Subject: Referendums

January 2024, Volume 35, Issue 1

Why Separatism Is No Match for Democracy

Separatists encounter a fundamental paradox: The very political flexibility that allows their aspirations to flourish in a democratic setting also provides the tools to snuff out their movements. It explains why they almost never succeed.

April 2020, Volume 31, Issue 2

The Hard Truths of Brexit

The 2019 election ended years of turmoil over the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU, but challenges to national unity and parliamentary sovereignty are only beginning to come to a head.

January 2020, Volume 31, Issue 1

Democracy’s Inevitable Elites

Robert Michels’s classic work on the “iron law of oligarchy” can help us to understand why there is so much dissatisfaction with representative democracy.

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

The Rise of Referendums: Elite Strategy or Populist Weapon?

Political elites once held referendums to fend off challenges to European integration. More recently, Euroskeptic parties have employed referendums to batter down the walls of elite consensus. But the spread of referendums threatens to undermine the legitimacy of representative democracy.

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

The Rise of Referendums: Demystifying Direct Democracy

Plebiscites have grown less common in recent decades in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian countries, even as the use of referendums in democracies has expanded. Despite their many shortcomings, referendums are, on balance, a mechanism for strengthening democracy.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Hugo Chávez’s “Petro-Socialism”

Will Hugo Chávez’s victory in the 15 February 2009 vote to end term limits enable him to drive Venezuela toward “Bolivarian socialism”? There are reasons to doubt this, but for now democracy’s prospects do not look encouraging.