Diamond: Facing up to the democratic recession


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Larry Diamond speaks to a large audience in Washington, D.C., for the 25th anniversary of the Journal of Democracy. Other speakers at the event included: Thomas Carothers (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), Alina Mungiu-Pippidi (Hertie School of Governance-Berlin), Marc Plattner (National Endowment for Democracy), Steven Levitsky (Harvard University), and Lucan Way (University of Toronto).
Photo credit: 
Scott Henrichsen

In the 25th anniversary edition of The Journal of Democracy, CDDRL Director Larry Diamond reflects on the current democratic recession and why this trend is so troubling.

Diamond, who serves as the founding co-editor of The Journal of Democracy, argues that the world is in a mild but protracted democratic recession, which raises alarm due to the rate of democratic failures and where they are occurring. In surveying global empirical trends, Diamond cites 25 breakdowns of democracy since 2000 that were not the cause of military coups but rather the slow erosion of democratic rights and procedures.

Another worrisome trend for Diamond is the declining freedom in a number of countries and regions since 2005. This is most notable in Africa where corruption and the abuse of power are leading to the decline of the rule of law and political rights across the region. It is also affecting countries of global strategic importance with large populations and economic influence– from Taiwan to Mexico – and leading to the resurgence of authoritarianism in Russia and China. Diamond also looks to the U.S. where the dysfunction and breakdown of American democracy sets a bad precedent for the rest of the world. 

Diamond concludes on an optimistic note, stressing that strong public support for democracy may reverse many of these troubling trends and help sustain longer-term democratic progress.