Soft Author­i­tar­i­an­ism, a con­cept that appears con­tra­dic­to­ry, aims to cap­ture the cur­rent fuzzi­ness of democ­ra­cies slid­ing into author­i­tar­i­an rule the world over. For­mal elec­tions bol­ster the pow­er of strong­men, majori­tar­i­an democ­ra­cies under­mine the rights of minori­ties, the rule of law is hol­lowed out using the con­sti­tu­tion, and dis­cours­es of free­dom of expres­sion are deployed to dis­man­tle fun­da­men­tal human rights.

Our Research Group stud­ies in com­par­a­tive per­spec­tive the flu­id and flex­i­ble polit­i­cal, juridi­cal, social and dis­cur­sive con­fig­u­ra­tions which blur the line between demo­c­ra­t­ic and author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices of rule. It exam­ines how soft author­i­tar­i­anisms of var­i­ous vari­eties are estab­lished and con­test­ed in dif­fer­ent con­texts. How are these new forms of rule legit­imized dis­cur­sive­ly, imple­ment­ed insti­tu­tion­al­ly? How are respon­si­bil­i­ties and account­abil­i­ty watered down, pow­er cen­tral­ized and its trans­fer imped­ed? What forms of mobi­liza­tion and action by cit­i­zens attempt to stem the slow and sys­tem­at­ic ero­sion of lib­er­al demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions? In what ways has the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic exac­er­bat­ed author­i­tar­i­an ten­den­cies and are they here to stay?

Our three con­trastive case stud­ies link­ing ethnog­ra­phy with dis­course analy­sis and doc­u­men­tary research focus on Poland, France and Turkey/​the Turk­ish-Euro­pean diaspora.

Didier Fassin: Death of a Traveller. A Counter Investigation.

Jens Adam22. Sep­tem­ber 202110 min read

Ein 37-jähriger Mann wird auf dem elter­lichen Hof von der franzö­sis­chen Polizei erschossen, nach­dem er sich nach dem gewährten Freigang nicht ins Gefäng­nis zurück­begeben hat­te. Jens Adam rezen­siert Didi­er Fassins…

On Daily Encounters and Public Infrastructures: What Keeps Democracies Alive?

Jens Adam6. July 20217 min read

Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion? – Through a Soft Author­i­tar­i­an Lens In this com­ment, Jens Adam reflects on episode S2E5 of the pod­cast series “Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?” fea­tur­ing Till van Rah­den. Once…

Soft Authoritarianism and the Ambivalences of Europeanisation: What Role Could the EU Play?

Jens Adam6. May 20218 min read

Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion? – Through a soft author­i­tar­i­an lens In this com­ment, Jens Adam reflects on the lat­est episode of the pod­cast series “Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?” fea­tur­ing Tim­o­thy Gar­ton Ash.…

Civil Society Revisited: Democracy and Grassroots Authoritarianism

Jens Adam9. April 20219 min read

Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion? – Through a Soft Author­i­tar­i­an Lens In this com­ment on the last episode of our pod­cast series ‘Democ­ra­cy in Ques­tion?’ Jens Adam reflects on Mary Kaldor’s notions of  ‘Civ­il Soci­ety’ and…

Introducing Podcast Series: Democracy in Question

S3E1: The struggle for voting rights in the US today

18. Sep­tem­ber 202132.51 min listen

The most per­ni­cious assault on Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy today are the laws and mea­sures enact­ed in var­i­ous state leg­is­la­tures under Repub­li­can con­trol that aim at vot­er restric­tion. Among the fore­most voices…

S2E10: Can the concept of “fascism” be used to understand the pathologies of US politics, past and present?

13. Sep­tem­ber 202128:24 min listen

The cur­rent rise of right wing pop­ulist lead­ers in democ­ra­cies around the world, from Don­ald Trump to Jair Bol­sonaro in Brazil, has led to a debate on the fuzzi­ness of…

S2E9: Why are reproductive rights so contentious in the US and Argentina?

13. August 202129:37 min listen

There is con­sid­er­able polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion and legal con­tention around Repro­duc­tive rights in many democ­ra­cies around the world. In the US, a roll­back of these rights has been under­way over the…

Yisares Autumn School


8. Octo­ber 202130. Octo­ber 2021

Loca­tion: online

This nine-day inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Autumn Research School aims at map­ping the dif­fer­ent forms of extrac­tivist cap­i­tal­ism across transna­tion­al spaces and emerg­ing rela­tion­al geo­gra­phies includ­ing cur­rent devel­op­ments in finance, logis­tics and dig­i­tal economies.