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.

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…

Ranabir Samaddar: The Postcolonial Age of Migration

Ayşe Çağlar25. March 20219 min read

This book crit­i­cal­ly exam­ines the ques­tion of migra­tion that appears at the inter­sec­tion of glob­al neo-lib­er­al trans­for­ma­tion, post­colo­nial pol­i­tics, and econ­o­my. It analy­ses the spe­cif­ic ways in which colo­nial relations…

Introducing Podcast Series: Democracy in Question

S2E6: Can democracy survive in Hong Kong?

6. July 202128:26 min listen

The pro-democ­ra­­cy move­ment in Hong Kong is fac­ing its most severe cri­sis today. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been tight­en­ing its grip over the island slow­ly but sure­ly to sti­fle polit­i­cal protest,…

S2E5: What keeps democracies alive?

6. July 202129:49 min listen

Over the series, our focus has often been on the seri­ous chal­lenges that democ­ra­cies face all over the world today. We have also high­light­ed how they can and are degenerating…

S2E3:What ails Indian democracy today?

4. June 202144:13 min listen

Most west­ern aca­d­e­mics were skep­ti­cal about the future of India, the world’s largest democ­ra­cy, through­out the 1950s to the 1970s. It suc­ceed­ed beyond all expec­ta­tions in mobi­liz­ing large-scale elec­toral participation…

S2E4: What is the legacy of Egypt’s Arab Spring, 10 years on?

4. June 202127:21 min listen

10 years ago anti-gov­­ern­­ment protests in Tunisia sparked a wave of spon­ta­neous upris­ings against author­i­tar­i­an regimes in the Mid­dle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring was met with repression…

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.