How well does 'resilience' apply to democracy? A systematic review

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Scholars increasingly refer to ‘democratic resilience’ to understand the ways democracies respond to threats and challenges. Likewise, policymakers advocate democratic resilience as part of foreign and security strategies, and as an aim of internally strengthening democratic practices, amid changing threat environments. But what does ‘democratic resilience’ mean? Does it align with well-established resilience theorising across other disciplines, and does it provide anything distinct from existing means of understanding democratic perseverance? To answer these questions, we conduct a systematic review of literature discussing democratic resilience, and measure findings against a synthesis of multidisciplinary theorising on resilience. We find that democratic resilience is often under-theorised, used in a fashion that largely repackages existing democratisation concepts, or fails to incorporate advancements in broader resilience theorising. Recent contributions to both theoretical development and operationalisation of democratic resilience, however, indicate a potential turning point in the evolution of the concept.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-92
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary Politics
Issue number1
Early online date28 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • democratic resilience
  • democracy
  • democratic back-sliding
  • Democratic resilience
  • resilience


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