Democratic Horizons: what value change reveals about the future of democracy

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Recent accounts of democratic backsliding are negligent about the cultural foundations of autocracy-vs-democracy. To bring culture back in, I demonstrate that (1) the countries’ membership in culture zones explains some 70% of the global variation in autocracy-vs-democracy and (2) that this culture-bound variation has remained astoundingly constant over time–in spite of all the trending patterns in the global distribution of regime types over the last 120 years. Furthermore, the explanatory power of culture zones over autocracy-vs-democracy roots in the cultures’ differentiation on “authoritarian-vs-emancipative values.” Against this backdrop, lasting regime turnovers happen as a corrective response to glacially accruing regime-culture misfits–driven by generational value shifts into a pre-dominantly emancipatory direction. Consequently, the backsliding of democracies into authoritarianism is limited to societies in which emancipative values remain under-developed. Contrary to the widely cited deconsolidation-thesis, the prevalent generational profile in people’s moral orientations exhibits an almost ubiquitous ascension of emancipative values that will lend more, not less, legitimacy to democracy in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)992-1016
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 04.07.2021

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by Russian Science Foundation [Grant Number Russian Academic Excellence Project’s 5-100’s].

    Research areas

  • autocracy, Autocratization, culture zones, democracy, emancipative values, regime change
  • Politics