“Is American democracy really under threat? What about democracy in the West, or the world more generally? If democracy is under threat, what can we do about it? And if it’s not under threat, why are so many of us so worried that it is?” Democratic Erosion is a cross-university collaboration of over 50 institutions across the United States and the world that aims to help answer these questions through a combination of teaching, research, and civic and policy engagement.

Since 2018, Democratic Erosion has, in collaboration with the Anxieties of Democracy program at the SSRC, held an annual contest in which faculty at participating universities nominate the best essays or blog posts from their classes to be featured on Items. Each year, the SSRC picks several winners to revise and expand their work for publication in collaboration with their faculty advisers and our editorial staff. We are proud to feature this exemplary undergraduate work on anxieties of democracy, on topics ranging from the “entertainment politics” of Latin America and the United States to Slovakian leaders’ efforts to combat right-wing populism.

This essay series, and the work of the SSRC’s Anxieties of Democracy program, is possible due to generous funding from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Mark and Anla Cheng Kingdon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.