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  • Author: Ladan Boroumand
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran is confronted with an unprecedented legitimacy crisis. This article, highlighting the heterodox character of Iran’s theocratic ideology, stresses the tectonic social and cultural changes that have resulted in society’s estrangement from the state over the past forty years in a reaction against this ideology. The nature and depth of these social and cultural changes point to a historic process that is taking Iran toward becoming the first Muslim-majority society to weave into its spiritual, social, and intellectual fabric the principled separation of religion and the state characteristic of the liberal-democratic worldview.
  • Topic: Religion, Culture, Democracy, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Until a few years ago, many argued that liberal democracy was the most just and attractive political regime. The most prominent manifestation of this optimism was Francis Fukuyama’s thesis of the “end of history.” Ironically, many of the same social scientists who dismissed Fukuyama’s work out of hand at the time were themselves committed to equally far-reaching assumptions. Now, as the tides of history are rapidly turning, the hypotheses of theory are being reversed. Indeed, some authors today predict that as the conditions that made liberal democracy possible fade away, it is likely to be supplanted by illiberal democracy, competitive authoritarianism, or outright dictatorship. Such conclusions risk being just as rash as the more optimistic ones that preceded them.
  • Topic: Democracy, Populism, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Francis Fukuyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: 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. The environment for democracy has been further transformed by other slow-moving changes, among them the shift toward neoliberal economic policies, the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lowered expectations regarding democratic transitions. Sustaining democracy will require rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy, while resisting those powers that aspire to make nondemocratic institutions central.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Legitimacy, Democratic Decline
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Nearly thirty years after governments loosened control over broadcasters and publishers, Africa’s media face increasing threats. New laws are resulting in the imprisonment of journalists and closure of media houses, while internet shutdowns and “social-media taxes” are increasingly common strategies to limit the mobilizing and informational potentials of digital technologies. These challenges are occurring in the midst of eroding public support for free media, as the latest Afrobarometer data show increased backing for government restrictions across the continent. Africans’ confidence in their media seems to be declining, potentially due to concerns over bias, hate speech, and disinformation.
  • Topic: Media, Journalism, Censorship, Freedom of Press
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: F. Michael Wuthrich, David Ingleby
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Drawing from the 2019 mayoral elections in Turkey, this paper highlights a path that opposition parties might take to defuse polarized environments and avoid playing into the political traps set by populists in power. The particular type of moral and amplified polarization that accompanies populism’s essential “thin” ideology builds a barrier between a populist’s supporters and the opposition. Yet the CHP opposition in Turkey has recently won notable victories with its new campaign approach of “radical love,” which counteracts populism’s polarizing logic and has exposed Erdoğan’s weakness.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Populism, Authority
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Xu Zhangrun
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has revealed the corruption of Chinese authoritarianism under Xi Jinping. In an unsparing critique, Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun argues that Chinese governance and political culture under the Chinese Communist Party have become morally bankrupt. The Party deceived the Chinese people as the viral outbreak in Wuhan spread across China before developing into a global pandemic. Chinese officials were more concerned with censoring the internet and news of the disease to preserve Xi’s one-man rule than with protecting the people from a public-health disaster. Xu calls on his fellow citizens to reject the strongman politics of the People’s Republic in favor of greater reform and the creation of a constitutional democracy.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Digital Economy, Accountability
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Xiao Qiang
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China has significantly increased controls over its already censored cyberspace—with a ruling that will allow jail terms for spreading “rumors” online, a cybersecurity law that will facilitate state control and data access, crackdowns on unauthorized VPN connections, and emphasis on the concept of “internet sovereignty.” At the same time, technological innovations in such areas as big-data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things are increasingly being harnessed to monitor the lives and activities of China’s 1.4 billion people. The new arsenal of the Chinese surveillance state includes mass video-surveillance projects incorporating facial-recognition technology; voice-recognition software that can identify speakers on phone calls; and a sweeping and intrusive program of DNA collection. In addition, officials are at work on a nationwide Social Credit System (SCS) intended to assess the conduct of every Chinese citizen.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Social Media, Surveillance, digital culture
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ronald J. Deibert
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Social media have been battered in recent years by growing concerns about disinformation, privacy breaches, and the spread of harmful speech. This article itemizes the problems surrounding social media and political authority in the form of “three painful truths”—so termed because, although there is an emerging consensus around these points, many people are reluctant to squarely acknowledge the depth of the problems and the fundamental changes that would be required to mitigate them. The first painful truth is that the social-media business is built around personal-data surveillance, with products ultimately designed to spy on us in order to push advertising in our direction. The second painful truth is that we have consented to this, but not entirely wittingly: Social media are designed as addiction machines, expressly programmed to draw upon our emotions. The third painful truth is that the attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media also propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability. Moreover, the fine-grained surveillance that companies perform for economic reasons is a valuable proxy for authoritarian control.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Social Media, Surveillance, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Marc F. Plattner
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: With the longstanding dominance of center-left and center-right parties ebbing across Europe and Latin America, there is a growing danger that substantial segments of the right will be captured by tendencies indifferent or even hostile to liberal democracy. The 2019 elections to the European Parliament will provide a key test. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has transformed the debate by openly promoting the concept of “illiberal democracy.” Orbán seeks to equate liberal democracy as such with a set of policy positions supported by forces on the left, thereby prying conservatives away from their fundamental commitment to liberal democracy. This rising challenge has manifested itself in a struggle for control of the European Union’s center-right bloc, the European People’s Party, as well as in the recent writings of several political theorists identified with the conservative side of the political spectrum.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Liberal Order, Conservatism, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary, Latin America, Central Europe
  • Author: Glenn Tiffert
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The Chinese Communist Party allows no public commemoration of the protest movement that it violently crushed in the vicinity of Tiananmen Square in 1989, but its private reckoning with that tragedy has never mattered more. President Xi Jinping has quietly taken Tiananmen as a guiding light, reading it as a cautionary tale of regime decay and a playbook for revival. This view has inspired his campaigns to tackle corruption, restore ideological discipline, and reclaim control over history. And the most lasting contribution of all to Xi’s tenure may be the selective rehabilitation of traditional Chinese culture as a source of political legitimacy.
  • Topic: Corruption, Social Movement, Authoritarianism, Protests
  • Political Geography: China, Asia