What Makes Democracies Collapse?

06/11/2013 12:57

Frances Hagopian
During the twentieth century, dozens of democratic regimes collapsed under the weight of political violence and economic crisis. For decades, scholars have tended to assume that citizens at large bear a hefty share of the responsibility for these democratic failures. If those who live in new democracies (Weimar Germany is the classic example) suffer severe material scarcities, the story goes, they will abandon the political center and turn toward extremist parties and against democracy itself. The story's basic logic seems convincing, but is it true? Not only the memory of the millions murdered in the last century by authoritarian regimes, but also the vital interests of the hundreds of millions more who live today in fragile democracies cry out for an answer to the question of what causes democracies to break down. [Read more] ...