Home / Articles / What Is Democracy? Liberal Institutions and Stability in Changing Societies
Is it possible to export democracy? That question underlies current U.S. foreign policy, and answering it requires an operational definition of democracy that distinguishes its essential attributes from circumstantial ones. Liberal representative government under law, sustained by a political culture that accepts open disagreement and demands accountability, provides the only form of democracy that has sustained itself over time. Democracy typically emerges from within a society, and history demonstrates the difficulty of making democracy work. Imposing it externally presents further challenges while risking a backlash. The project of spreading democracy must therefore be separated from the objective of establishing a stable order favoring American interests so that the latter end can be achieved by more modest means.