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Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes (1st edn)

Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Natasha Lindstaedt, and Erica Frantz
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date: 23 May 2024

p. 152. Defining Democracylocked

p. 152. Defining Democracylocked

  • Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Andrea Kendall-TaylorDirector of the Transatlantic Security Program, Center for a New American Security
  • Natasha LindstaedtNatasha LindstaedtProfessor of Government, University of Essex
  •  and Erica FrantzErica FrantzAssistant Professor, Michigan State University


This chapter discusses the definitions of democracy, which have evolved over time. Although the concept of democracy appears straightforward, this is not necessarily the case. The first approach to defining democracy was the minimalist approach, or those definitions of democracy that focus primarily on the competitiveness of elections. The second approach was the maximalist approach, which holds that democracy must be viewed as more than the presence of regularly held, competitive elections. In addition to repeated, competitive elections, supporters of a maximalist approach include a variety of other attributes in their definitions of democracy. Some of the criteria are procedural (the rule of law, participation, and accountability), while others are substantive (equality and political and civil liberties). Ultimately, clear and consistent frameworks for democracy can provide objective warning signs and early indicators of democratic backsliding. The chapter then explores the four prominent models of democracy: protective, pluralist, participatory, and deliberative.

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