Democracy in Hard Places

| Aug. 05, 2022



How does democracy persist for long periods of time in countries that are poor, ethnically heterogenous, wracked by economic crisis, and plagued by state weakness? In Democracy in Hard Places, leading scholars of comparative political regimes attempt to answer this question by examining cases of unlikely democratic survival in “hard places”: countries that lack the structural factors and exist outside of the contexts that scholars have long associated with democracy’s emergence and endurance. Democracies in hard places overcome underdevelopment, ethnolinguistic diversity, state weakness, and patriarchal cultural norms. The book offers rich, empirically grounded theoretical debates about whether democracy survives only because a balance of power and formal institutions constrain actors from overthrowing it, or if it also survives in part because some critical actors are normatively committed to it. The book presents nine case studies—written by leading experts in the discipline—of episodes in which democracy has emerged and survived against long odds. The cases are drawn from almost every region of the world that formed part of the “third wave” of democracy. In each case, many of the conditions conventionally associated with durable democracy were either attenuated or absent. Each case study details the constellation of obstacles to democracy faced by a given country, describes the major political actors with the potential to impact regime trajectories, and explains how the threat of democratic breakdown was staved off or averted.


"We are living through a democratic recession, reversing a decades-long expansion of elections and democratic governance around the world. Why is this happening and what could be done to arrest the decline? This compelling volume tackles this question in an unusual way-by looking at cases (such as India, South Africa, and Indonesia) where democracy has endured, despite having few of the pre-conditions that tend to be associated with success. These rich and carefully researched accounts remind readers that not everything is determined by economic development and other such structural factors. Broadly shared norms and values and specific policy choices all make a difference. Above all, political leaders matter. You cannot have democracy without democrats." -- Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post

"We are living through an era when it is hard not to be aware of democracy's fragility and concerned about its future. Rather than provide another study of democratic decay, Democracy in Hard Places offers us analyses by some of political science's most eminent scholars of how democracy manages to survive, even in ostensibly inauspicious settings. Democracy in Hard Places will be invaluable to those seeking to understand democracy's contemporary problems as well as come up with solutions to them." -- Sheri Berman, Professor of Political Science, Barnard College, Columbia University

"The recent scholarly turn to more structuralist explanations of regime change has left an important question unanswered: many democracies in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America continue to 'overperform' the expectations of existing theories. Why―and how―do fragile democracies survive despite daunting domestic and international conditions? This volume offers some important answers." -- Steven Levitsky, David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government, Harvard University

About This Book

Democracy in Hard Places
Scott Mainwaring
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Democracy in Hard Places. Edited by Tarek Masoud and Scott Mainwaring. 2022.

The Editors