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Andreas Schedler: Rethinking Political Polarization

When played among ‘democratic enemies,’ democracy stops being ‘the only game in town,’” Andreas Schedler, lead researcher of our De- and Re-Democratization Workgroup writes in his article in Political Science Quarterly.

“The comparative study of political polarization has been central to current debates on the global crisis of democracy. It has been built on uncertain conceptual foundations, though. Established uses of the concept lack a distinctive semantic core as multiple meanings compete against each other,” he argues.

On the basis of a broad reading of the comparative literature, he seeks to “circumscribe the use and reconstruct the core of political polarization as an instance of extraordinary democratic conflict.” In a first step, he delineates “the basic parameters of debate by distinguishing between cluster-analytic and conflict-analytic approaches and by specifying the generic type of political conflict that characterizes the polarization of democratic polities.”

In a second step, he argues “for political intolerance as the defining trait of both ideological and social polarization.” In a final step, he introduces a “third, democratic dimension into the debate: the breakdown of basic democratic trust that leads actors to view their adversaries as “enemies of democracy.” Such perceptions spell the end of democratic consolidation.”

Read the full article here.

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