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Civil Society, Party Institutionalization, and Democratic Breakdown in the Interwar Period

Working paper
Authors Agnes Cornell
Jørgen Møller
Svend-Erik Skaaning
Staffan I Lindberg
Publisher Göteborgs universitet. V-Dem Institute
Publication year 2016
Published at V-Dem Institute
Language en
Subject categories Political Science


The relationship between the strength of civil society and democratic survival in the interwar period has been much debated. Prominent studies have questioned the existence of a positive association, arguing that the relationship is conditioned by the level of party institutionalization. This revisionist perspective has been vindicated by case studies of important European cases, in particular Germany and Italy. But due to a lack of cross - national data, neither the direct effect of civil society nor the alternative perspective has so far been subjected to a comprehensive statistical analysis. In this paper we enlist novel data from the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project that enable us to carry out such an assessment of all democratic spells in the interwar years. Our survival analysis demonstrates that a vibrant civil society generally contributed to democratic survival in this period and that this effect was not moderated by the level of party institutionalization.

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