Democracy Paradox

The Democracy Paradox explores the diverse range of perspectives and insights about democracy through an interview format.


Democracy Paradox

Democracy has different meanings to different people. Scholars might describe democracy as liberal, participatory, direct, militant, elitist, or open. The Democracy Paradox explores these contradictory and paradoxical interpretations of democracy through wide ranging conversations. Every week Democracy Paradox looks to political scientists, historians, sociologists, and even art historians to better understand democracy, politics, and the world around us. Past episodes have discussed civil resistance, African politics, social media, and polarization. Learn why our guests consider this interview the deepest reading of their work they have come across!

Featured Guests

Where To Start

Donald Horowitz on the Formation of Democratic Constitutions

The most beautiful thing that happened in Indonesia, by the way, which was a polarized society along religious lines more than anything else, was that by the end of the proceedings, everybody knew what everybody else's problems were, what everyone else's constituencies wanted. They knew if X noticed that Y was making a demand, before long X figured out what was behind the demand and why Y had to make it and whether it was a real demand or whether it was made just for the sake of being on record.

Donald Horowitz

A full transcript is available at or a short review of Constitutional Processes and Democratic Commitment here.

Donald Horowitz is the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus at Duke University.

Key Highlights Include

  • Accounts of constitutional formation in Tunisia, Indonesia, and Malaysia
  • The role of consensus
  • The challenges of negotiated constitutions
  • The need for an inclusive process
  • Why citizen participation is not always beneficial

Key Links

Constitutional Processes and Democratic Commitment  by Donald Horowitz

"Ethnic Power Sharing: Three Big Problems"  by Donald Horowitz in the Journal of Democracy

Reconsidering Democratic Transitions Francis Fukuyama, Donald Horowitz, Larry Diamond on YouTube

Jan-Werner Müller on Democracy Rules

It really matters how you set up conflict and how you talk about the issue and above all how you talk about your adversary. That's where I see the decisive difference between those who tend to invoke the people, the common good and et cetera, in a way that is compatible with democracy and then those who talk in a way that, ultimately, is bound to be dangerous for democracy.

Jan-Werner Müller

A full transcript is available at

Jan is a professor of Social Sciences at Princeton University. He is the author of the books What is Populism? and Democracy Rules.

Key Highlights Include

  • What does it mean to be undemocratic in a democracy
  • Why populism threatens democracy
  • Role of conflict in democracy
  • What is militant democracy and is it democratic
  • Role of the majority and opposition in democracy

Key Links

Democracy Rules by Jan-Werner Müller

What is Populism? by Jan-Werner Müller

"False Flags" from Foreign Affairs by Jan-Werner Müller

Related Content

Chris Bickerton Defines Technopopulism

Zizi Papacharissi Dreams of What Comes After Democracy

More from the Podcast

Kurt Weyland Distinguishes Between Fascism and Authoritarianism

In the 19th century Europe had thought that they had moved towards liberalism, enlightenment, rationality, progress, that stuff like mass warfare was over and it wouldn't come back. And then you have four years of senseless, mass slaughter, they just totally destroyed or challenged those ideas of humankind getting better off, progress of humankind getting more civilized. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine the coincidence of deep challenges and crises that wrecked the interwar years.

Kurt Weyland

A full transcript is available at

Key Highlights Include

  • Kurt clarifies the concept of totalitarian fascism from conservative authoritarianism
  • A description of the political environment of the interwar period
  • Why did authoritarians disliked communism and fascism?
  • Why did fascism emerge during this period?
  • Is there a parallel between the interwar period to today?

Kurt Weyland is a professor of political science at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the new book Assault on Democracy: Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years.

Key Links

Assault on Democracy: Communism, Fascism, and Authoritarianism During the Interwar Years by Kurt Weyland

"The Real Lessons of the Interwar Years" by Agnes Cornell, Jørgen Møller, Svend-Erik Skaaning in Journal of Democracy, July 2017

Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation by Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan

Related Content

Agnes Cornell and Svend-Erik Skaaning on the Interwar Period

Paul Robinson on Russian Conservatism

More from the Podcast

Meet The Hosts

Justin Kempf


Justin is the host of The Democracy Paradox which explores the diverse range of perspectives and insights about democracy through an interview format. Every week new scholars are invited to share their breakthrough research or bold ideas about politics, economics, and society. As a blog author he writes weekly reviews on classic works of politics, international relations, and philosophy. Democracy is a complex and nuanced concept. It challenges our preconceptions. Take the time to explore the Democracy Paradox.

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