Democratic Survival or Autocratic Revival in Interwar Europe A Comparative Examination of Structural Explanations

  • Svend-Erik Skaaning


At the beginning of the interwar period, almost all European countries had introduced democratic rights. But at the end, more than half were under outright autocratic rule. Using csQCA, this article tests five structural explanations of why democracies either survived or did not gain a foothold. The results show that early state-building was a necessary condition for democratic survival. In the case of the predominant path to democratic stability, this factor was combined with weak landlords and a subordination of religious interests to political authority. Furthermore, the findings indicate that strong landlords and the absence of a liberal hegemony were prerequisites for establishing or continuing autocratic rule. In conjunction with late state-building or a strong, independent religious leadership, these factors made up two paths that applied to all democratic reversals but one. As regards lessons from history, the study suggests that deficient state-building and ‘strongmen’, such as powerful agrarian and religious elites, impede the construction, stabilization and deepening of democracy in today's developing countries.


Religious Leadership Political Authority Qualitative Comparative Analysis American Political Science Review Structural Explanation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  • Svend-Erik Skaaning

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