The Real Lessons of the Interwar Years

Issue Date July 2017
Volume 28
Issue 3
Page Numbers 14-28
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Several observers have recently invoked interwar political developments to make the case that even established democracies are fragile and vulnerable to breakdown. However, the real lesson of the interwar period is that even crises as devastating as the Great Depression and the political success of totalitarian movements did little to undermine the stability of established democratic systems. Only in new and fragile democracies did the economic, political, and social dislocations of the 1920s and 1930s tear apart the democratic fabric. Although long established democracies in Western Europe and North America may today be facing a perilous situation, the interwar experience does not lend support to the argument that they are fragile.

About the Authors

Jørgen Møller

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Svend-Erik Skaaning

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Agnes Cornell

Agnes Cornell is assistant professor of political science at Aarhus University, Denmark.

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