The democracy matrix recognizes three different levels of measurement, offering differing perspectives, which build on one another, on the democracy quality of a country. It distinguishes between core measurement, context measurement and trade-off measurement.
As first level of measurement, core measurement represents the basic point of departure of the measurement and aims at the functioning of key democratic institutions and hence at the quality of endogenous characteristics of democracy.
Context measurement is more comprehensive, but also more realistic. Exogenous factors are also included, like, in particular, the informal institutions of corruption and level of violence, as are socio-economic conditions such as education inequality. Nonetheless, the democracy matrix remains within the bounds of a middle-range definition, since here too only such contextual factors are included as either qualitatively change the functioning of formal institutions or give rise to political inequality by way of social inequality in the sense of necessary conditions. Hence, not all social factors of inequality are included that have the effect of promoting or hindering democracy quality, but rather only such as whose impact necessarily produces quality-reducing effects. We include here education in its elementary form, which determines the extent to which citizens know and can exercise their rights. We also take up informal institutions that, like corruption, exhibit the same negative modes of impact.
Finally, the trade-off level of measurement studies the impact on democracy quality of institutional democracy design. On this level of measurement, only democracies are studied: such as have been determined by way of core measurement. The decision to adopt a particular institutional design is not tied to a higher democracy quality, but rather what is at issue are normatively equal and justifiable decisions. Democracy designs have a preference for a particular dimension of democracy. But, seen from the perspective of democracy theory, this preference for one dimension comes at the expense of another dimension, such that democracy quality is distributed over different dimensions. This is reflected in the trade-off.
The democracy matrix distinguishes between two basic types of regimes (Lauth 2016): autocracies and democracies. Whereas, per the definition of the democracy matrix, democracies are defined by the preservation of the dimensions of political freedom, political equality, and political and legal control, as well as a democratic functional logic in five key institutions, the root concept of autocracy is characterised by the fact that these dimensions and these institutions are either not developed at all or are only very weakly developed. While hard autocracies have no freedom, equality and control rights whatsoever, moderate autocracies show liberalization tendencies in some areas, but these are located within the autocratic functional logic. In addition, the basic type of democracy is further differentiated by a diminished sub-type. Deficient democracy is distinguished by the fact that it exhibits all the characteristics of the basic type, but, nonetheless, some of its characteristics are only partially developed. Finally, a subdivision into hybrid regimes also takes place (Bogaards 2009). Hybrid types are not diminished subtypes, since they do not lack the full development of a characteristic, but rather they exhibit a mixture of characteristics of both basic types, so that they simultaneously combine autocratic and democratic dimensions or institutions.
Bogaards, Matthijs. 2009. How to classify hybrid regimes? Defective democracy and electoral authoritarianism. In: Democratization 16, pp. 399–423.
Lauth, Hans-Joachim and Oliver Schlenkrich. 2018. Making Trade-Offs Visible: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations about the Relationship between Dimensions and Institutions of Democracy and Empirical Findings. In: Politics and Governance 6, pp. 78–91.
Lauth, Hans-Joachim. 2016. Regime in der Vergleichenden Politikwissenschaft: Autokratie und Demokratie. In: Lauth, Hans-Joachim, Marianne Kneuer und Gert Pickel [eds.]: Handbuch Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft. Wiesbaden, pp.123-139.