Addressing the democratization disconnect


While proposals to abandon democracy promotion are reckless, at this pivotal period in democracy’s evolution, Western democratic leaders can’t continue to operate business as usual, the University of Maryland’s Brian Grodsky contends.

As I argue in my new book, “The Democratization Disconnect,” today’s global democratic revolutions are about broad ideas of human dignity with aspects of both political and, especially, economic change, he writes for The Conversation:

Often, revolutionaries promise democracy because it is the path of least resistance. The international community, through organizations such as the United Nations, bestows legitimacy only to rising democracies. When the dust settles, leaders of these new democracies often revert to nondemocratic rule – either because they were never democrats in the first place, or in the name of quickly fulfilling constituents’ largely economic expectations. In the case of Georgia’s internationally celebrated Rose Revolution, for instance, it took just months for the new president to launch a repressive but popular anti-corruption drive.

Georgia highlights what I call , which stems from a glaring mismatch between the rhetorical promises of democracy on the one hand, and the bleak everyday realities of transition on the other. It is this mismatch that helps explain why the world is now in the throes of a democratic recession, marked by the failure of one in five new democracies since the turn of the millennium.

One alternative to supporting elite, pro-democracy organizations is to put greater resources into organic groups such as trade unions, peasant associations and civic groups, Grodsky suggests:

These organizations could be better positioned to heighten popular understandings of, and commitment to, the democratic process. Part of increasing popular conceptions of democracy could involve highlighting the political rights democracy does such a good job of protecting. Another part could be preparing people for the messy and complicated reality that comes with democracy.


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