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Democracy’s Retreat

An article by Joshua Kurlantzick, one of our favorite writers, argues that the middle class in many countries has turned into an anti-democratic force. Certainly seems true in Russia, where the narrative of the day is authoritarianism in exchange for economic growth. Will the three-day market crash motivate the middle class to ask for their rights back? From the Boston Globe:

And the villains, surprisingly enough, are the same people who supposedly make democracy possible: the middle class. Traditional theories of democratization, such as those of Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, predict a story of middle class heroics: As a country develops a true middle class, these urban, educated citizens insist on more rights in order to protect their economic and social interests. Eventually, as the size of the middle class grows, those demands become so overwhelming that democracy is inevitable. But now, it appears, the middle class in some nations has turned into an antidemocratic force. Young democracy, with weak institutions, often brings to power, at first, elected leaders who actually don’t care that much about upholding democracy. As these demagogues tear down the very reforms the middle classes built, those same middle classes turn against the leaders, and then against the system itself, bringing democracy to collapse. This is a process now being repeated in Africa, Asia, and parts of Latin America, regions that once seemed destined to become the third and fourth waves of global democratization, following the original Western democracies and the second wave in southern Europe and several other regions. The pattern has become so noticeable – repeated in Venezuela, Russia, Bangladesh, and other states – that one must even wonder about democracy’s future itself