Democratic Backsliding

Old-fashioned military coups and blatant election-day fraud are becoming mercifully rarer these days, but other, subtler forms of democratic regression are a growing problem that demands more attention.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

While “autocracy promotion” presents a real danger, its influence so far has been limited. Because authoritarian regimes are concerned first with furthering their own interests, their interventions often have contradictory effects, sometimes even inadvertently fostering greater pluralism.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

Transition Leaders Speak

A review of Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, edited by Sergio Bitar and Abraham F. Lowenthal.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Is Democracy in Decline?

As the Journal of Democracy celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, there are serious reasons to worry about the state of democracy.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Weight of Geopolitics

Can democracy prosper when democratic countries are in geopolitical retreat? History cautions against the notion that democracy will inevitably prevail.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Crisis and Transition, But Not Decline

Rather than being in decline, democracy is in crisis due to the gap between the democratic ideal and how democracy is actually being practiced. It will survive by transitioning into a new, as yet unknown, form.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Myth of Democratic Recession

In contrast to the conventional wisdom that democracy is in retreat worldwide, the evidence tells a different story: The state of global democracy has been stable over the last decade and is actually better than it was in the 1990s.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Facing Up to the Democratic Recession

Democracy has been in a global recession for most of the last decade, and committed and resourceful engagement by the established democracies is necessary to reverse this trend.