The Return of History: A New Wave of Democratic Backsliding
Thompson, Tommie Y
Contemporary events suggest that stable democracies are “backsliding” into authoritarianism.This doesn’t mean they will become authoritarian states, butthat their democratic institutions are weakening. However, due to the noveltyof the problem, the scholarly literature has yet to rigorously investigate thetrend. This paper seeks to establish a research agenda for within-regime democraticbacksliding. We examine the existing literature on democratic breakdown,consolidation, and transition in order to identify plausible explanations for thephenomenon, and we quantitatively test these theories to highlight promisingdirections for future research. We utilize data from the Quality of Government,Global Terrorism Database, AidData, and SIPRI to assess the applicability ofthe (1) redistribution, (2) demographic, (3) state legitimacy, and (4) internationalinfluence models of democratic breakdown. Our results show that an aging population,a weak middle class, terrorism attacks, and high state-level financialliabilities best explain backsliding.
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