Democracy in Question

The discourse of crisis has been the natural discourse on democracy. Contemporaries have always tended to view democracy as being in crisis and on the edge of collapse. What is different today is the growing feeling that democracy as a form of government might have outlived its usefulness in the face of social, cultural and technological transformations that societies today are undergoing.

The paradox is that democracy is in an existential crisis at the very moment when it has triumphed. The paradoxical effect of the global spread of democracy in the last fifty years is that citizens in a number of supposedly consolidated democracies in North America and Western Europe, have grown more critical of their political leaders. They have also become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, and more willing to express support for authoritarian alternatives. 

In short, instead of strengthening democratic regimes, the global spread of democracy and the democratization of public life seem to have undermined them. The question is, why has this happened? And how could this change?

A research focus led by IWM Permanent Fellow Ivan Krastev.