Democracy v. authoritarianism: let the battle of ideas commence (Democracy Digest)

Who said that the democratic idea is losing its luster?

The world’s democracies may have grown a little timid in confronting the resurgent autocrats. But the battle of ideas between democracy and authoritarianism is back on, writes Financial Times analyst Gideon Rachman.

With the waning of the Third Wave of democracy, a backlash against free trade, globalization and democracy promotion “is entirely possible – maybe even likely,” he argues in his new book.

Yet the tumultuous developments in Tunisia, Egypt and beyond are prompting a re-think.

“It is ironic that the democratic movements in the Arab world broke out just as autocracy seemed to be coming back into fashion,” he notes.

The authoritarian backlash won’t let up anytime soon and we’re likely to see continuing regression in emerging and fragile democracies.

Remember the last round of democratic breakthroughs? No, not 1989. The mixed results of the color revolutions confirm that the real challenge lies in consolidating hard-won democratic gains.

“While the public hunger for dignity is unabated, the road from authoritarianism to democracy is rocky and perilous,” David Brooks notes. For external actors, “the real work comes after the revolution — in helping democrats build governments that work.”

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