Democracy in Retreat: The Revolt of the Middle Class and the Worldwide Decline of Representative Government

Unlike earlier periods when democracies faltered, such as the 1930s, today democracy is waning in every region of the world, and many countries where democratic rule is fading are regional powers, such as Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia, which harms the prospects for democracy in surrounding countries. Meanwhile, authoritarian states, such as China and Russia, have tightened their grips. Kurlantzick struggles to identify the precise causes of this global democratic recession. The slowing or reversal of economic growth is at fault, but so, too, are the more general travails of modernity: economic inequality, weak social welfare systems, disease, urbanization, environmental degradation, and migration. Those factors give autocrats and authoritarians short-term advantages in winning the support of fearful middle-class constituencies. The book is convincing in diagnosing the troubled state of democracy, rooted in its failure to reliably deliver shared prosperity and economic security. But it is less convincing in arguing that nondemocracies will ultimately fair any better or establish their authority and legitimacy as alternative models of political rule.

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