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In its annual Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit provides an invaluable snapshot of how the world’s nations govern. It places 165 countries and two territories on a political spectrum divided into four groups: “authoritarian, hybrid regime, flawed democracy” and “full democracy.” The EIU’s uniquely rigorous approach clarifies the effects of the 2008 financial crash, the Arab Spring and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis on democracy everywhere. getAbstract recommends this study to anyone in global policy making, cross-border finance or international economics, and to those who follow international politics with interest – and, perhaps, dismay.


Pessimism About Democracy

The Great Recession left a legacy of pessimism about democracy and sapped confidence that democracy can raise living standards. Eastern Europe and Latin America still show the effects of the recession. Pre-recession gains that fledgling democracies made are at risk of receding or vanishing. Civil liberties and other democratic tenets are under threat in North America and Europe.

During the 1970s and 1980s, more than 30 countries adopted democracy as their mode of governance. Populist uprisings toppled authoritarian regimes in that “third wave of democratization.” Elections quickly followed revolutions, yet – as the aftermath of World War II proved – building a democracy may be easier than sustaining one. Among the nations that opted for democracy in that postwar era, 20 fell back into authoritarianism.

When the Berlin Wall fell, liberal democracy’s victory over communism seemed absolute. The democratic wave that had begun in 1974 continued to sweep across the globe. But since then, democracy’s advocates have had little to celebrate. A country’s commitment to democratic values must extend past elections. To endure, democracy must become...

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