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The End of the Consolidation Paradigm: A Response to Our Critics

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Foa, Roberto Stefan  ORCID logo
Mounk, Yascha 


In the study of democracy and democratization, there is a clear and prevailing paradigm that has reigned since the early 1990s: the theory of democratic consolidation. According to this theory, democratic consolidation is a one-way street. Once a set of threshold conditions is attained, the stability of democracy is assured. Democracy has become consolidated. To be sure, scholars of democratic consolidation vary in their assessment of the precise nature of these threshold conditions. On various accounts, they consist in the legitimacy of democratic institutions and processes among political actors; the procedural acceptance of democratic rules and the passing of a "two-turnover test;" the growth of the civic sector as a check upon political elites; or the spread of liberal values in society as a whole. But despite such differences of emphasis, they share a crucial premise: implicitly or explicitly, they believe that a successful transition to democracy will prove permanent. The purpose of our articles, published in the July 2016 and January 2017 editions of the Journal of Democracy, has been a modest one: We sought to give serious consideration to the mountain of anomalies that has accumulated in recent years; to assess whether confidence in the consolidation paradigm is still warranted; and to invite scholars to think anew about the conditions under which democratic governance may be considered durable and stable.



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Journal of Democracy

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Johns Hopkins University Press

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