Is there a problem with democracy? Phil Parvin argues that the time has come to engage with the wealth of data that has emerged about citizens, their motivations, and their abilities, and take a clear-headed view about what democratic states can expect of them. A more representative politics, as opposed to a more participatory one, would better meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Since the election of Donald Trump, many have expressed their concern that the United States could slip into an authoritarian backslide. Emily Holland and Hadas Aron react to this claim, most notably asserted in Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt’s new book, ‘How Democracies Die,’ noting that the decline of one of the most stable, long-lasting democracies in the world can only be compared to the decline of other lasting, consolidated democracies, of which there are none.
How Democracies Die, a book by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, has been garnering much attention in recent weeks. The book warns about the possibility of a slide into American authoritarianism and draws lessons from the collapse of democracies around the world. This new release is part of an ongoing debate on whether Donald Trump is a grave danger to American democracy. Levitsky and Ziblatt are noted political scientists, with decades of important scholarship on democratic and authoritarian regimes. While the global review of cases of democratic decline is thorough and accurate, the comparisons they draw with the American case is part of an increasingly hysterical discourse on American politics by liberal commentators. The cases Levitsky and Ziblatt employ shed little light on current developments in American politics, and they neglect to identify the crucial international shifts leading to democratic decline in vulnerable countries. The United States is a long-standing, consolidated democracy and is not in immediate danger of collapse. However, pointing out the global climate of democratic decline and accurately identifying its causes is an important task.
The French presidential election has already produced high drama, with Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen ultimately advancing to the second round on 7 May. But were their parallels with the first round of voting and developments in other European countries? Caterina Froio draws together three key ways in which the election has reflected Western European trends, but argues that Macron’s ability to successfully oppose the establishment from within stands out as unique in the European context.
Democracy is in decline – or so a growing consensus suggests. Paul Schuler sets out the evidence for claims that people are turning to autocratic alternatives, and asks whether they necessarily show a loss of faith in democracy. He proposes some alternative measures that could establish whether people are genuinely willing to trade freedom for a ‘solution’ to anxieties about immigration, inequality and globalisation.
In America a right-wing populist has sparked debate about the state of American democracy, while European countries have increasing experience of populist radical right parties. The presence and popularity of these parties raises significant questions about their consequences for democracy, democratic legitimacy, and political participation. In a recent study, Tim Immerzeel and Mark Pickup examined the role of these parties for a specific indicator of the quality of democracy: voter turnout. Based on an analysis of 33 European countries in the period 2002-2012, they show that the presence and popularity attracts some people to the polling booth, while demotivating others.
Not all European parties are losing members, but those that are tend to be older and more institutionalised
Party membership is often cited as being uniformly in decline across European democracies. Based on results from a study of 47 parties in six European countries between 1960 and 2010, Ann-Kristin Kölln writes that while this is true for some parties, it is by no means true for all. She notes that almost a quarter of the parties contained in her study did not lose members over the observed period, with newer parties more likely to experience membership growth than older, more consolidated parties.
new piece by DAVID VAN REYBROUCK/Policy Network:
“Representative democracy is in crisis. Low voter turnout, abstention, falling party membership, and the phenomenal rise of populist parties – these are the symptoms of Democratic Fatigue Syndrome. Considering democratic innovation from classical Athens to present day, it becomes apparent that our democratic institutions haven’t been updated since the late 18th century. How to renew the centralised, hierarchical party system to reflect the horizontal power relationships of the hyper-connected, interactive society of the 21st century? A bi-representative system, combining elections with the democratic principle of sortition, or drawing of lots, could steer democracy into smoother waters”