Liberal democracy and beyond: extending the sequencing debate

C. Hobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)


The extreme optimism that shaped the nascent democracy promotion community in the 1980s and early 1990s has been strongly tempered by an increasing number of setbacks to the global expansion of democracy. Zakaria’s influential ‘illiberal democracies’ argument was an early example of this trend towards a more uncertain outlook about democracy’s prospects. His argument was useful in focusing attention on the conceptual underpinnings of these practices. Despite the promising starting point, Zakaria reached limited and conservative conclusions, essentially calling for the revival of a Whig approach: liberalism first, democracy later. Furthermore, his conceptual analysis was overly restricted: democracies are liberal or they are illiberal. This article challenges, revises, and extends Zakaria’s arguments, by examining alternative models of democracy that lie both within and beyond liberalism. It is argued that in contrast to Zakaria’s suggestion that democracy promotion may need to be delayed or deferred, considering different democratic models offers a more optimistic prognosis, as the way forward is not through abandoning the support of democracy, but, instead, potentially through advancing a different form of democracy, one more suitable to a precise local context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-454
JournalInternational Political Science Review
Issue number4
Early online date22 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2012


  • democratization
  • liberalism
  • illiberal democracy
  • sequencing
  • democracy promotion


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