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Christina Schneider - The International Liberal Foundations of Democratic Backsliding

Encina Hall West, room 400

Recent years have witnessed significant democratic backsliding. An increasing number of democracies around the world experience incremental deteriorations of democratic institutions, rules, and norms resulting from the actions of duly elected governments. Despite the centrality of democratic backsliding to the recent wave of autocratization, we know little about how it is affected by international economic and political liberalization. We argue that the political and economic integration of many newly democratized, hybrid, and autocratic regimes into the U.S.-led Liberal International Order after the end of the Cold War has provided aspiring autocrats with the necessary tools, resources, and support to pursue strategies of incremental executive aggrandizement. Our theory implies that integration has increased the likelihood of democratic backsliding after the end of the Cold War, especially in regimes where anti-pluralist forces were able to capture the LIO for their own purposes. We test the empirical implications of our theory with a mixed-methods approach that combines a large-n quantitative comparative analysis of democratic backsliding in 153 countries during and after the Cold War with a typical case study to trace the underlying causal mechanisms of the theory. The findings indicate that international economic and political liberalization has had a robust positive effect on the likelihood of democratic backsliding in a broad range of contexts and that the hypothesized mechanisms are clearly observable in the detailed case study. These findings have important implications for democracy in an integrated world.


Christina J. Schneider is Professor and Jean Monnet Chair at the University of California, San Diego. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Konstanz in 2006, and worked at the Max Planck Institute of Economics in Jena (2006-2007), the University of Oxford (2007-2008), and the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance in Princeton (2008-2009). Her research focuses on the domestic politics of cooperation and bargaining in international organizations with a focus on the European Union and international development organizations. Her books on Responsiveness in the EU and EU enlargement negotiations are published with Cambridge University Press, and her articles appear in journals such as American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of European Public Policy, and Public Choice. More details are available on her webpage: