Is Democracy in Decline?
The Journal of Democracy dedicates its first issue of 2015 to the question of 'Is Democracy in Decline?'. Co-founding editor Marc Plattner notes the decreasing pessimism about democracy in the 25 years since the Journal's founding.
He separates the question into two related, yet still distinct, categories:
- What is actually happening on the ground regarding the number of democratic countries worldwide and how do they score on various measures of democratisation? Global data generally points to stasis or modest decline.
- What is democracy's standing in the world? Is it still perceived as best practice and is it viewed as a legitimate and attractive form of government? The recent decline in this area is striking.
The author identifies three 'sources of doubt' on democracy:
- A growing sense that the advanced democracies are delivering poor economic and political performance, particularly in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis;
- The new self-confidence and seeming vitality of some authoritarian countries, particularly China but also Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela;
- The shifting geopolitical balance as non-democratic regimes raise their defence spending, deploy the tools of 'soft power' and increasingly cooperate to thwart democracy.
The Journal has coined the cumulative effect of these trends an 'authoritarian resurgence'. Plattner notes democracy's many strengths and calls on its supporters to 'undertake a clear-eyed appraisal of its current decline and summon the resolve and seriousness of purpose needed to reverse it'.
Thumbnail image: US Capitol Building. Rob Shenk/Flickr