Skip to main content

2022 | Buch

Democracy under Pressure

Resilience or Retreat?


Über dieses Buch

This book identifies the main factors shaping the fortunes of democracy globally. Why do some democracies in the same region and presumably subject to similar global influences remain stable while others regress? This is the question guiding all the authors of this edited book. In the search for answers, they examine 16 democracies in paired and tripled comparisons in sub-Saharan Africa, North and Latin America, East Asia, Western and Central Europe, along with two polar cases. Insights from the perspectives of history, political science, economics and international relations are offered along with a sketch of possible future scenarios. Combining approaches anchored in the analytical tradition with empirical case studies and given the broad range of topics, this book is bound to be of interest not only to students and practitioners of democracy but also to the broader academic and general readership.



A New World?

Chapter 1. Quo Vadis Democracy?
This introduction sets the volume in the context of an on-going research programme conducted by members of the former Transformation Research Unit (TRU), now a Centre for Research on Democracy CREDO, based at Stellenbosch University in South Africa (As of January 2022, TRU has been succeeded by CREDO, which continues the research programme of its predecessors. All the authors of this book are now Research Associates of CREDO). The introductory remarks present the research background to this, the latest output in a series of systematic cross-cultural studies of democracy conducted since the 1990s. The opening remarks sketch the structure of the volume, introduce the common to all authors conceptual framework and present the main topics as well as the analytical design of the empirical section. The introduction also offers a graphic depiction of the major current challenges to democracy as discussed in the book.
Ursula van Beek
Chapter 2. From the End of History to the End of the World? A Tale of Unforeseen Global Changes
This chapter takes the fall of the Berlin Wall as its point of departure, and from there it traces a trajectory of unforeseen developments that have led from the erstwhile global optimism to the dramatic shift in mood just three short decades later. The key questions posed are: What global developments that were unforeseen then can account for the much more sombre ambience, pessimism or even alarmism today; and what impact does this have on democracy? The questions are addressed on the assumption that the evolution of democracy in individual countries is determined not only by domestic factors but also by global circumstances. The unforeseen areas discussed include digital revolution; decline of multilateralism and rise of nationalism; migrations; economic inequalities; global balance of power and climate change. The spread of COVID-19, while not a totally unforeseen development, has had implications for the nexus between these global changes and democracy, as briefly discussed in the chapter.
Christer Jönsson
Chapter 3. Will This Time Be Different? Effects of Large-Scale Technological Change in Advanced Democracies
Technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing and cloud computing have the potential to bring far-reaching change to work, production and many aspects of human living. Indeed, these innovations already may have initiated a period of disruptive change in the world economy. It transpired during previous major epochs of technological change that robust democratic systems and complementary institutions to mitigate tensions and risks are particularly important during such periods. It follows that the pressures now experienced in many democracies are likely to hinder management of the effects of ongoing technological changes. Another complicating factor is that the effects of these changes and other economic developments seem to be aggravating the pressures on democratic systems. Hence, this chapter argues that effective management of these challenges requires attention to the resilience of democratic institutions as well as appropriate policy responses to disruptive effects of technological changes.
Krige Siebrits
Chapter 4. Back to the Future: The Rise of Nationalist Populism
This chapter addresses the questions of how and why populism is gaining traction in many countries around the world, and whether the underlying fragmenting tribal instincts that characterise it can conceivably find accommodation with the opposite dynamic of globalisation that exemplifies unification. Of key interest is the relationship between populism, nationalism and politics of identity as a factor bearing on the well-being of democracy. The chapter further explores two concepts of democracy in the context of populism that are ultimately irreconcilable, namely, the logic of liberalism that protects individual freedoms and the rule of law, versus electoral contestation over the sovereignty of the people, whom the populists regard as a homogeneous collective and claim to represent. This topic is explored by tracing the rise of right-wing populism in Poland and Turkey, two countries of core interest to this volume that manifest the most advanced forms of retreat from liberal democracy.
Ursula van Beek

Empirical Assessments: Global and Regional Developments

Chapter 5. Macro- And Micro-Level Analyses
This chapter introduces the following empirical part of the volume of paired and triple comparisons of contrasting cases of democracies set in various regional contexts, as well as two polar cases. A brief literature encompasses the period from the high hopes at the onset of the ‘Third Wave’ to the gradual erosion, stagnation or breakdown of some democracies and causes thereof. This chapter follows a mixed research design taking account of both the broader global developments and the more detailed regional and case-based ones. Macro-level analyses draw on the most recent Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) data set, the Human Development Index (HDI) and World Bank Governance indicators, and similar sources. Micro-level attitudes and perceptions are assessed using data from the World Values Surveys (WVS) and the ‘European Values Study’ (EVS) for all countries where at least two waves of surveys have been conducted during the last two decades.
Ursula Hoffmann-Lange, Dirk Berg-Schlosser

Empirical Assessments: Paired and Triple Comparisons

Chapter 6. Political Culture in Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Democratic Values in South Africa and Kenya
This chapter starts with an introduction on the subject of democratic backsliding, followed by a review of data to establish if, and if so to what extent, freedom and democracy are regressing generally, and in Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. The focus falls on political culture and democratic values as indicators of the strength of democracy. Starting with an overview of the region to provide context for comparing South Africa and Kenya, the chapter offers a brief overview of the political histories and democratic governance in both countries. The analytical section starts at the macro-level but moves on to the micro-level on the assumption that democratic institutions must be supported by a corresponding democratic political culture if democracy is to flourish. For this part of the analyses, the study relies on data from Afrobarometer and constructs its argument using a hierarchical model that distinguishes between a political system and attitudinal constructs.
Cindy Steenekamp, Catherine Musuva
Chapter 7. United States–Canada: The Two Overlapping Democratic Trajectories in North America
This chapter compares the democratisation trajectories of two of the oldest and most venerable of the world’s ‘really existing’ democracies—Canada and the United States. It adopts a long run ‘Comparative Political Development’ perspective which places twenty-first-century variations within a broad and configurative context. These two large federal regimes of recent settlement have many crucial structural and cultural features in common, and both belong clearly within the established democracy subset of countries. Yet they also display some very significant contrasts—presidential versus parliamentary; inflected by the legacy of slavery versus anglophone ascendancy over francophones; and much more. The chapter provides a critical re-reading and updating of Lipset, Continental Divide: The Values and Institutions of the United States and Canada, Routledge, 1990 study of these matters and traces the diverging trends of democratic slippage in the USA versus deepening in Canada. Notwithstanding these divergences, it resists the tendency to over-dramatise recent events, or to extrapolate them too far. Both cases belong within the overall TRU framework.
Laurence Whitehead
Chapter 8. Argentina–Chile–Uruguay: Comparing Trajectories of Democratisation in Latin America’s Southern Cone
Chile and Uruguay are generally considered the two more high quality democracies in South America. In this paired comparison, Argentina is also included as a shadow case, and also has fair democratic credentials, although its sources of weakness are quite distinctive. Until very recently the scholarly consensus rated Chile best of all, but in this three-way comparison Uruguay emerges as displaying the most positive trajectory. Very recently the social explosion in Chile in 2019, followed by the ensuing referendum on the convening of a Constituent Assembly, has generated a wider reassessment of that republic’s political status. This chapter aims to show that the flaws in Chile’s democratisation stretch right back to the 1980s. Both Argentina and Uruguay re-democratised before Chile and broke more clearly with their military dictatorships. This chapter pinpoints the oddities of the Chilean trajectory and highlights Uruguay’s advantages compared to its neighbours.
Laurence Whitehead
Chapter 9. Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines: Asian Values, Political Parties and Democratic Support
This chapter examines three democracies that adhere to traditional Asian culture and have experienced similar political transitions from authoritarianism under their respective ruling parties at approximately the same time. The study focuses on the mutual accommodation mechanism between Asian cuture and political parties as a factor influencing support for democratic regimes. The study first examines the problem Asian parties encouter when applying democratic ideas to non-Western polities, and then assesses to what extent and in what manner Asian culture influences the function of political parties in these three young democracies. Following a review of political parties and party system in the three democracies, this chapter then focuses on core features of Asian culture, chiefly family values and their relationship with political parties. The emprical section looks at factors associated with support for democratic regimes and explainins the mutual accommodation mechanism between culture and political parties in the three cases.
Dennis L. C. Weng
Chapter 10. Democracy Under Pressure? Support of Democracy in Germany and Italy
This chapter examines the question of whether democracy in Germany and Italy is being challenged by populist parties. The investigation relies on a theoretical model structuring support for democracy at the levels of support for democracy as an ideal, support for a democratic regime and support for political parties. The main focus falls on the latter, that is, on the political actors who aspire to hold power. The empirical analyses that follow aim to establish the extent of support at the three levels for both countries, considering developments on the political scene in each case that could explain the rise of political parties and movements. The overall aim is to find out if, and if so, to what extent populist parties, especially those with right-wing roots, represent a danger to democracy in the two compared Western European countries.
Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Ebru Canan-Sokullu
Chapter 11. Post-Communist Democracies in Decline? Estonia and Poland Compared
After what seemed to be a triumphal return to democracy for so many countries of Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, the past decade witnessed a backlash involving both democratic attitudes and governance in the region. This chapter offers a paired comparison of Estonia and Poland as examples of a more resilient and a more marred democracy, respectively. The analysis first traces the two countries’ democratic development since 2005 using Nations in Transit and Varieties of Democracy datasets, which indicate areas where democratic governance has particularly declined in Poland. Thereafter, the study turns to attitudinal indicators, showing that satisfaction with democracy increased just as democratic institutions have begun to be undermined by populist political forces. This chapter, along with many others in this volume, makes a methodological contribution by juxtaposing institutional and attitudinal data in the analysis of democratic development, something increasingly called for in the literature.
Vello Pettai

Empirical Assessments: Polar Cases

Chapter 12. Adaptive Democracy in Times of Crisis: Lessons From Sweden
This chapter traces democracy in Sweden during the past decade and looks at factors that might conceivably make this democracy more vulnerable in the future. It assesses stability and change in Swedish democracy at the level of central institutions and the party system in view of the emergence of the right-wing anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party and the challenges this poses for Swedish political parties in general. In particular, the challenge of remaining representative in the face of competition by parties considered to be anti-democratic and developing workable interaction by crafting new political alliances. The chapter then goes on to assess Swedish democracy in the wider context of globalisation, digitalisation, increasing global inequality and the individualisation of political cultures, factors commonly explaining the backsliding of democracy by asking why Sweden, despite being highly sometimes uniquely exposed to these processes, does not show signs of weakening of its democracy.
Hans Agné, Tommy Möller
Chapter 13. Varieties of Turkish Democracy: A Progress in Reverse
This chapter argues that Turkish democracy has swung from democratic improvement to retreat over the past two decades under the populist and autocratic rule of consecutive Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi—AKP) governments. It offers a holistic perspective that encompasses deteriorating political indicators versus a popular determination to keep the country on the democratic track, while also considering changes in foreign policy. To this end, the chapter first unpacks the structural vectors of democratic retreat in terms of domestic change in authority structures, namely the removal of military tutelage, the rise of populism and authoritarian capitalism; and second, it identifies Turkish public support for democracy through a hierarchical analysis of World Values Survey (Waves 3–7) data at individual level and V-Dem data (1994–2019) at the aggregate level.
Ebru Canan-Sokullu

Cross-Area Findings

Chapter 14. Patterns and Prospects
This chapter compares the 16 cases presented above across all the relevant regions, proceeding in several stages. First, using Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA)—a method found to be well-suited for a systematic comparison of a small to medium number of cases—different configurations and patterns of conditions are identified. This is followed by a review of some social-structural and political conditions utilising definitions and sources from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) codebook. The following micro-level analyses determine variables influencing support for democracy in the countries under review utilising the International Value Survey (IVS) data set to measure respondents’ evaluation of democracy vis-à-vis authoritarian regimes, and to evaluate pro-choice orientations. This chapter then offers an assessment of the overall democratic resilience in all the cases at both the institutional and the respective political-cultural levels. The final section considers the meso-level with its main focus on political parties.
Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Ursula Hoffmann-Lange


Chapter 15. The Return of History
This chapter summarises and assesses the contribution of the empirical findings presented in Part II of this book. It offers a review of the overall conditions generating problems for democracy today and describes the methodological approaches taken to evaluate these problems on the global scale and in the regionally bounded cases studies. This chapter then refers to the liberal democracy index and the index of support for democracy as the major indicators of resilience or retreat and offers an outline of case studies findings. The contribution concludes with a comparative assessment of democracies versus autocracies.
Hans-Dieter Klingemann, Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Ursula Hoffmann-Lange, Ursula van Beek
Chapter 16. Looking Ahead: Democracy and Modernity
The aim of this concluding chapter is to revisit the unforeseen adverse conditions that have emerged in the global context within which democracies operate introduced in the opening chapter of this volume. The objective here is to elaborate how some of these conditions mesh with one another to form the combined multi-dimensional collective action problem of modernity itself, with a primary focus on the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim is to re-emphasise the need for collective decision-making at the highest level to reconfigure fundamentally the relationship between humans and their natural environment and to rethink democracy as a system of rule. The case will be made for the need for incentives and rewards for free riding to be drastically reduced and to emphasise that future costs of failure to act collectively now could be dire and should galvanise elected leaders (and others) into inducing this self-negating prediction.
Pierre du Toit
Democracy under Pressure
herausgegeben von
Ursula van Beek
Electronic ISBN
Print ISBN

Premium Partner