perceived mishandling of the economy and its inability to address the devastation of the 2007–2008 global financial crisis.
n cases of grievance-fueled illiberalism, a political figure mobilizes a grievance, claims that the grievance is being perpetuated by the existing political system, and argues that it is necessary to dismantle democratic norms and institutions to redress the underlying wrongs.
Opportunistic authoritarians, by contrast, come to power via conventional political appeals but later turn against democracy for the sake of personal political survival.
In still other backsliding cases, entrenched interest groups—generally the military—that were displaced by a democratic transition use undemocratic means to reassert their claims to power.
This paper identifies and analyzes three distinct types of backsliding efforts: grievance-fueled illiberalism, opportunistic authoritarianism, and entrenched-interest revanchism.
Although motivations and methods differ across backsliding efforts, a key commonality among them is their relentless focus on undermining countervailing governmental and nongovernmental institutions that are designed to keep them in check.
Moreover, they should deepen their differentiation of strategies to take account of the diverse motivations and methods among the three main patterns of backsliding.
Democratic backsliding is an overwhelming fact of contemporary global politics. Democracy’s retreat across dozens of countries in multiple regions has forced a reckoning with once-favored notions about democracy’s inevitable spread, its intuitive appeal, and its inherent value.
Some would point the finger at Russia and China, arguing that their support for autocrats and efforts to undermine democratic governments are a decisive factor.2
Others would highlight the role of technology, citing the host of ways in which digital developments, from the exponential growth of social media to the rise of enhanced forms of surveillance, may be hurting democracy.3
Still others would underline domestic sources of discontent, emphasizing socioeconomic factors like rising inequality and anemic economic growth.4
The rise of populism and intensifying political polarization would also likely receive some blame.5
The democratic recession also includes two related phenomena: first, the hardening of autocratic rule in countries that have moved from some form of partial or soft authoritarianism to a harder form of authoritarianism (as in Belarus and Cambodia in recent years) and second, democratic tremors, where the rise of illiberal forces in a democracy causes concern about the system’s health but does not bring about the systemic changes necessary to seriously erode it (as with the rise of right-wing populist parties in Germany and Sweden).
In order to be classified as a democratic backslider, a country needs to meet two conditions: it must have achieved a significant level of democracy and then experienced significant erosion of democratic institutions.
Regarding the former, we take a relatively inclusive approach, considering a country to have reached a significant level of democracy when at least two major democracy indices described the country as being at least an electoral democracy (or equivalent) at some point since 2005.
Backsliding has almost entirely taken place in the Global South and the former Communist countries, including the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, and the former Yugoslavia. The vast majority of these countries liberalized during democracy’s “third wave” during the 1980s and 1990s.
It’s Russia’s and China’s fault. Some analysts lay the blame for democracy’s global woes on the set of powerful authoritarian states—especially Russia and China—that exert antidemocratic influence across borders.11 In this view, democracy and autocracy are locked in a global contest and democracy is losing in the face of Russia’s, China’s, and other autocracies’ determination to undercut democracy
Unquestionably, Russia’s and China’s growing power and assertiveness are hurting democracy’s global fortunes
In India, for example, the democratic decay of recent years has been driven primarily by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).14 Despite sharing a border with China and long-standing political friendship with Russia, India’s democratic deterioration is a domestic story—Russian or Chinese influence plays almost no role.
At the same time as social media and other digital developments are fueling the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech in many places, they are also allowing civic actors to organize more easily to assert demands for governmental accountability, to expose corruption, and to gain access to information in closed contexts. Similarly, social media may boost some illiberal leaders who benefit from being able to step over traditional media gatekeepers and reach their political followers directly, while at the same time allowing genuinely democratic politicians to communicate with their constituents and develop ties with them.
Toughts & Comments
Is it because even with democracy alongside with neoliberalism inequalities continue to grow?
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