The Top Ten Most-Read Essays of 2021
"Why the future is democratic" by the Vice-President of the World Values Survey Association and Professor at Leuphana Universität Lüneburg Christian Welzel became the No1 most read essay of the Journal of Democracy in 2021.
Recent accounts of democratic backsliding neglect the cultural foundations of autocracy-versus-democracy. To bring culture back in, this article demonstrates that 1) countries’ membership in culture zones explains some 70 percent of the total cross-national variation in autocracy-versus-democracy; and 2) this culture-bound variation has remained astoundingly constant over time—in spite of all the trending patterns in the global distribution of regime types over the last 120 years. Furthermore, the explanatory power of culture zones over autocracy-versus-democracy is rooted in the cultures’ differentiation on “authoritarian-versus-emancipative values.” Therefore, both the direction and the extent of regime change are a function of glacially accruing regime-culture misfits—driven by generational value shifts in a predominantly emancipatory direction. Consequently, the backsliding of democracies into authoritarianism is limited to societies in which emancipative values remain underdeveloped. Contrary to the widely cited deconsolidation thesis, the ascendant generational profile of emancipative values means that the momentary challenges to democracy are unlikely to stifle democracy’s long-term rise.