Are Defenders of Liberal Democracy Its Gravediggers?
Recent years have witnessed the publication of a number of research papers and books seeking to assess threats of electoral victories of anti-establishment politicians and political parties, described as authoritarian populists. This essay focuses on three books directly addressing the origins and threats of authoritarian populism to democracy. It consists of six sections and the conclusion. The first section presents findings (Norris and Inglehart) based on surveys of values of voters of various age cohorts concluding that authoritarian populism is a temporary backlash provoked by the post-materialist perspective. The second section examines the contention, spelled out in Levitsky and Ziblatt, that increase in openness of American political system produced, unintentionally, a degradation of the American political system. The third section continues brief presentations focusing on to the causes and implications of “illiberal democracy,” and “undemocratic liberalism” (Mounk). The fourth section examines developments in the quality of democracy in the world showing that despite the decline in Democracy Indices, overall there was no slide towards non-democratic forms of government in 2006–2019. The next two sections deal with dimensions missing in reviewed books; the notion of nation-state, international environment, civic culture and, in particular, dangers of radical egalitarianism to democracy. The last section concludes with regrets that the authors ignored rich literature on fragility of democracy and failed to incorporate in their analyses deeper structural factors eroding democracy: by the same token, return to the pre-populist shock trajectory is unlikely to assure survival of liberal democracy.
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