A Pardee Center Research Conference on “Measuring Democracy: A Multidimensional, History Approach” was held at Boston University on May 23 and 24.
The conference is supported by the Pardee Center and a Clinton Global Initiative grant from Kirk Radke. The conference is part of the larger Pardee Center research program on Governance in the Developing World, an initiative led by Prof. John Gerring, a professor of Political Science and a Pardee Center Faculty Fellow.
The conference was part of a larger project focused on developing methods for measuring the quality of democracy among countries throughout history considering various dimensions, such as civil liberty, judicial independence, election participation and administration, and leadership turnover, among other things. Current comparative approaches to democracy typically look simply at whether a country is a democrary versus an autocracy or somewhere along a scale between the two. The larger project aims to develop a democracy index based on a large number of factors that are indicative of the relative strength of democratic characteristcs among various countries over time.
At the conference, particpants discussed the development of a multidimensional, historical index of democracy, one which would supplement existing indicators (generally unidimensional). Participants debated how to conceptualize democracy for a project of this nature and how to choose appropriate component-level indicators, ones which are measurable through the twentieth century. Participants also discussed logistics – how to organize a project of this breadth and where to look for possible funding.