International Diffusion and Cooperation of Authoritarian Regimes - IDCAR-Network

  • In politics and political science alike, the increasing international influence of authoritarian regimes has become a central concern around the globe. From 2014-2019, the IDCAR network brought together some of the most renowned scholars in the field to produce high-level research and, based on this, policy advice and public outreach.
    Leibniz Association, 2014-2019


    Dr. Georg Strüver

    Former GIGA Team member

    Julia Bader

    Jason Brownlee

    Valerie Bunce

    Dr. May Darwich

    University of Birmingham

    Prof. Dr. Thomas Demmelhuber

    Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

    Marlies Glasius

    Marianne Kneuer

    Karrie Koesel

    Christoph H. Stefes

    Oisin Tansey

    Lucan Way

    Prof. Dr. Kurt Weyland

    The University of Texas at Austin

    Prof. Dr. Laurence Whitehead

    Nuffield College, University of Oxford


    Research Questions

    The IDCAR network adresses the following main questions:
    - How do international diffusion and cooperation impact on different authoritarian regimes?
    - How do authoritarian diffusion and cooperation among authoritarian regimes operate as power maintaining mechanisms?

    Contribution to International Research

    In politics and political science alike, the increasing international influence of authoritarian regimes has become a central concern. The controversy about a ‘reverse wave’ of democratisation, the expansion of non-democratic rule (Merkel 2010; Puddington 2008, 2009), and the ‘backlash against democracy promotion’ (Carothers 2006, 2009) reflects this trend. The strand of research that does approach the issue from an authoritarian durability perspective still needs to develop a comprehensive conceptual approach (Ambrosio 2010; Erdmann et al. 2013). By bringing together some of the most renowned experts in the field, the IDCAR network contributes to the systematic study of international diffusion and cooperation of authoritarian regimes, connecting this research agenda to the overarching theoretical debates of the discipline. The IDCAR network is defined by the research topic and a shared interest in the dynamics of authoritarian politics beyond an exclusively domestic perspective. The collaborative network brings together international experts from twelve institutions in Europe and North America. Individual findings are exchanged among the network researchers, thematic agendas are discussed and developed at conferences and workshops and then carried out in concrete research and publication projects. The networking process is institutionalised by an academic exchange programme and a substantive research unit at the GIGA.

    Research Design and Methods

    Using a CAS approach, the network brings together researchers who study authoritarian diffusion and cooperation from divergent explanatory perspectives using a broad range of comparative methods. The IDCAR network is defined by the research topic and a shared interest in the dynamics of authoritarian politics beyond an exclusively domestic perspective. Members of the IDCAR network employ large-N quantitative studies as well as small-N comparisons and single-case studies for studying the diffusion and cooperation of authoritarian regimes. The studies include both cross-regional and within-area comparisons.

    Preliminary Findings

    Network members from the GIGA have developed an analytical framework to study the international cooperation and collaboration of authoritarian regimes (Erdmann et al. 2013; von Soest 2015). The first IDCAR network conference, held in December 2014 at the GIGA, presented the network members’ current research projects. In 2015, IDCAR’s second network conference was held in Austin, Texas and focused on the role of interests vs. ideology in authoritarian diffusion and cooperation. The results of this conference have been published in a Special Issue of ‘Democratization’. Some main findings from recent studies suggest that interest trumps ideological similarity in international diffusion and cooperation, but that important exceptions, such as historical cases of fascism and communism, as well as contemporary bolivarianism in Latin America, prove this rule. In the case of China, economic cooperation even enables states to overcome their ideological differences (Strüver 2016). IDCAR’s third network conference was held in Oxford in 2016 under the title ‘International Resistance to Democratisation: Is it Really All About Authoritarian Co-operation?’. Furthermore, IDCAR members organised a well-received section on ‘International Dimensions of Authoritarian Rule’ at the ECPR General Conference in Prague and, together with the Project on Middle East Political Science, a joint workshop in Hamburg on ‘Transnational Diffusion, Cooperation and Learning in the Middle East and North Africa’, both in 2016. The researchers found that in the wake of the Arab uprisings, rulers have learned from each other and exploited their linkages as regards various strategies for maintaining power, notably repressive tactics. They also found that sectarianism has diffused, and patterns of cooperation especially between the monarchies have intensified, IDCAR speaker André Bank presented an overview of IDCAR’s findings to the prestigious Ambassadors’ Conference at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin in 2016. The most recent conference of the network was held in 2018 in Berlin.

    Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft | 09/2021

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