American democracy is in trouble. Since the 2016 election, a sizable literature has developed that focuses on diagnosing and assessing the state of American democracy, most of which concludes that our system of government is in decline. These authors point to the rise in party polarization, the increasingly bipartisan abandonment of the norms of the democratic process, the rise of populism, the degradation of the public sphere, and the proliferation of gerrymandered districts and voting restrictions to illustrate the breakdown.
The current Egyptian political scene reveals an important paradox: since its ascendancy to power in 2013, the military-led authoritarian government has not faced significant challenges from civil society despite systematic human rights abuses and continuous societal crises.
The 2016 election brought into sharp relief the anomalies and imperfections of our democratic institutions. Trump, beating out a crowded field of primary candidates, won the election having lost the popular vote. Despite intense media coverage, the party primaries were still low-turnout events, and party infighting undermined the legitimacy of the final candidates. Third-party candidates who stood no chance of winning nonetheless drew significant votes in swing states.
Democratic consolidation around the world currently faces major challenges. Threats to democracy have become more insidious, especially due to the manipulation of legal and constitutional procedures originally designed to guard democracy against arbitrary action and abuse. Free and fair elections, the cornerstone of democratic legitimacy, are under considerable stress from populism and post-truth movements, who abuse new digital communication technologies to confuse and mislead citizens.
Since the publication of the Journal of Democracy began in 1990, the political climate has shifted from one of democratic gains and optimism to what Larry Diamond labels a “democratic recession.” Underlying these changes has been a reorientation of the major axis of political polarization, from a left-right divide defined largely in economic terms toward a politics based on identity. In a second major shift, technological development has had unexpected effects—including that of facilitating the rise of identity-based social fragmentation.
Since 2006, democracy in the world has been trending downward. A number of liberal democracies are becoming less liberal, and authoritarian regimes are developing more repressive tendencies. Democracies are dying at the hands of elected authoritarian populists who neuter or take over the institutions meant to constrain them. Changes in the international environment, as well as technological developments and growing inequality, have contributed to this democratic slump.
How body-worn cameras affect the use of gunshots, stop-and searches and other forms of police behavior: A Randomized Control Trial in Rio de Janeiro
In this paper we examine the effects of police body-worn cameras through a randomized control trial implemented in Rio de Janeiro. The paper explores the use of this technology by police officers in charge of tactical operations and officers performing “proximity” patrolling in the largest favela of Brazil, Rocinha. The study reveals that institutional and administrative limitations at Military Police of the State of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ) were associated with limited use of the cameras –basically officers refusing to turn the cameras on.
This study is the result of over four years of active collaboration between the Poverty, Violence and Governance Lab (PovGov) and the Rio-based NGO Agency for Youth Networks (hereafter, Agency). What began in 2012 as an informal conversation between PovGov researchers and the program’s founder and director, Marcus Faustini, led to a solid partnership that has produced not only this research but also opportunities for engagement through events both in California and in Rio de Janeiro.
State interventions against drug traﬃcking organizations (DTOs) sometimes work to improve security, but often exacerbate violence. To understand why, this paper oﬀers a theory about diﬀerent social order dynamics among ﬁve types of criminal regimes – Insurgent, Bandit, Symbiotic, Predatory, and Anarchic. These diﬀer according to whether criminal groups confront or collude with state actors; predate or cooperate with the community; and hold a monopoly or contest territory with rival DTOs.
Why do drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) sometimes prey on the communities in which they operate but sometimes provide assistance to these communities? What explains their strategies of extortion and co-optation toward civil society? Using new survey data from Mexico, including list experiments to elicit responses about potentially illegal behavior, this article measures the prevalence of extortion and assistance among DTOs.
Can ethnically distinct communities ruled through “traditional” assemblies provide public goods and services better, than when they are ruled by leaders elected through “modern” multiparty elections? We exploit a unique institutional feature in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, where municipalities are ruled by traditional governance institutions, to explore the effect of these forms of governance on the provision of public goods. Using locality-level census data, we study the provision of local public goods through a geographic discontinuity approach.
Torture as a Method of Criminal Prosecution: Democratization, Criminal Justice Reform, and the Mexican Drug War
A criminal trial is likely the most significant interaction a citizen will ever have with the state; its conduct and adherence to norms of fairness bear directly on the quality of government, extent of democratic consolidation, and human rights. While theories of repression tend to focus on the political incentives to transgress against human rights, we examine a case in which the institutionalization of such violations follows an organizational logic rather than the political logic of regime survival or consolidation.
Once hailed as a great force for human empowerment and liberation, social media and related digital tools have rapidly come to be regarded as a major threat to democratic stability and human freedom. Based on a deeply problematic business model, social-media platforms are showing the potential to exacerbate hazards that range from authoritarian privacy violations to partisan echo chambers to the spread of malign disinformation. Authoritarian forces are also profiting from a series of other advances in digital technology, notably including the revolution in artificial intelligence (AI).