Geissel et al. (2016) - Measuring the quality of democracy: Introduction

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Geissel, Brigitte; Kneuer, Marianne; Lauth, Hans-Joachim (2016): „Measuring the quality of democracy: Introduction“. In: International Political Science Review. 37 (5), S. 571–579, DOI: 10.1177/0192512116669141.


  • introduction to special issue of IPSR on the current state of approaches to measuring the quality of democracy


  • (literature review)


  • quality of democracy research is usually interested in assessing to what degree a particular political system (i.e. country) fulfils a certain democratic standard
    • the field has transformed, now looking not only to classify democracies from non-democracies, but rather to classify different types of democracies
    • Economist Intelligence Unit
    • Democracy Barometer
    • Varieties of Democracy Project
  • there are different measurements / indices because all of these vary in what they measure
    • so far no overarching framework
    • the underlying issue is: What is required for a system to be called democratic?
    • "Since democracy is a contested concept, it is rather unlikely to expect agreement on the 'one' concept. In a nutshell: The debate oscillates between narrow or broad definitions, between more parsimonious ('thin') or more substantial ('thick') concepts of democracy." p 572
    • the authors identify a number of problems of this research field including the changes in contemporary democracies (malaise etc) and a lack of communication between this field and other subdisciplines
  • dimensions that have been proposed in various frameworks
    • at the core of all frameworks: elections are a necessary condition, going back to Dahl (1971) and his minimalist version of democracy consisting of contestation and participation
    • often included also: political liberties and democratic rights
    • controversial:
      • rule of law and effective state
      • relationship citizens and representatives, e.g. accountability (see e.g. Bühlmanns Democracy Barometer), descriptive representation, active civil society
      • output related variables, e.g. in the sense of that it achieves more equality (social democracy)
      • citizens' evaluation of democracy and its institutions - so far rarely included

Review needed!