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World Politics

Vol. 65, No. 4

October 2013

Abstract
Democratic Careening
By Dan Slater

Democracy in the developing world is generally outliving expectations, but not outperforming them. Democratic collapse has happily been a far rarer event thus far in the twenty-first century than it was in the twentieth. Yet it does not exactly ring true to say that most developing country democracies are consolidating. This review essay ventures the claim that political scientists need to transcend their rightful concerns with how and why young democracies collapse or consolidate, and devote more attention to theorizing how and why they careen. It defines democratic careening as political instability sparked by intense conflict between partisan actors deploying competing visions of democratic accountability. Careening occurs when actors who argue that democracy requires substantial inclusivity of the entire populace (vertical accountability) clash with rivals who defend democracy for its constraints against excessive concentrations of unaccountable power, particularly in the political executive (horizontal accountability). These arguments are elaborated through reviews of leading theoretical works on democratic breakdown as well as detailed case studies of Thailand and Taiwan.


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