In the immediate aftermath of all these democratic transitions, pressing concerns have quickly arisen about how to strengthen and stabilize these new regimes. It has come to include such divergent items as popular legitimation, the diffusion of democratic values, the neutralization of antisystem actors, civilian supremacy over the military, the [End Page 91] elimination of authoritarian enclaves, party building, the organization of functional interests, the stabilization of electoral rules, the routinization of politics, the decentralization of state power, the introduction of mechanisms of direct democracy, judicial reform, the alleviation of poverty, and economic stabilization. At this point, with people using the concept any way they like, nobody can be sure what it means to others, but all maintain the illusion of speaking to one another in some comprehensible way. The use of one and the same term for vastly different things only simulates a shared common language; in fact, the reigning conceptual disorder is acting as a powerful barrier to scholarly communication, theory building, and the accumulation of knowledge. The meaning that we ascribe to the notion of democratic consolidation depends on where we stand our empirical viewpoints and where we aim to reach our normative horizons. It varies according to the contexts and the goals we have in mind.

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We'd like to understand how you use our websites in order to improve them. Register your interest. The concept of democratic consolidation has become a pivotal concept in comparative politics.

For all its apparent thinness and simplicity, this conceptualization poses considerable problems of operationalization and measurement. As the article argues, cholars have been relying on three basic strategies to assess the survival prospects of democratic regimes. They have been studying either behavioral, attitudinal, or structural foudnations of democratic consolidation. This article briefly examines those approaches that rely on different kinds of empirical evidence as well as on different causal assumptions.

On the basis of a quick revision of recent Latin American experiences, it concludes that in common judgments about democratic consolidation, behavioral evidence seems to trump both attitudinal and structural data. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

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Measuring Democratic Consolidation

A democracy becomes consolidated—that is, it is expected to endure—when political actors accept the legitimacy of democracy and no actor seeks to act outside democratic institutions for both normative and self-interested reasons. On one the hand, when democracy becomes routinized, institutionalized, and normalized, acting outside or in violation of democratic norms is both unappealing and disadvantageous for politicians and other political actors. On the other hand, equating consolidation with endurance may strike some scholars and students as a descriptive tautology; consolidated democracies are those that survive, and surviving democracies are those that are consolidated. The way in which to measure and define consolidation, therefore, is debated by scholars in the field.


Viewpoints and Horizons




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