© 2019

Rethinking the Value of Democracy

A Comparative Perspective


Part of the The Theories, Concepts and Practices of Democracy book series (PSTCD)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 1-27
  3. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 69-113
  4. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 115-163
  5. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 165-200
  6. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 201-236
  7. Renske Doorenspleet
    Pages 237-256
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 257-266

About this book


This book is the first comprehensive analysis of the instrumental value of democracy in a comparative perspective. Based on extensive analyses of quantitative studies from different disciplines, it explores both the expected beneficial and harmful impact of democracy. Democracy’s reputation as delivering peace and development while controlling corruption is an important source of its own legitimacy. Yet, as this book acutely demonstrates, the arguments tend to be normatively driven interventions in ideologically charged policy debates. The book argues that we need neither a utopian framing of democracy as delivering all ‘good things’ in politics nor a cynical one that emphasizes only the ‘dangerous underbelly’ of this form of government. The author also raises critical questions about the value of the study of democracy: the choice for particular concepts and measures, the unknown mechanisms, and the narrow focus on specific instrumental values. This volume will be necessary reading for anyone interested in debates on democracy in the contemporary global context.


Democracy Comparative Politics Democractization Hybrid systems Democracy and Corruption Democracy and Peace Democracy and War Democracy and Economic Development Polity IV Project Freedom House Contesting Democracy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International StudiesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Renske Doorenspleet is Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Warwick, UK.

Bibliographic information


“Insightful, illuminating – with some startling conclusions – this is a wonderfully readable book that offers original critiques of democracy studies. The book has a realistic take on democracy's value without resorting to false optimism or fatalistic despair. It makes a strong and refreshing case for taking the value of democracy seriously in these times of imminent threats to democracy. This important book takes the scholarly debate forward in a nuanced way.” (Arend Lijphart, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, UC San Diego, USA)

“Timely and important, this book tackles the key question of whether democracy is 'worth it'. It challenges standard assumptions and its conclusion makes sobering reading. The book still calls on scholars not to abandon democracy, however, but to pursue further why and how democracy matters and to whom. A really brave book, with crucial findings, that, at the same time, sets out an agenda for future research.” (Jean Grugel, Professor of Development Politics, University of York, UK)

“Breaking new ground in democracy studies, this thoughtful book shows that the instrumental value of democracy has frequently been overstated. Connecting findings from political science, sociology and economics, it makes the compelling case for cross-fertilization between disciplines. Not just the empirical findings are admirably clear, but also the normative insights are interesting and inspiring. This comprehensive study will leave democracy scholars with much to ponder.” (Brigitte Geißel, Professor and Director of the Research Unit ‘Democratic Innovations’, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany)