Wilson Victorious? Understanding Democracy Promotion in the Midst of a "Backlash"

Michele Acuto

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Many authors have issued anxious warnings about a disturbing "backlash against democracy" - this in spite of the growing affirmation of democracy as an international standard against which other systems are measured. This article considers the role of democracy promotion, which is understood as activities aimed at assisting in consolidating, disseminating, and advocating democratic governance in this context. The theoretical framework in which the promotion debate occurs is high-lighted in order to show how the concept of "democracy" is socially constructed and interpreted in different ways by the various promoters. The article examines the main targets of this activity (state structures and civil societies) and compares two major supporters of democracy (the European Union and the United States). On this basis, claims about a "democratic rollback" are challenged by reference to hybrid regimes that contrast the idea of democracy with that of civilization. The backlash is better understood as resistence to some of the methods of promotion and some promoters, rather than as being against democracy itself, and the article holds that the best way to promote good governance worldwide is through an oblique, cosmopolitan or European-style democracy that fosters the multiple and processual grounds on which democratic polities can flourish.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)461-480
    JournalAlternatives: Global, Local and Political
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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