TD Unit June 2023
WZB Martina Sander-Blanck
Research Unit
Main content

As the number of autocracies in the world grows, democracy appears under threat around the world. Not only new democracies, but even established Western democracies themselves have fallen into varying degrees of self-diagnosed crisis. With Donald Trump’s 2016 election in the United States and the rise to the verge of power of populist, Eurosceptic, and anti-immigrant forces in Europe, in addition to signs of polarization, political distrust, and even political violence, some observers have begun to worry that even the world’s most established democracies may be at risk. We are faced, then, with one of the most pressing issues of our time: can liberal democracy as it exists today survive in a recognizable form?

The Transformations of Democracy department's research seeks to understand current challenges facing democracies. The unit analyzes “transformations in democracy”—forward impulses of democratization, backward trends of de-democratization, and innovations in democratic institutions and practice to cope with the new pressures on democracy around the world. With these as our foci, our research has three main pillars:

1) New Threats to Democracy

2) Evolution of Democratic Ideas

3) Democratic transitions and authoritarian persistence

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