Twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the democratic ascendency of the post-Soviet era is under severe challenge. While fragile democracies in Eastern Europe, Africa, and East Asia face renewed threats, the world has witnessed the failed democratic promises of the Arab Spring. What lessons can be drawn from these struggles? What conditions or institutions are needed to prevent the collapse of democracy? Embattled democracy is the subject matter of a new book, Fragile Democracies: Contested Power in the Era of Constitutional Courts. This book argues that the most distinctive antidote to authoritarianism in the post-1989 period is the presence of strong constitutional courts. A signature feature of the third wave of democratization, these courts serve as a bulwark against vulnerability to external threats as well as a catalyst for the internal consolidation of power. Particularly in societies still riven by deep divisions of race, religion, or national background, courts have become pivotal actors in allowing democracy to take root.
Samuel Issacharoff is the Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law. His research addresses the law of the political process and constitutional law, as well as issues in civil procedure (especially complex litigation and class actions). He is a co-author of the seminal Law of Democracy casebook and recently served as the Reporter for the Project on Aggregate Litigation of the American Law Institute. Professor Issacharoff is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.