Democratic Deconsolidation: The Empirical Evidence

Friday, July 14, 2017
JWS - Room J15 (J375) (University of Glasgow)
Yascha Mounk , Harvard University
Roberto Stefan Foa , Political Science, University of Melbourne
Most political scientists believe that the stability of democracy is assured once a set of threshold conditions – prosperity, democratic legitimacy, the development of a robust civil society – is attained. Democracy, it is claimed, has then become consolidated, and will remain stable. In this article we challenge the notion of “democratic consolidation”: just as democracy can come to be “the only game in town” through processes of democratic deepening and the broad-based acceptance of democratic institutions, so too a process of democratic deconsolidation can take place. As citizens sour on democratic institutions, become more open to authoritarian alternatives like military rule, and start to vote for anti-system parties, democracy ceases to be the only game in town. Using both case studies and regression analysis, we show that the measures of democratic deconsolidation we propose have historically been a strong predictor of subsequent declines in the actual extent of democratic governance. This makes it all the more worrying that, as we demonstrate, a process of democratic deconsolidation is now underway even in democracies widely considered to be fully consolidated, including France, Poland, and the United States.