Populism, Pluralism, and Liberal Democracy

Issue Date January 2010
Volume 21
Issue 1
Page Numbers 81-92
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After a period of extraordinary advances in the final quarter of the twentieth century, the first decade of the new millennium saw the march of democracy around the world grind to a halt. A democratic “backlash” or “pushback” by nondemocratic regimes seemed to be in evidence, and some commentators spoke of the emergence of an “authoritarian capitalist” alternative to democracy. Yet the new focus on the resilience of authoritarianism may have led to a tendency to neglect or undervalue the resilience of democracy. If it is correct that liberal democracy requires the maintenance of a successful balance between majority rule and individual and minority rights, this balance can be disrupted in two different ways, by populism and radical pluralism. In liberal democracies, however, these two forces serve to counteract one another.

COMMENTARY: In “The Resilience of Democracy,Eduardo Posada-Carbó reflects on the 20th Anniversary of the Journal of Democracy.