How to be a Democrat in an Authoritarian World?

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Abstract

This article is based on a lecture given at the Fifteenth Global Studies Conference on July 21, 2022. It analyzes the causes and implications of the global process of authoritarianization and considers the question of how and whether we can be democrats in an increasingly illiberal world. The article offers an explanation for the offensive against democratic institutions and the rule of law that locates it within the trend toward heightened systemic risk or “cascading crises.” Drawing on the arguments of my 2021 book, “Authoritarian Contagion: The Global Threat to Democracy,” I introduce the concept of authoritarian protectionism, as a framework highly attuned to the “demand for protection” from populations in a situation of systemic risk and breakdown. The closing section of the article considers the implications of this analysis for the future of multilateralism and collective security in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.