The Quality of Democracy: An Overview

Issue Date October 2004
Volume 15
Issue 4
Page Numbers 20-31
file Print
arrow-down-thin Download from Project MUSE
external View Citation

As democracy has spread to a majority of the world’s states over the past three decades, many scholars, politicians, activists, and aid administrators have gone from asking why transitions happen to asking what the new regimes are like. This new approach focuses on what makes a democracy “good” or “better,” and on how improvements can not only be measured, but encouraged. While there is no absolutely objective way of laying out a single framework for gauging democratic quality, there are eight dimensions on which democracies vary in quality: freedom, the rule of law, vertical accountability, responsiveness, equality, participation, competition, and horizontal accountability. These dimensions are closely linked and tend to move together, either toward democratic improvement and deepening or toward decay.