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Article

Ludvig Beckman

Democracy is a term that is used to denote a variety of distinct objects and ideas. Democracy describes either a set of political institutions or an ideal of collective self-rule. Democracy can also be short for a normative principle of either legitimacy or justice. Finally, democracy might be used to denote an egalitarian attitude. These four uses of the term should be kept distinct and raises separate conceptual and normative issues. The value of democracy, whether democratic political institutions or democratic self-rule, is either instrumental, non-instrumental, or both. The non-instrumental value of democracy derives either from the alleged fairness of majority rule or from the value of the social relationships enabled by participation in democratic procedures. The instrumental value of democracy lends support from a growing body of empirical research. Yet, the claim that democracy has a positive causal effect on public goods is inconclusive with respect to the moral justification of democratic institutions. Normative reasons for democracy’s instrumental value must instead appeal to the fact that it contributes to equality, liberty, truth, or the realization of popular will. Democracy as a principle of either political legitimacy or justice is a normative view that evades concerns with the definition and value of democracy. Normative democracy is a claim about the conditions either for legitimacy or justice of either public authority or coercion. Debates in normative democracy are largely divorced from the conceptual and empirical concerns that inform studies of democracy elsewhere. The boundaries of the people entitled to participate in collective decisions is a question that applies to all four uses of democracy. The boundary question raises three distinct issues. The first is the extent of inclusion required among the members of the unit. The second is if membership in the unit is necessary for inclusion or if people that are not recognized as members are on certain conditions also entitled to participate. The third and final issue concerns the boundaries of the unit itself.

Article

The first argument that the democratic peace may, in fact, be the product of a larger, territorial peace among states was published in 2007. The argument was based on the strong findings associating territorial issues with conflict. Territorial issues may, in fact, be so salient to the domestic population that they force political centralization and the maintenance of non-democratic governments. This also implies that democracies are likely to be members of a group of states that have resolved their latent territorial issues with neighbors; absent these threats to the state, democracies are faced with few issues over which to fight. That argument is described here, providing a comprehensive discussion of why territorial issues are so salient to the domestic population and the effects of that salience on the polity.

Article

The concept of autonomy is one of the key concepts of political philosophy. It plays an important role in discussions of the limits of state coercion, in particular in arguments against paternalistic laws and policies, and in questions concerning the legitimacy and authority of the state. Although the term “autonomy” is used in different ways, a common understanding of the concept of autonomy relates to the idea of leading one’s own life: the autonomous person develops her own understanding of how her life should be and acts accordingly, without interference by others. Autonomy plays three main roles in political philosophy. First, autonomy provides a goal, to be realized through political means; this requires that the state protect people from interference with their autonomy, ensure the availability of sufficient resources, and foster the mental abilities necessary for autonomy. Not least, promoting autonomy can entail that the form of government be democratic, as citizens’ autonomy is best protected in a democratic regime. Next, autonomy can impose a set of constraints, limiting the legitimate use of coercion in realizing political goals. First, coercion can only be used for certain purposes. The most well-known constraint of this kind involves the rejection of paternalism: coercion may never be used to promote a person’s own good against her will. Next, there are constraints connected with the kind of justification that can be given for coercive actions: in order to be compatible with autonomy, these must be justified in ways that the coerced have actually accepted or could have accepted. Finally, autonomy can play a role in arguments about the grounds for political authority. Although authority and autonomy might seem to be inimical, autonomy can ground the right to command either through citizens’ consent or through their voluntary actions by which they become committed to follow a common set of rules. Autonomy can only play these roles if it is valuable, and there are several arguments why autonomy is valuable. First, there are instrumental reasons: the good both of individuals and of society is best served if people have a large degree of autonomy. Next, people have an interest in their choices and actions being their own, representative of who they are. Also, there is a strong symbolic and relational aspect to the right to autonomy: being denied this right is insulting and amounts to a denial of one’s equal standing. Finally, there might be an intrinsic value to autonomy, as only autonomy allows us to be fully human.

Article

Oda van Cranenburgh

Democracy promotion in Africa became an increasingly important priority for Western donors in the late 1980s, with a growing normative consensus in support of democracy and human rights since that time. In practice, however, democracy promotion policies suffer from some flaws and inconsistencies and the nature of Africa’s hybrid and ambiguous regimes present severe challenges. The available evidence suggests that donor policies often reflect implicit concepts and theories that do not always reflect the reality on the ground. Moreover, since the turn of the millennium competing economic or strategic interests often trump the promotion of democracy and human rights. Significantly, donors do not always operate in the same way. More specifically, a review of recent activity suggests that donor governments tend to use a negative linkage strategy when they set conditions for economic aid and a positive linkage strategy when they support democratic institutions and processes. In both strategies, competitive elections occupy a central place. While this electoral focus entails limitations, the approach is marked by a clear focus and operationalization. By contrast, broader political approaches target human rights and the rule of law and strengthening of political institutions. These ambitious goals are difficult to achieve. Such policies work when they are based on adequate analysis of the specific institutional context, but they often run up against political challenges that are beyond the control of donors. The scholarship on democracy promotion agrees that positive change can be achieved where internal conditions are favorable and when policies take into account the specific political and institutional contexts in African countries. Broader long-term regime change, however, depends primarily on internal conditions, such as social and economic development, and requires donors to go beyond the “easy part” and address specific African contexts and specific institutional problems.

Article

William Smith and Kimberley Brownlee

Civil disobedience and conscientious objection are distinct but related social practices that display people’s opposition to specific laws, policies, directives, or schemes. In general, these two practices arise from people’s deeply held commitments. Civil disobedience is more overtly communicative and political than conscientious objection. Civil disobedience is also, almost by definition, a breach of law, which people engage in to push for changes in either governmental or nongovernmental practices. Conscientious objection, by contrast, does not always break the law: sometimes it is a legally protected form of nonconformity. It is also less overtly political than civil disobedience, stemming as it does from people’s desire not to participate in practices they oppose, rather than from their ambition to change those practices. Both practices can be morally justified under specific conditions that, among other things, include doing only limited harm to other people. Moreover, under even more specific conditions, both practices could be said to be protected by moral rights. Civil disobedience and conscientious objection generate pressing normative and political challenges concerning the nature of the rule of law, respect for the rule of law, conditions for deliberative democracy, equality before the law, policing, adjudication, and punishment.

Article

Ever since Aristotle, the comparative study of political regimes and their performance has relied on classifications and typologies. The study of democracy today has been influenced heavily by Arend Lijphart’s typology of consensus versus majoritarian democracy. Scholars have applied it to more than 100 countries and sought to demonstrate its impact on no less than 70 dependent variables. This paper summarizes our knowledge about the origins, functioning, and consequences of two basic types of democracy: those that concentrate power and those that share and divide power. In doing so, it will review the experience of established democracies and question the applicability of received wisdom to new democracies.

Article

Scholars disagree about whether populism is best understood as a collection of specific policy proposals, a party organization led by a charismatic leader, or political rhetoric that conceptualizes politics as the conflict between a conspiratirial elite and the public will. Valid cross-national indicators of these concepts have been developed but are limited in their scope. The emerging data suggests that populist organizational and rhetorical strategies remain relatively uncommon and vary in their frequency across geographic regions but are used by parties across the ideological spectrum and frequently are winning electoral strategies. The most commonly explored correlates of populism’s rise are social and economic exclusion, weak political representation, economic and corruption crises, and diffusion across countries. Populists’ embrace of anti-elite sentiment helps explain their electoral appeal among voters who also agree with populist parties’ policy programs. We know much less, however, about the factors that explain how populists maintain their power once they are elected or the consequences of populist rule for democracy.

Article

Constitution-making has been a central political activity in the modern era. Enacting a new constitution was an essential ingredient in the foundation of republics, the creation of new states, the inauguration of democratic regimes, and the reequilibration of democracies during or after a political crisis. Constitution writing has also become a crucial part of the process of overcoming a legacy of violent internal conflict and a component of authoritarian regimes that seek to gain legitimacy by emulating the formalities of representative democracies. This article surveys the most important concepts and issues related to the comparative analysis of constitution-making. Although it draws examples from constitutions made in a wide variety of settings, special attention is paid to constitutional texts adopted or implemented under competitive conditions.

Article

Jon Green, Jonathon Kingzette, and Michael Neblo

Defined expansively as the exchange of politically relevant justifications, political deliberation occurs at many sites in the democratic system. It is also performed by several different types of actors. Here, we review political deliberation based on who is deliberating and what role these deliberations play in making binding decisions. First, ordinary citizens frequently deliberate in informal settings. While these discussions often fail to live up to the standards outlined by deliberative theorists, they typically correlate with other democratic goods, such as increased political participation. Second, there have been several attempts in recent years to construct the conditions necessary for quality deliberation among citizens by organizing small-group discussions in semi-formal settings. Proponents of such discussions argue that they promote a variety of democratic goods, such as political knowledge and better-justified political decisions, and as such should be incorporated into the formal policymaking process. However, critics of these procedural innovations hold that a more deliberative society is unrealistic or, alternatively, that deliberation is not without drawbacks on its own terms. Third, in a limited number of cases, citizens’ deliberations are formally embedded in democratic institutions, serving to advise voters and politicians or directly leading to binding decisions. Finally, political elites deliberate frequently. Opinion leaders attempt to and often succeed in shaping the discourse around issues, while elected officials, bureaucrats, and judges formally deliberate before making almost every binding decision. Surprisingly, though these deliberations happen frequently and likely have substantial effects on policy, they are probably the least studied in the political system, though recent breakthroughs in text analysis offer a path forward to analyzing deliberation among elites more systematically.

Article

Alex Braithwaite and Sangmi Jeong

Diffusion with respect to international politics is commonly defined as the tendency for events or behaviors occurring in one spatial unit to influence the likelihood of similar events or behaviors occurring in another spatial unit. General definitions and mechanisms of diffusion that can be thought of as somewhat ubiquitous to the broader literature of diffusion in international politics tend to focus on processes of spillover or learning/emulation. These processes are common to the adoption and diffusion of policy innovations, the spread of democracy and democratic revolutions, and the contagion of civil and international conflicts. While the nomenclatures of these literatures often differ quite significantly, considerable overlap exists in terms of the primary conceptualizations of diffusion mechanisms. Most literatures appear to identify some combination of the following mechanisms: coercion and external pressure; constructivist norm cycles; social networks and linkages; geographic proximity and demonstration effects; learning and emulation. While the study of these phenomena and mechanisms has advanced significantly in recent years, some notable areas of future growth remain. First, differentiating between learning/emulation and spillover processes still presents considerable difficulty. Second, the role of “firewalls” in limiting diffusion processes is not well understood in either general or specific cases. Third, while understanding of social and geographic spaces is now rather nuanced, it remains unclear how best to theorize and model timing in diffusion processes.

Article

Recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as protests a decade earlier in East Central Europe, have peaked public interest while raising concerns about the potential for democracy protests to catalyze major reforms in governance. Although the number of protests that occurred in these periods was remarkable, democracy protests are not a new phenomena, but rather have come and gone throughout history. In some cases, the potential of these protests has been realized and significant reforms have resulted, while in others, the protests have been repressed and hopes of a more democratic future have been crushed. To shed light on these issues, the five Ws of democracy protests—namely what are democracy protests, who organizes and participates in these protests, when and where are democracy protests more likely to emerge, and why do these protests matter—are discussed.

Article

Robert Mattes

With the worldwide wave of democratization, scholars interested in the preservation of the new democracies dusted off old theories of regime maintenance. While commonly sharing the assumption that democracy requires democrats, researchers proceeded in different directions, depending on their image of the ideal democrat. Today, we know a great deal about who supports democracy, and why. However, the state of our knowledge is incomplete at the point where it matters the most. As might be expected in any emerging area of research, different sets of scholars based their research instruments on contrasting understandings of what it means to be a democrat, and how democrats are best identified and measured. More importantly, they proceeded from differing understandings and underspecified theories as to why democrats are important, how many are needed, and how they actually affect the level and stability of democracy. Thus, while the intuition that democracy requires democrats is strong, the actual state of the evidence is still mixed, at best.

Article

Rafael Piñeiro Rodríguez and Fabrizio Scrollini Mendez

Uruguay is considered one of the most democratic, transparent, and stable countries in the world, an outlier in the Latin American context. The institutionalized nature of Uruguay’s party system contributed significantly to democracy, but was not sufficient to prevent a military dictatorship period in the context of the Cold War (1973–1984). Eventually, the political party system adapted to accommodate the emergence of the Broad Front (left), which gained the most votes of any political party in 1999 and won the election in 2005. The recent wave of progressive reforms in Uruguay, such as the introduction of universal healthcare, abortion laws, same-sex marriage laws, and cannabis legalization can be explained by the strong links political parties (particularly on the left) maintain with social movements. Further, this link also helps to explain the legitimacy that political parties still retain in Uruguay. Nevertheless, Uruguayan democracy faces challenges in terms of transparency, equality, and the risk of democratic “deconsolidation.”

Article

Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely. Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.

Article

Studies of Western development assistance conclude that aid is effective only when recipients have good governance, measured as pro-investment policies, democratic institutions, and political stability, or when recipients lack strategic importance to donors. Underlying the theoretical frameworks in these studies is a common mechanism: compliance with conditions on aid agreements, which, in turn, depends on recipient incentives to comply. With the exception of donors’ emphasis on the quality of governance in the early 2000s, donors generally overlook recipient incentives to comply with aid agreements and thus fail to capitalize on opportunities for aid effectiveness suggested by the academic studies. A paucity of data has limited direct analysis of compliance with conditions, but studies have relied on their own data collection or have leveraged data from the World Bank to assess determinants of compliance with conditions. Importantly, these studies of compliance support the findings from the aid-effectiveness literature, indicating that the initial incentives to comply with aid agreements are the driving force in agreement compliance and therefore aid effectiveness. Based on these findings, future research on compliance with conditions on aid is encouraged, beginning with study of the direct influence of compliance on economic development. In addition, future research should analyze whether certain types of aid influence compliance with Western aid agreements, including tied aid and aid from non-Western donors. The implication for policy is that donors should enthusiastically support recipients who face incentives to comply because compliance drives aid effectiveness. When recipients lack such incentives, donors should try to change the underlying incentive structure of recipients rather than adding conditions on aid.

Article

Gideon Rahat and William P. Cross

Candidate selection is about the decisions political parties make regarding who to put forward as candidates under their label for general elections. Beyond being the function that differentiates parties from other political groupings (especially considering the decline in parties’ performance of their other traditional functions), candidate selection is crucial for understanding power relations within parties, the composition of parliaments, and the behavior of elected officials. It also has an impact on the quality of democracy, especially with regard to the values of participation, competition, responsiveness, and representation. Candidate selection methods vary according to certain parameters. The two most important ones are the level of inclusiveness of the selectorate(s) (the body or bodies that choose the candidates) and their relative level of centralization. Beyond the few cases in which state laws define the process, the nature of candidate selection methods is influenced by various country-level factors, such as the electoral system and national political culture, as well as by party-level characteristics, such as party ideology. Reform of candidate selection methods occurs as a result of general developments, such as party change or personalization, party system developments, such as electoral defeat, and intraparty struggles. Although candidate selection is no longer “the secret garden of politics,” research still faces various obstacles. Consequently, the level of scholarly development is less advanced than the parallel study of electoral systems and their political consequences.

Article

In an age of Brexit, Euroskepticism has become a central element in debates about Europe. It is generally believed that there has been an increase in criticism on and opposition toward the European Union (EU) and its policies since the 1991 Maastricht Treaty. Yet, criticism was already present at the start of the integration process, also among mainstream parties in the six founding members. With the EU’s recent crises, Euroskepticism has become embedded in contestation in most member states, affecting politics at the national and European level. Consequently, it is important to understand Euroskepticism in contemporary Europe and to gather a broad overview of its development, its meaning, and its wider consequences. Euroskepticism is a diverse, multifaceted phenomenon that varies across time, member states, and policies. Exploring the history of Euroskepticism helps to contextualize contemporary developments and to understand some of the main debates and issues in the field, including conceptual challenges, but also debates about the reasons for Euroskepticism and what kind of impact it might have. One of the key questions in this respect is whether Euroskepticism should be seen as a problematic phenomenon or as an essential element of a democratic Europe. While conventional negative connotations associated with Euroskepticism suggest the former, research finds a broader variety of criticism and opposition to the EU and its policies that may be conducive to a more democratic EU debate.

Article

Nicaragua was among the last countries in Latin America to become democratic, and among the first to regress to authoritarian practices. It has thus been a fertile testing ground for theories of democratic development, addressing hypotheses about whether leftist revolutions can produce democracy, the difficulties inherent in wartime transitions to democracy, and the roles that foreign actors play in constraining and fostering democratic governance. After achieving independence from Spain in 1823, Nicaragua fell under the hegemony of the expansionist United States and endured a lengthy US occupation. The US-supported Somoza dictatorship was overthrown in 1979 by a revolution that brought to power the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The FSLN initially implemented a progressive authoritarian regime under an appointed junta, while fostering widespread political participation channeled through mass organizations associated with the party. Policies that centered on improving equality for the majority at the expense of traditional elites and the private sector drew US hostility. For a decade, US-sponsored counterrevolutionary forces made war on Nicaragua in an attempt to unseat the Sandinista government, and a US trade and financial embargo deeply damaged the economy. During that time, Nicaragua put in place a presidential system, permitted the development of opposition political parties, held partially competitive elections in 1984, and in 1987 inaugurated a constitution that mixed socialist and liberal principles. The 1984 elections were boycotted by right-wing opponents but shifted the basis of legitimate governance from winning the revolution to winning at the ballot box. In 1990, Nicaragua held competitive and internationally observed elections convened as one element of a regionwide Central American peace process. The FSLN lost in an upset that yielded an alteration in power signaling the advent of democracy. After negotiating to depoliticize the armed forces, President Violeta Chamorro took office and signed peace agreements with the counterrevolutionaries. For a decade, democracy prevailed and was deepened via a constitutional reform that transferred budgetary power to the legislature, shortened the presidential term, and prohibited immediate re-election to the presidency. In opposition, the FSLN employed both social mobilization tactics and parliamentary procedure to defend their constituents. Liberal remnants from the Somoza era regrouped and won the presidency in 1996. Democratic consolidation proved elusive, however, and instead the caudillo leaders of the FSLN and liberal parties, former President Daniel Ortega and then-President Arnoldo Alemán, reached a pact through which they radically reduced the political space available to smaller parties and assumed exclusive joint control of state institutions. The liberals again won election in 2001, but after their party split in 2006, Ortega was re-elected to the presidency. The new FSLN government introduced progressive policies that reduced poverty, but the quality of elections declined, and presidential term limits were abolished, introducing a competitive authoritarian regime. The FSLN then eliminated rival parties from serious contention and used legal reforms to consolidate a one-party-dominant system lacking horizontal and vertical accountability and marked by old political patterns of caudillo rule, elite pacts, and personalist rule centered on a single family.

Article

From one point of view, Latin America’s party systems are in a constant state of change, with high levels of electoral volatility, recurrent episodes of personalism, and a generally low level of predictability. From a deeper analytic perspective, however, there are clear differences between periods of massive, essentially region-wide party-system change, as at the birth of mass politics in the first half of the 20th century and during the neoliberal era, and periods of relative stability, such as the period of the Cold War. Latin American party politics is thus characterized by a rhythm of (sometimes long) periods of continuity interrupted by episodes of crisis and change. Episodes of change occur when the foundations of political competition are revised: at the dawn of mass politics in the early 20th century, for example, or during the period of political and economic reform that marked the end of the Cold War. A distinctly Latin American puzzle for the study of party systems emerges from taking the long view of these periods of stability and disruption. For the most part, party systems in the region are distinctly central to politics and electoral in origin, in contrast to many other developing countries where parties are noncentral, volatile, or oriented toward nonelectoral forms of governance. Yet, these same party systems are largely unable to adjust their appeals when faced with fundamental transformations to the social, political, or economic landscape—in contrast to the party systems of much of North America and Western Europe, where many parties and party systems have successfully navigated multiple such transformations with the identities of key parties intact.

Article

The multifaceted nature of decentralization, democracy, and development renders relationships among them ambivalent and conditional. It is certainly possible to decentralize in ways that foster local democracy and improvements in socioeconomic well-being. The empirical record, however, is mixed, and not only because the phenomena of interest have multiple dimensions and are open to interpretation. Whatever its form, decentralization is inherently political. In the African context, the extent and form of decentralization has been influenced by international support, the challenges of extending state authority in relatively young multi-ethnic states, and, increasingly, electoral considerations. By the 1980s, the broad consensus in the constructive developmental role of a strong central state that had characterized the immediate postwar period gave way to a growing perception of statist approaches as impeding democracy and, especially, development. For some, decentralization implied an expansion of popular participation that promised greater sensitivity to local knowledge and more responsiveness to local concerns. Others saw decentralization as part of a broader agenda of scaling back the central state, reducing its role, its size, and its costs. Yet others saw decentralization as part of a strategy of achieving sustainable natural resource management or political stability in post-conflict societies. By the early 1990s, a wide variety of international organizations were promoting decentralization and providing both financial and technical support for decentralization reforms. In the African context, political decisions about whether and how to decentralize reflect the continued salience of ethno-regional identities and non-state authorities, especially traditional or customary leaders. Incumbents may decentralize because they hope to consolidate their political position by crowding out or co-opting rivals, depoliticizing conflicts, or deflecting blame to subnational actors. Indeed, reforms made in the name of decentralization often strengthen the political center, at least over the short to medium term. Whether it attempts to co-opt or sideline them, decentralization interacts with and may reinforce the salience of ethno-regional identities and traditional authorities. To the extent that democracy presumes the equality of all citizens, regardless of ascribed status or identity, the reinforcement of ethno-regional identities and unelected authorities threatens democracy. The international spread of decentralization reforms coincided with the increasing prevalence of multiparty elections. In countries that hold elections, electoral considerations inevitably influence political interests in decentralization. Central government incumbents may view decentralization as a way to keep voters happy by improving access to and the quality of public services, as a form of political insurance, or as strengthening rivals. Whether incumbents and challengers view decentralization as a threat or an opportunity depends on not only the form of decentralization under consideration, but also their estimations of their competitiveness in elections at various levels (national, regional, local) and the interaction between the spatial distribution of electoral support and the electoral system. Electoral dynamics and considerations also influence the implementation and consequences of decentralization, perhaps especially when political rivals control different levels of government. Whether decentralization promotes democracy and development hinges on not only the form of decentralization, but also how broader political dynamics condition decentralization in practice.