Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Institut für Sozialwissenschaften


“Dysfunctional Democracy(ies)Special Section: Characteristics, Causes and Consequences”


Recently published special section in der Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft (ZfVP), Volume 16, Issue 2, pp. 185-290, edited by Toralf Stark, Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann und Susanne Pickel.


Democratic systems are currently facing multiple challenges. A central component of this is the disintegrating relationship between citizens and political actors; citizens simply do not feel represented by political actors any longer. As a result, we are seeing a decline in trust in politicians, increasing questioning of whether democracy is still the best political system, and the question of whether citizens are not also developing a changed understanding of democracy. Research into the underlying causes of these developments inevitably leads to an analysis of the outcomes resulting from political activities, which, in addition to the desired results, also produce unintended consequences due to the complexity of politics and society (Almond et al., p. 32–34). In this case, we speak of dysfunction or dysfunctionality. In this paper, which also serves as an introduction to the special section “Dysfunctional democracy(ies): Characteristics, Causes and Consequences.” we give a brief overview of the concept of dysfunctionality of democratic systems in order to distinguish it from considerations of the deterioration of the quality of democracy. The focus of our reflections is not the institutional consequences of the various challenges. The focus is on why democratic systems are unable to adapt adequately to the demands of a changing environment and thus produce unintended outcomes that harm the democratic political system.


Table of contents:


Kaina, Victoria: Can liberal democracy survive our fervor? Signs and origins of dyfunctional democracy, pp. 199-220,


Bein, Simon: The dysfunctional paradox of identity politics in liberal democracies, pp. 221-246,


Skrzypek, Maciej: Ineffective means of militant democracy as factors in creating and consolidating dysfunctional democracies: evidence from the experience of post-communist states, pp. 247-264,


Horonziak, Sonia: Dysfunctional democracy and political polarization: the case of Poland, pp. 265-289,



“Post-democratizing Politics in Southeast and Northeast Asia”


Recently published special issue in Pacific Affairs, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp. 417-548, edited by Ja Ian Chong and Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann.


A growing global trend towards authoritarianism has left democracy, especially its liberal form, under strain. This has occurred despite earlier promises of democratization between the end of the Cold War and the early twenty-first century. Our essay examines how the dynamics of post-democratization politics have played out across several polities in Southeast and Northeast Asia. These regions once included supposed “third wave” democracies and polities apparently on the cusp of political liberalization. Such expectations have not panned out. Instead, the region has generally witnessed either significant authoritarian resilience or autocratic resurgence following spurts of political openness. We examine how such autocratic dynamics have played out following earlier movements toward democratization. Specifically, we identify three key elements of postdemocratization politics associated with autocratic success and democratic robustness based on contributions to this special issue, and suggest pathways through which they can affect political outcomes. Dominant beliefs can prime accommodation with authoritarianism given pervasive acceptance of state-driven ideologies while identification with liberal values can drive democratic consolidation and resistance to autocracy, regardless of wealth and education. Ostensibly democratic institutions, such as constitutional courts, can become anti-democratic instruments when the exercise of their independent prerogatives means upholding autocratic tendencies that align with their interests and outlooks. Agents and their decisions can both prompt and stymie autocratization, whether intentionally or inadvertently; strategies to consolidate authority can fracture even dominant ruling coalitions. Examining the role ideas, institutions, and agents play in post-democratic politics can further efforts at understanding the current authoritarian wave and its limits.


Table of contents:


Chong, Ja Ian and Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann: Introduction: Post-Democratizing Politics in Southeast and Northeast Asia, pp. 417-440, DOI: 10.5509/2022953417


Chong, Ja Ian and Hsin-Hsin Pan: Evolution of Our Times: Developing Democratic Identities in Hong Kong and Taiwan, pp. 441-474, DOI: 10.5509/2022953441


Mérieau, Eugénie: Democratic Breakdown through Lawfare by Constitutional Courts: The Case of Post-‘Democratic Transition’ Thailand, pp. 475-496, DOI: 10.5509/2022953475


Osterberg-Kaufmann, Norma and Kay Key Teo: Uncoupling Conceptual Understandings and Political Preferences: A Study of Democratic Attitudes amoung Singapore’s Highly Educated Young People, pp. 497-526, DOI: 10.5509/2022953497


Ufen, Andreas: Failed Autocratization: Malaysia under Najib Razak (2009-2018), pp. 527-548, DOI: 10.5509/2022953527


„Conceptualizing and Measuring Meanings of Democracy"


Recently published special section in the Journal of Comparative Politics, Volume 14, issue 4, pp.299 - 460, edited by Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann, Toralf Stark and Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach.


Research on meanings and understandings of democracy is growing. But besides useful theoretical and empirical insights, this research produces open questions concerning the conceptualization and the measurement of meanings of democracy. This special section - and especially the introductory paper and the different contributions - reflect on several key challenges and thereby go beyond the debate about advantages and disadvantages of open and closed questions measuring meanings of democracy in surveys. Both conceptualization and measurement have different challenges which researchers should take into account when developing research designs, specifically by doing cross-cultural comparisons. Other challenges are connected to the debate on universalism versus relativism and the usage of various terms, which are often not clearly defined. The introduction paper offers an analytical framework to distinguish between meanings and understandings of democracy, thereby integrating comparative political theory and empirical democracy research through inductive and deductive approaches. And it gives an overview of the contributions of this special section. In sum, research on meanings and understandings of democracy is needed to gain a better picture of political cultures around the world.


Table of contents:


Osterberg-Kaufmann, N., Stark, T. & Mohamad-Klotzbach, C. Challenges in conceptualizing and measuring meanings of democracy. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 299-320 (2020)


Baniamin, H.M. Citizens´inflated perceptions of the extent of democracy in different African countries: are individuals´notions of the state an answer to the puzzle? Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 231-343 (2020)


Wegscheider, C., Stark T. What drives citizens´evaluation of democratic performance? The integration of citizens´democratic knowledge and institutional level of democracy. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 345-374 (2020)


Frankenberger, R., Buhr, D. "For me democracy is..." meanings of democracy from a phenomenological perspective. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 375-399 (2020)


Osterberg-Kaufmann, N., Stadelmaier, U. Measuring meanings of democracy - methods of differentiation. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 401-423 (2020)


Dahlberg, S., Axelsson, S. & Holmberg, S. Democracy in context: using a distrubutional semantic model to study differences in the usage of democracy across languages and countries. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 425-459 (2020)


Commented by Christian Welzel:


Welzel, C. Meanings of democracy: mapping lay perceptions on scholarly norms. Z Vgl Polit Wiss 14, 375-399 (2021)


„Warum sich viele von der Politik nicht abgeholt fühlen"


Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann spricht mit Kristin Henke von Gedankendealer darüber, warum sich so viele Menschen nicht von der Politik abgeholt fühlen, warum Demokratie nicht gleich Demokratie ist, wie demokratisch die Landtagswahlen vor kurzem in Thüringen waren, ob die Demokratie unter dem Rechtsruck weiter funktionieren kann und noch vieles mehr.

Nachzusehen unter:


„Zukunft der Demokratie und Demokratieverständnis"

Christoph Mohamad-Klotzbach und Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann im Interview mit dem Deutschlandfunk Nova über die "Zukunft der Demokratie und Demokratieverständnis" in der Sendung "update" vom 6. November 2019.

Link zur Sendung:


„Gespaltene Gesellschaft“ – Barriere in den Köpfen?


Donnerstag 10.01.2019, 16:30-18:00 (s.t.)

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Dorotheenstrasse 26, 10117 Berlin, Raum 207

Die ZfIB-Ringvorlesung ist eine jährlich stattfindende Veranstaltungsreihe des ZfIB (Zentrum für Inklusionsforschung Berlin). Es handelt sich dabei nicht um eine „Vorlesung“ im klassischen Sinne. Vielmehr steht der Dialog zwischen Personen mit unterschiedlichen Perspektiven (bspw. aus verschiedenen gesellschaftlichen Bereichen, mit unterschiedlichen fachlichen Hintergründen u.a.) über diverse Fragen zu Inklusion/Exklusion in Theorie und Praxis im Fokus.

Als AG Inklusion und Demokratieentwicklung interessieren wir uns insbesondere dafür wie Inklusion/Exklusion im Zusammenhang mit Demokratieentwicklungen diskutiert werden können? Welche Bezüge und Verbindungen lassen sich zwischen diesen bislang vornehmlich getrennten Diskursen erkennen? Zu diesen und anderen Fragen kommen die Podiumsgäste und das Publikum ins Gespräch.

Podiumsgäste: sind Sabine Achour (Professorin für Politikdidaktik und Politische Bildung, Freie Universität Berlin), Lukas Beckmann (ehem. Fraktionsgeschäftsführer der Bundestagsfraktion Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Thomas Gill (Leiter der Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung), Moderation: Norma Osterberg-Kaufmann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).


Link zum Posiumsgespräch:öpfen









Mitteilungen des Instituts




Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Unter den Linden 6
10099 Berlin



Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Universitätsstraße 3b
10117 Berlin