The Pragmatics of Democratic 'Front-Sliding'

9 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2022 Last revised: 30 Sep 2022

See all articles by Tom Ginsburg

Tom Ginsburg

University of Chicago Law School

Aziz Z. Huq

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: April 27, 2022


The global crisis of democracy has reflected, in many cases, a gradual process sometimes characterized as “erosion” or “back-sliding.” This occurs across several fronts—political, legal, epistemic, and psychological—at the same time. As a result, any return to the democratic status quo ante must also be incremental, and confronts the challenge of where to start: How does a democracy that has survived a close call start to recreate conditions of meaningful political competition? What steps are to be taken, and in what order? There is likely to be local variance in the answers to these questions. But we think there are still lessons that can be gleaned from other countries’ experience. To that end, we start by reviewing the dynamic of backsliding. We next then to the problematics of ‘front-sliding’—i.e., the process of rebuilding the necessary political, legal, epistemic, and sociological component of democracy. We then examine distinctive and difficult question of punishing individuals who have been drivers of back-sliding. Finally, we turn, albeit briefly, to the question of how to sequence different elements of ‘front-sliding.’

Keywords: democracy, autocracy, constitutions, democratic backsliding, disqualification, elections, professions

Suggested Citation

Ginsburg, Tom and Huq, Aziz Z., The Pragmatics of Democratic 'Front-Sliding' (April 27, 2022). U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 804, UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Aziz Z. Huq

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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