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Illiberal Democracy


Slides based on the Rise of Illiberal Democracies (Fareed Zakaria) for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

Slides based on the Rise of Illiberal Democracies (Fareed Zakaria) for an undergraduate course in Political Thought that I taught between 2003-2005.

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  • Learning Objectives: 1.) To understand the concept of “liberal democracy”. 2.) To appreciate the conceptual difference between democracy and constitutional liberalism.


  • 1. the rise of illiberal democracies
  • 2. Overview
    • Who is Fareed Zakaria?
    • What is the difference between democracy and constitutional liberalism?
    • What is meant by an illiberal democracy?
  • 3. Fareed Zakaria
    • Editor of Newsweek International , former managing editor of Foreign Affairs.
    • Holds degrees from Yale (History) and Harvard (International Relations)
    • Books: The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad and From Wealth to Power
  • 4. More than Just Democracy
    • Liberalism and democracy are the basic elements of a liberal democracy
      • Both are conceptually distinct
    • Democracy can be found in the existence of political liberties
      • Greek Heritage
    • Liberalism is expressed in the exercise of civil liberties
      • Roman Heritage
  • 5. Democracy
    • As such, democracy is just a process or method of selecting governments
    • In its minimalist sense, a democracy entails free and fair elections
    • It legitimizes rule in the eyes of the governed
    • Ultimately, it is a descriptive term
  • 6. Constitutional Liberalism
    • Civil liberties are encapsulated by the concept of constitutional liberalism
    • Western tradition of protecting an individual’s autonomy and dignity from coercion
    • “Constitutional” in the sense that it is based on the rule of law
    • More than descriptive, constitutional liberalism speaks of a government’s goals
  • 7. I lliberal Democracy
    • There is a tendency to look positively upon governments because they are democratic
    • However, just because a country is democratic does not mean it is constitutionally liberal
    • Some governments even use democratic processes to legitimize illiberal conduct
  • 8. Conceptual Matrix Illiberal Democracy Autocracy Low Liberal Democracy High High Low DEMOCRACY CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERALISM Semi- Democracy Liberal Autocracy
  • 9. Implications
    • There will always be some trade-off between democracy and constitutional liberalism
      • Democracy has to do with accumulation of power
      • Constitutional liberalism pertains to limitations to power
    • Democracies in and of themselves are not necessarily good
  • 10. Implications
    • By and large, constitutional liberalism appears more desirable than democracy
    • “Transplanting” democratic institutions becomes problematic: it is only one half of the equation
    • Obtaining democracy may not be so much of an end but really a beginning