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Analysing Change in the Quality of Democracy: A Theoretical Perspective

Luca Tomini
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Ramona Coman
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Luca Tomini
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Open Panel

Abstract

What is changing in the functioning of our democracies, compared to what and under what conditions? What these new transformations are like and what impact do they have on our democratic regimes? The answers to these questions are not yet fully convincing in the existing literature for several reasons. The first one is that democracy does not have a consensual or clear cut definition. The second one is related to the attention paid to the constitutional designs of political regimes without taking into account the policy practice. The third reason is related to the analytical approach used in the literature, which has preferred description and formulation of models of democracy rather than trying to find the causes of the changes. Certainly, both describing and explaining are essential. However, the accumulation of empirical evidence should be reconsidered in order to improve theory. The aim of this paper is twofold: first, we investigate the explanatory capacity of the analytical categories used to define the different models of democracy. Second, to explain change in the qualities of democracy we propose a theoretical approach characterized by the following elements: a dynamic definition of quality of democracy, moving from a static model of analysis, which assesses the state of democracy in a given time, to a dynamic model that takes into account the processes that change over time a democratic system; a preference for a qualitative methodology; a focus on the comparison between “established” and “new” democracies; and the attention to the dynamic interaction between formal (institutions, norms) and informal (behaviors, values) dimensions of democracy.