TD unit 2021
David Ausserhofer
Research Unit
Main content

As the number of autocracies in the world grows, democracy appears under threat around the world. Not only new democracies, but even established Western democracies themselves have fallen into varying degrees of self-diagnosed crisis. With Donald Trump’s 2016 election in the United States and the rise to the verge of power of populist, Eurosceptic, and anti-immigrant forces in Europe, in addition to signs of polarization, political distrust, and even political violence, some observers have begun to worry that even the world’s most established democracies may be at risk. We are faced, then, with one of the most pressing issues of our time: can liberal democracy as it exists today survive in a recognizable form?

The Transformations of Democracy department's research seeks to understand current challenges facing democracies. The unit analyzes “transformations in democracy”—forward impulses of democratization, backward trends of de-democratization, and innovations in democratic institutions and practice to cope with the new pressures on democracy around the world. With these as our foci, our research has four main pillars:

1) New Threats to Democracy

2) Democratic Norms: Erosion or Change?

3) Evolution of Democratic Ideas

4) Democratic transitions and authoritarian persistence

Monday, 24 April 2023
Book presentation by WZB Visiting Research Professor Eva Illouz, on her new Suhrkamp book (forthcoming April 2023)

Attendance Event


Is it better for a ruler to be loved or feared? Since the two are difficult to combine, Machiavelli prioritizes fear in Il Principe, his famous treatise on the principles of the reason of state. In her new book published with Suhrkamp, Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz and WZB Visiting Research Professor echoes Machiavelli in two ways: she underscores the importance of emotions in politics and she elaborates on how right-wing populists instrumentalize certain emotions.

Monday, 24 April 2023
Start: 6:00 pm


Contact name
Katinka von Kovatsits
katinka.kovatsits [at]

Iryna Mazynska
+49 30 25491 327 [at]

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin

Seminar Series

Transformations of Democracy & Institutions and Political Inequality

Spring/Summer 2023

Wednesdays 15:00 - 16:15

Location: WZB or Zoom*


WZB Democracy

Twitter account of the research unit “Transformations of Democracy”


Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt

How Democracies Die

Crown, 2018
ISBN 978-1-524-76293-3


Daniel Ziblatt

Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy

Cambridge University Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-107-00162-6


Daniel Ziblatt

Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism

Princeton University Press, 2008
ISBN 978-0-691-13649-3

Harnack Lecture Max Planck Society
Max Planck Society

The rise and fall of democracy?

Harnack Lecture Max Planck Society Harnack Lecture with Daniel Ziblatt from 27 October 2021

Daniel Ziblatt 55 Voices for Democracy
Thomas Mann House

Daniel Ziblatt on Resilient Democracies at "55 Voices for Democracy"

»55 Voices for Democracy« by the Thomas Mann Housein collaboration with the German American Conference at Harvard from December 16, 2021


Der gescheiterte Staatsstreich

Video von Zeit Online zu dem Angriff auf das US Kapitol vom 6. Januar 2022 

[in German]

Zur Zukunft der Demokratie
© Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe
Book contribution

"Zur Zukunft der Demokratie"

edited by Frank-Walter Steinmeier

with an essay by Daniel Ziblatt: "Der wirksame Staat. Was uns die Corona-Pandemie über die Widerstandsfähigkeit von Demokratien sagt" 

Brown Bag Seminar Series Spring Summer 2023
Transformations of Democracy

Seminar Series

Transformations of Democracy & Institutions and Political Inequality

Spring/Summer 2023

Wednesdays 15:00 - 16:15

Location: WZB or Zoom*