ABSTRACT

The so-called transitions to democracy have thrown up a rich variety of regime types in a range of different social, economic and cultural settings. Some have succeeded in establishing relatively stable new forms of government; others have failed. There is no uniform agreement as to why this occurs. At the same time, many new regimes are termed ‘democratic’ but do not conform to commonsense understandings of the term, except at best in formalistic ways. Some post-authoritarian regimes are termed ‘limited’ or ‘partial’ democracies as a way of indicating their democratic lacunae. Yet the academic world and the international community continue to describe global change as moving in the direction of democracy and most new regimes are awarded a label including the term. Are we right in labeling these new systems ‘democratic? Collier and Levitsky note:

Scholars . . . seek to avoid the problem of conceptual stretching that arises when the concept of democracy is applied to cases for which, by relevant scholarly standards, it is not appropriate. The result has been a proliferation of alternative conceptual forms, including a surprising number of subtypes involving democracy “with adjectives”. . . [A]s democratization has continued and attention has focused on an increasingly diverse set of cases, the proliferation of subtypes and other conceptual innovation has continued.