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Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America. Drawing on a wide range of historical and global examples, they demonstrate how democracy no longer ends with a bang — in a revolution or military coup — but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms.
They also share the good news that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism.
According to the authors: “Blatant dictatorship — in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule — has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves. Like Chávez in Venezuela, elected leaders have subverted democratic institutions in Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Ukraine. Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box.”
About the Authors
Steven Levitsky is a Professor of Government at Harvard University. Lewitsky’s research focuses on Latin America and the developing world. He is the author of Competitive Authoritarianism and Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, and he has co-authored five books on politics, government and democracy in Latin America. He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards.
Daniel Ziblatt is Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard University and director of the "Transformation of Democracy" group at Berlin's Social Science Center (Germany). The focus of his research is on Europe from the nineteenth century to the present. He is the author, most recently, of Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, which received notable recognition including the 2018 Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best book in government and international relations.