This is a preprint

This article assesses two next-level questions in the study of democratic backsliding: democratic resilience and political polarization. It first advances a set of methodological decision points to improve clarity in contemporary debates surrounding democratic backsliding measurement and the possibility of identifying moments of democratic recovery. It then moves to a theoretical and empirical assessment of pathways by which democratic backsliding takes place, under what conditions, which specific actors are involved, and what opportunities exist for democratic recovery given sources of resilience and strategies of resistance. The authors examine the role of political polarization in backsliding and highlight the combined importance of political agency and institutional levers for regime outcomes. The authors argue that regime outcomes are not predetermined by antecedent conditions, and particularly not by the level of development.