Meanings of democracy: mapping lay perceptions on scholarly norms

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I am grateful for the honor to write this comment because it gave me the opportunity to read this truly exquisite compilation of works collected under the editorship of Osterberg-Kaufmann, Stark and Mohamad-Klotzbach. The focus of the special section is on new frontiers in the empirical investigation of citizens’ subjective understandings of democracy. It is a methodologically and phenomenologically diverse, and yet thematically cohesive, assemblage of studies that comes at due time and in which the various pieces indeed speak to each other. The compendium covers a significant portion of the innovations going on in the field of measuring lay perceptions of democracy across cultures. To me, the key point is how lay perceptions of democracy map on scholarly norms and where and why mismatches between lay perceptions and scholarly norms exist and what the implications of such mismatches are in terms of global regime-culture coevolution. My comments to the individual articles in the special issue are framed within this broader question. I am phrasing my reflections in a more brainstorming manner, rather than systematically going through each contribution in a point-by-point style. For this reason, my discussion will not address each contribution equally but rather in terms of what I feel should loom large on our research agenda. In a nutshell, I am advocating a decidedly cultural theory of autocracy-vs-democracy—cultural in the sense that we need to triangulate people’s support for and their notions of democracy in the context of encultured values.

Translated title of the contributionBedeutungen von Demokratie: Wie sich Laienwahrnehmungen zu wissenschaftlichen Experten-Ratings verhalten
Original languageEnglish
JournalZeitschrift fur Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)107-118
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 12.03.2021