Date of Award

Winter 2008

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

David C. Earnest

Committee Member

Arthur N. Waldron


Scant attention has focused on the systematic study of democratic failure. This dissertation partially corrects this oversight. Tracing the roots of antidemocratic sentiment across the centuries, it first argues that the advance of institutions, fueled by underlying shifts in values and innovation in political philosophy, was key to freeing democracy from its bondage as a most disparaged form of governance. Focusing on the measurable aspects of these institutions, the study focuses on describing patterns of behavior when democracies fail. First, it shows that there have been clusters of democratic failure. These clusters, or counterwaves, find their roots in ancient antidemocratic sentiment with modern ideological twists. The comparison of these counterwaves helps illuminate threats to democracy present in antidemocratic ideals that have held sway in the international system at varying times. Examining democratic failures in high level democracies, mid-level democracies, and low level democracies, it shows that democracies by and large fail quickly and dramatically. It highlights the issue of repeat offenders, those democracies that repeatedly attempt "rule by the many" even when plagued with democratic failure. Finally, it also shows the relevance of the deepening of autocracy as it interacts with the idea of the failure of democracy.


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