Can Today’s Democratic Deconsolidation Lead to Global Authoritative Dominance?

Generations Y and Z can’t solve the issue alone. Or can they?

Ioannis Dedes
Dec 25, 2020 · 6 min read
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Photo by Marco Oriolesi on Unsplash

One of the most important questions in politics that hasn’t yet been answered is whether we see a deconsolidation of the democratic institutions and processes in the modern globalisation era; is there a significant weakening of democratic institutions, practices and norms.

Many scholars’ reports have shown that people seek other political views and ways of expressing their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, wherever they stand in a democratic parliament, which means that democracy will be the most popular and important way of governing for a long time.

A major prerequisite, however, is that democracy is in a way the ‘only game in town’ since the issues that arise when people are willing to break the democratic purposes and develop authoritative parties are numerous. Throughout history, there are many cases in which a party would rise to power through democratic processes but after being in control in a legitimised way, it would violate democratic processes and there is a purposeful weakening of the democratic institutions. There are indicators and tools that show a possible breakdown of democracy in common states. For instance, there are democracies such as Hungary and Poland, which thrived in applying democratic processes before the end of the 20th century but today, their institutions are threatened by semi or even absolute authoritarianism.

The assumption of great confidence in the consolidation of democratic purposes is something that is hardly found at a similar scale that in the beginning of the 20th century, for example, and according to many reports of the last three decades, trust in democratical institutions have declined, along with the processes of party identification, membership and citizens’ involvement. On the other hand, however, we tend to see a paradox when people that democratic institutions might be failing and lack their support but at the same time, citizens are thankful for democracy since they can protest and vote particular governments out of office. The most important example is the 2020 election when many Americans were losing faith in the democratic institutions and were talking about a hybrid regime under the Trump administration but on the same time, more than 160 million US citizens voted, the largest number in the history of American politics (my analysis on the 2020 US election can be found in the article below).

From the previous paragraph and the article cited above, there can be a rise of an issue, due to the fact that a great number of the people tend to forget that it’s not only their vote that counts in strengthening the democratic consolidation and there is definitely more work that should be done for the prevention of any schemes of authoritarianism. Despite the fact that 41% of adults think that is an essential part of democracy, only 32% of the young citizens take it into account. It’s abundantly clear that democratic institutions and support for them doesn’t only depend on voting procedures and protection of civl rights along with the engagement of citizens and political-party membership has an equal and even more important role in the democratic ‘shield’, but has fallen significantly after the beginning of the 21st century.

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Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

One main issue that causes the lack of support in politics is the generational gap, which keeps widening more and more as you are reading this particular article. It’s fair to claim that young people are worryingly disengaged from democratic institutions and politics and this is supported by the fact that most people from the new generations prefer “non-conventional” forms of activism such as protesting or rioting, rather than embracing the conventional forms of participating in democratic politics. This had been the case for at least the beginning of the century but right now, there’s a concern of young people not even taking part in protests and incentives of activism. Paradoxically, the number of US baby-boomers that have joined a protest in recent years is larger than the number of people in the Generation Y (1/11 to 1/15).

What is even more concerning is that scholars have a difficulty identifying whether this is a problem that derives from lack of interest or is caused by people searching for an authoritative regime that could replace democracy. It’s a justifiable claim by many that young people, who were subjected to politics after the end of the Cold War, were indifferent towards the democratic governments due to the fact that in the grand majority, they hadn’t been threatened by any radical party or regime. Nonetheless, once again, the main driving force of searching for alternatives and illiberal democratic institutions and regimes are the young generations; either supporting the military ruling of the state, either radical left or right parties, either one authoritarian ruler, they are considered the ‘steering wheel’ of democratic consolidation or deconsolidation.

One text which is valuable for our analysis and has to be considered a reliable source that answers the question was written by Roberto Stefan Foa and Yascha Mounk, entitled The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect, and published in 2016. Foa and Mounk show how a serious democratic disconnect has emerged and throughout the report, they see it more as a crisis of particular cases, when dissatisfaction strikes. In accordance with the first question of whether there’s a trend of democratic consolidation one has to take into account whether this is a partial crisis in a regime or a general and global trend. For instance, the case of a complete deconsolidation and reduction of democratic institutions in Hungary, under Victor Orbán’s reign, is more of a regional issue whereas the lack of interest of younger people for voting and involvement in parties is a global problem that contributes to a bigger trend of authoritarianism.

Another important claim that one has to take into consideration when discussing the possibility of a general democratic consolidation is that democratic regimes, which are poor and the standards of living for every person are low, are more vulnerable to problems of the institutions and populism. As a matter of fact, no consolidated democracy with a GDP per capita of over 6,000 dollars and developed after 1985 has collapsed.

Overall, it’s more than justifiable to be concerned about the separation of democratic institutions, the lack of involvement and the rise of popularity for radical parties. Nonetheless, throughout world history, there is no other way of governing that has safeguarded its interests and its supporters as democracy has. Despite the number of people that defy it and seek for alternatives, democracy won’t ‘die’ overnight and it definitely won’t ‘die’ in the close future. Regime change is a matter of accident as well as intentions and everyday circumstances, and since most of the hybrid or authoritative parties are incompetent when facing the democratic regime, it would be more than difficult to see tremendous changes in the world of democratic politics in the near future.

However, please be reminded. Difficult doesn’t necessarily mean impossible.

Bibliography

Foa, R. S., & Mounk, Y. (2016). The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect. Journal of Democracy, (3), 5–17.

Ormos, Maria and Bela K. Kiraly. 2001. Hungary: Government and Politics 1848–2000. New Jersey: Atlantic Research and Publications, Inc.

Stone, Marvin. 1996. “A Magyar Melange: Politics Still Control Hungarian Television and Radio, but Newspapers are Freer and Vibrant”. Nieman Reports, 50(20): 64.

Fabbrini, Federico (2014) “The Euro-Crisis and the Courts: Judicial Review and the Political Process in Comparative Perspective,” Berkeley Journal of International Law Vol. 32, №1, pp. 64–123.

Eder, K. and Trenz, H-J (2007) “Prerequisites of Transnational Democracy and Mechanisms for Sustaining It,”in B. Kohler-Koch and B. Ritberger (eds.) Debating the Democratic Legitimacy of the European Union. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.

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Ioannis Dedes

Written by

18-year-old fanatic for history and politics; also writing about economics, environment, self-improvement, and health.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Ioannis Dedes

Written by

18-year-old fanatic for history and politics; also writing about economics, environment, self-improvement, and health.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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