Why is Democracy Performing So Poorly?



Journal of Democracy
26, Number 1
Page numbers: 

The author argues that democracy seems to be in trouble in many parts of the world and that the building of democratic institutions - such as regularly contested, free and multi-party elections - is only one part of transitioning to a stable, well-functioning democracy.

Also required, he argues, are the rule of law and a well-resourced, well-trained government that is capable of delivering the broad range of goods and services expected in today's complex world. The author argues that of these three elements, the building of democratic institutions is in fact the easiest. Less well understood is how to build a modern, effective state.

Fukuyama notes that many democracy-promotion efforts, both by established democracies and NGOs, focus on inclusion and transparency as the keys to good governance. However, he believes there is little empirical evidence to support this approach and the most successful modern states were built while electoral rights were very limited or under outright authoritarian conditions.

Failure to govern well leads to disappointed citizens and delegitimises the concept of democracy itself. Fukuyama calls for more research on this topic and for those involved in democracy-promotion to place greater emphasis on state-building.


Thumbnail image: Francis Fukuyama. By Andrew Newton/Flickr.

Francis Fukuyama

Stanford University

Published Date
January 1, 2015