The hegemony of the democratic ideal may be waning. Until recently, even the custodians of dictatorships claimed democratic status for their regimes. Many still do. But other rulers now drop the pretense of democracy and claim that their nondemocratic regimes provide the people with conditions that are superior to those found in democracies. They portray themselves as demophiles rather than democrats, and claim that their concern for their people provides a superior alternative to popular control over the state. What is more, some actually do pursue policies that differ meaningfully from the predation that characterizes the behavior of elites in many nondemocratic regimes. How may we understand contemporary demophily, and how does it challenge democracy?
M. Steven Fish is a comparative political scientist who studies democracy and regime change in developing and postcommunist countries, religion and politics, and constitutional systems and national legislatures. He is the author of Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence (Oxford, 2011). He is also author of Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics (Cambridge, 2005), which was the recipient of the Best Book Award of 2006, presented by the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association, and Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution (Princeton, 1995). He is coauthor of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (Cambridge, 2009) and Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy (Princeton, 2001). He served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia, in 2007 and at the European University at St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2000-2001. In 2005, he was the recipient of the Distinguished Social Sciences Teaching Award of the Colleges of Letters and Science, University of California-Berkeley.