a1 Harvard University
Almost none of the conditions that, according to the latest research, favor democratic durability were present in Western Europe between the world wars. Yet only four Western European states became dictatorships during this period, whereas the others remained democratic despite economic crisis, an unhelpful international system, and the lure of nondemocratic alternatives. Several recent works offer new explanations for this pattern of interwar outcomes. Insofar as these works analyze the entire universe of Western European cases, they represent an important methodological advance. However, they remain too wedded to a class-coalitional framework to provide both a parsimonious and a historically accurate account of why democracy collapsed in some states but not in others. This article proposes an alternative explanatory framework that focuses on how political parties can shape association life in such a way as to support or undermine democracy.
Thomas Ertman is Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the author of Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (1997). His current projects include a collective volume on the comparative development of Europe's consociational democracies since the 1960s and a book on democratization in Western Europe from the French Revolution to the Second World War.
* I would like to thank Susan Pedersen for her many helpful comments and suggestions as well as for her general encouragement during the writing of this essay.