New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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in Issacharoff, Samuel, Fragile Democracies: Contested Power in the Era of Constitutional Courts, Cambridge University Press, June 2015


Twenty five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the democratic ascendency of the post-Soviet era is under severe challenge. While fragile democracies in Eastern Europe, Africa, and East Asia face renewed threats, the world has witnessed the failed democratic promises of the Arab Spring. What lessons can be drawn from these struggles? What conditions or institutions are needed to prevent the collapse of democracy?

Embattled democracy is the subject matter of a new book, Fragile Democracies: Contested Power in the Era of Constitutional Courts. This book argues that the most distinctive antidote to authoritarianism in the post-1989 period is the presence of strong constitutional courts. A signature feature of the third wave of democratization, these courts serve as a bulwark against vulnerability to external threats as well as a catalyst for the internal consolidation of power. Particularly in societies still riven by deep divisions of race, religion, or national background, courts have become pivotal actors in allowing democracy to take root. The introductory chapters is presented here.

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