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Photo: “The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi attending the ASEAN-India Informal Breakfast Summit, in Singapore on November 15, 2018“, by The Government of India, licensed under GODL-India. Hue modified from the original

Gilley, Bruce. “Assaults on capitalism and democratic backsliding: Evidence from Asia.” Asian Journal of Comparative Politics (2020): 2057891120938463.


It is generally assumed that stable democracies depend on sufficient economic freedoms that support ideas of individual independence and that shift resources from state to society. The growth and consolidation of economic freedoms under capitalism has been empirically linked to the growth and consolidation of democracy. Asia as a region has generally conformed to this theory, albeit with delayed democratic transitions due to the state-directed nature of development. This article revisits the capitalism/democracy relationship in East and Southeast Asia with a particular focus on contemporary concerns with global democratic backsliding. It shows the enduring analytic and empirical utility of capitalism to explain structural pressures on democratic development. It also shows how assaults on capitalism have predictive and descriptive value as indicators of authoritarian repression and democratic backsliding. The article highlights the continued relevance of capitalism for understanding democratic development, and underscores the significance of Asia to broader debates on democratic backsliding.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.