V-Dem Users' Working Paper #11: "A Tale of Culture-Bound Regime Evolution: The Centennial Democratic Trend and Its Recent Reversal" by WVSA Vice-President Christian Welzel.
Using a new measure of “comprehensive democracy” derived from V-Dem, this analysis traces the global democratic trend over the last 116 years, from 1900 till 2016, looking in particular at the centennial trend’s cultural zoning. Despite a burgeoning literature on resurgent authoritarianism, Welzel finds no evidence for a whol...esale reversal of the centennial democratic trend, although indications for a decennial stagnation and a very recent downswing are undeniable. Whether this downswing will turn into a lasting erosion of democracy remains to be seen but seems unlikely in light of the fact that previous reverse waves have always only temporarily halted democracy’s long-term ascension. At the same time, democracy has been proceeding and continues to differentiate political regimes in a strongly culture-bound manner: high levels of democracy remain a distinctive feature of countries in which emancipative values have grown strong over the generations. By the same token, backsliding and autocratization are limited to cultures with under-developed emancipative values. In line with this finding, public support for democracy neither favors democratization, nor does it prevent autocratization in disjunction from emancipative values. On the contrary, public support for democracy shows such pro-democratic effects if—and only if—it co-exists in close association with emancipative values. The reason is that—in disconnect from emancipative values—support for democracy frequently reverts its meaning, indicating the exact opposite of what intuition suggests: namely, support for autocracy. In conclusion, the prospects for democracy are bleak where emancipative values remain weak.
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