Illiberal Democracy: Electing Tyranny and Terror

For my senior degree project from the University of the Arts, I chose to edit, rewrite, annotate, and then (re-)design parts of Fareed Zakaria’s Rise of Illiberal Democracy, an essay critical of the notion that all democracies are good, i.e. liberal. Instead, he posits that not all democracies need be constitutionally liberal in nature, and so can instead be fundamentally unfair to minorities or other marginalised groups.

I complemented the text with data and anecdotes from throughout history, e.g. the rise of the Nazis in 1930s century Germany through to the then contemporary post-election violence in Kenya. Alongside of the essay’s text, I wove in fragments from Things Fall Apart by China Achebe to highlight the imposition of constitutional liberalism on native societies through imperial means by arguably constitutionally liberal Western democracies.

The first portion of the project involved reading, editing, and rewriting sections of text. I accomplished that over the autumn and winter of the final year. Then in spring I began to structure the text and then lay it out to find where design elements could be added to emphasise key points or help in pacing.

My project was entered into the senior thesis juried gallery alongside the rest of the class. For my project, I won a citation of excellence.

The progression of maps and bar charts complement the text, which discusses the growth of illiberal democracies over recent decades

Here the table spanning the spread details different definitions of democracy via country case studies

Riots in Kosovo served as recent news illustrating the points in the essay and so I found news photographs and created maps and timelines to clarify the point

Elections in Kenya the year before I began the project provided more modern evidence of sectarian violence stoked by demoractic votes and processes

I felt Things Fall Apart with its story of Western imperialism ruining African societies fit well, especially alongside the Kenyan case study and so here a machete begins to sever the strong social bonds

The essay discusses the development of constitutional liberalism preceding democratic reforms, here I created a full-spread timeline examining how those two strands developed in the United Kingdom

Unfortunately no discussion of illiberal democracies would be complete without mentioning the democratic success of the Nazi party in Germany in the early 1930s, and so this timeline captures that history