Western democracies are more under threat than one might think, according to a new study done by German Jewish scholar Yascha Mounk, reported The New York Times.
“The warning signs are flashing red,” he told the newspaper, speaking about his research into the durability of democracy in the United States and Europe. “That’s only one measure,” he said of his work. “But it should have us worried.”
Teaming up with Australian political scientist Roberto Foa, Mounk (a lecturer in government at Harvard) has written a paper that challenges existing narratives about the progress of democracy and raises concerns about the erosion of liberal norms in the United States and Europe.
Developing a three-factor model, Mounk and Foa posited that democracies show early signs of decay when the popularity of democracy suffers, the public shows more openness to nondemocratic forms of government and outsider political forces gain steam.
Writing in the Journal of Democracy, the two apply their model to explain Venezuela’s lapse into authoritarianism under former President Hugo Chavez and the increasing threat to the liberal order posed by Poland’s far-right Law and Justice Party, which prevailed in elections last year.
But that’s not all. Mounk, who grew up in Germany and has written extensively about those experiences, sees the disturbing trend as operative in the United States and Western Europe now, with events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, coupled with public opinion polling that shows a lesser faith in democracy and greater willingness to countenance authoritarian forms of rule like military dictatorship.
Mount hopes that people take heed from his study. “Look, this stuff is already going on in other places,” he told The Times. “If there’s one task that we have as journalists, as academics, as thinkers, it’s to drive the stakes of this home for people.”
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.