All over the world, authoritarianism seems to be advancing. Developments in Turkey and Venezuela, right-wing populism in Europe, the backlash against the Arab Spring, and the ever growing role of China and Russia on the world stage are cases in point.
What can we learn from previous autocratic waves?
In his new book on autocratic waves in Europe and Latin America, Kurt Weyland examines the diffusion of authoritarian rule in the interwar years and the 1960s and 1970s. Weyland attributes these autocratic waves to an overreaction on the part of conservative circles: Overestimating the Russian and Cuban revolutions, they promoted aggressive authoritarian counter-diffusion strategies. These disproportionate responses to communist challenges reflect core mechanisms of bounded rationality. Inferential shortcuts induce people to overrate the significance of dramatic, vivid events and to draw remarkably firm conclusions from such outstanding occurrences. Accordingly, the radical left overestimated the replicability of the Russian and Cuban Revolutions – but the reactionary right did so as well. As conservatives feared communism, their panic prompted the wave-like adoption of reactionary autocracy – a trajectory differing from the spread of right-wing populism in contemporary democracies.
Kurt Weyland is Mike Hogg Professor in Liberal Arts at the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, and a member of the IDCAR network’s steering committee. Professor Weyland’s research focuses on democratization and authoritarian rule, on social policy and policy diffusion, and on populism in Latin America and Europe. His latest book, “Making Waves: Democratic Contention in Europe and Latin America since the Revolutions of 1848,” was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014.
Johannes Gerschewski is a lecturer at Humboldt University Berlin and an expert on legitimation strategies of authoritarian regimes in East Asia and beyond.
Bert Hoffmann is Head of the GIGA Berlin Office and one of the IDCAR network’s Principal Investigators.
Alexander Schmotz is a researcher in the WZB Research Unit Democracy and Democratization and a member of the IDCAR network.
Please register by 13 November 2017.
The IDCAR network brings together scholars working on the International Diffusion and Cooperation of Authoritarian Regimes. IDCAR is coordinated at GIGA in Hamburg and funded by the Leibniz Competition Programme. The WZB Research Unit Democracy and Democratization is one of its 14 partner institutions in Europe and North America.