Democracy in Retreat
by Joshua Kurlantzick
Given the political turmoil in the United States it's fitting to ponder about the state of democracy not just in the developed world (the situation in Europe is hardly any better with continuing drama in Italy, Greece and not to mention riots in Britain and France) but in the struggling economies as well. Given the demise of communism, is a democratic free market economy the only alternative, and has it's time run out?
From Foreign Affairs:
Unlike earlier periods when democracies faltered, such as the 1930s, today democracy is waning in every region of the world, and many countries where democratic rule is fading are regional powers, such as Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia, which harms the prospects for democracy in surrounding countries. Meanwhile, authoritarian states, such as China and Russia, have tightened their grips. Kurlantzick struggles to identify the precise causes of this global democratic recession. The slowing or reversal of economic growth is at fault, but so, too, are the more general travails of modernity: economic inequality, weak social welfare systems, disease, urbanization, environmental degradation, and migration. Those factors give autocrats and authoritarians short-term advantages in winning the support of fearful middle-class constituencies. The book is convincing in diagnosing the troubled state of democracy, rooted in its failure to reliably deliver shared prosperity and economic security. But it is less convincing in arguing that nondemocracies will ultimately fair any better or establish their authority and legitimacy as alternative models of political rule.
and from the author's essay in Foreign Policy:
It seems, however, that this new global middle is choosing stability over all else. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, the rising middle class has often supported the military as a bulwark against popular democracy, fearing that it might empower the poor, the religious, and the less-educated. ... I found that in 50 percent of cases, middle-class men and women either agitated in advance for coups or subsequently expressed their wholehearted support for the army takeover. This is a shockingly high percentage, given that in many of these countries, such as Pakistan and Thailand, the middle class had originally been at the forefront of trying to get the army out of politics.