Democracy and Democratic Backsliding

Throughout the world, scholars and international organisations have voiced their concern in recent years that democracy appears to be ‘backsliding’ (Hellmeier et al. 2021; International IDEA 2021). These forms of backsliding are often described as taking a different form – with open-ended coups d’état and state violence being replaced with promissory coups, executive aggrandizement and strategic electoral manipulation described as being more common (Bermeo 2016; Runciman 2018; Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018). The pandemic has been presented as an opportunity for autocratic leaders to restrict freedoms and extend states of emergency (Edgell et al. 2021). In response to these challenges, a Summit for Democracy was hosted by the United States in December, to start a year of action that would aim to ‘to strengthen our own democracies and push back on authoritarianism, fight corruption, promote and protect human rights of people everywhere’ (Biden 2021).

What is Democracy?

Research explores how concepts of democracy can be connected to positions in the social sciences. This concept paper sets an alternative approach for conceptualising democracy, drawing from critical realist theory:

  • Realist Democracy: A critical realist approach to democracy and democratic theory, paper presented to the International Association Conference for Critical Realism, 8-12 August 2022, Den Haag, Netherlands.

The paper is currently under review with a journal.

Coming Soon: UK Democratic Backsliding?

A new report on the extent of democratic backsliding in the UK, funded by Unlock Democracy.

Coming Soon: Electoral Backsliding?

A special issue of Electoral Studies on Electoral Backsliding looking at whether the quality of elections has declined around the world.