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O’Donnell 1996 also challenges the view that consolidation can only take one path.
He pushes this argument further by proposing that imperfect democracies that are not fully and formally institutionalized can also endure. 1996, which argues that certain sociopolitical practices can prevent and undo consolidation.
Although some authors are comfortable identifying a single endpoint of consolidation, others urge scholars and students to be wary of claims about what consolidation must include to be considered “complete.” In their important work, Linz and Stepan 1996 popularize the phrase “the only game in town” to describe democratic consolidation and outline how the history of a specific forms of authoritarianism might pose unique problems for consolidation.
Linz and Stepan provide a good introduction to the different components of consolidation, which they refer to as the five reinforcing “arenas” of consolidation: political institutions, the economy, rule of law, a usable bureaucracy and civil society.
One of the main lessons from the course of events in Russia from the early 1990s to the present is that change away from one form of authoritarian rule, which usually has been labeled as a transition to democracy, is not irreversible.
Today the consensus of scholarly analyses in the West concludes that, if Russia did enter a transition to democracy, that transition was not successful.
The scholarly literature on transitions to democracy that appeared after the early 1980s departed from earlier writings' emphasis on the growth of social, economic, and cultural conditions for the institutionalization of democracy in the political system.
The experience of Russia may encourage us to return to the study of the long-term trends facilitating or inhibiting the growth of democratic institutions.
A democracy becomes consolidated—that is, it is expected to endure—when political actors accept the legitimacy of democracy and no actor seeks to act outside democratic institutions for both normative and self-interested reasons.
In other words, democracy is consolidated when, to use a common phrase, it is “the only game in town.” This definition of consolidation, based on the attitudinal and behavioral characteristics of political actors, is simultaneously intuitive and problematic.