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.

Brazil between the first and sec­ond rounds of gen­er­al elections

Ricar­do Pagliu­so Regatieri18. Octo­ber 20228 min read

On Octo­ber 2, Brazil­ians went to the bal­lots to vote for pres­i­dent, state gov­er­nors, sen­a­tors, as well as fed­er­al and state rep­re­sen­ta­tives. In the pres­i­den­tial race, the cen­ter-left-wing for­mer president…

The Future Mel­oni Gov­ern­ment and the Long Drift of Ital­ian Democracy

Adri­ano Coz­zoli­no11. Octo­ber 202211 min read

“Rome wasn’t build in a day” – and nei­ther is a rad­i­cal right-wing gov­ern­ment like the one now form­ing in Italy fol­low­ing the elec­tions held in Sep­tem­ber 2022. The result…

Zwis­chen Apathie und Hoffnung

Ulrike Flad­er14. Decem­ber 20218 min read

Zum „san­ften“ Autori­taris­mus in der Türkei. Die strate­gis­che und flex­i­ble Ver­flech­tung von demokratis­chen und nicht-demokratis­chen Prak­tiken ist ein Charak­terzug ‚san­fter‘ For­men autoritär­er Regierung. Ein Ver­ständ­nis von der Pro­duk­tion von Affek­ten wie…

The Weaponiza­tion of Repub­li­can Val­ues in France

Hagen Stein­hauer23. Novem­ber 20218 min read

There is an ongo­ing bat­tle for cul­tur­al hege­mo­ny in France. Far-right ide­olo­gies are being nor­mal­ized, their stig­ma­tiz­ing vocab­u­lary thus not only gains pub­lic accep­tance but also comes to shape the…

Intro­duc­ing Pod­cast Series: Democ­ra­cy in Question

S06E05: Muku­li­ka Baner­jee on the Cul­ti­va­tion of Democ­ra­cy in India 

15. March 202342:40

This episode explores what makes repub­li­can val­ues and prac­tices impor­tant to the sur­vival of any democ­ra­cy, as well as the role of social­i­ty in cul­ti­vat­ing of a com­mon sense of…

S06E04: Ken Opa­lo on the Prospects of Democ­ra­cy Across Africa 

1. March 202339:39

This episode explores the cur­rent state of democ­ra­cy across Africa. What are the main achieve­ments since the 1990s and what are the biggest inter­nal threats to con­sol­i­da­tion of democ­ra­cy? Why…

S06E03: Ron Daniels on the Role of Uni­ver­si­ties in Strength­en­ing Democracy 

15. Feb­ru­ary 202338:08

This episode explores the role uni­ver­si­ties play in uphold­ing and deep­en­ing democ­ra­cy. How does uni­ver­si­ty edu­ca­tion fos­ter civic engage­ment and a demo­c­ra­t­ic spir­it? How do uni­ver­si­ties cul­ti­vate inter­ac­tive diver­si­ty? And…

S06E02: Sha­harzad Akbar on Afghanistan after Democracy 

1. Feb­ru­ary 202342:54 min listen

This episode explores the polit­i­cal mis­takes which pre­vent­ed human rights and the rule of law from tak­ing root in Afghan soci­ety. What under­stand­ings of democ­ra­cy pre­vailed fol­low­ing the U.S. inva­sion and…

Anti-Gen­derism in France and Ger­many - a Transna­tion­al Illib­er­al Practice?


22. June 202324. June 2023

Loca­tion: TU Dres­den

A talk by Jonas Trochemowitz and Hagen Stein­hauer at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence “Trac­ing Forms of De/​​Marginalization”

Anti-gen­derism denotes dis­cours­es and move­ments that present gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty with­in fem­i­nist and lgbtqia+ con­texts as dan­ger­ous ide­olo­gies (see Hark and Vil­la 2017). In France, one of the main polit­i­cal actors that tries to imple­ment an anti-gen­derist agen­da is the Manif pour Tous. Estab­lished in 2013, this move­ment aims at pre­vent­ing the legal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage and adop­tion rights. They also oppose what they call ‘gen­der ide­ol­o­gy’. In 2014, the Ger­man equiv­a­lent Demo für Alle came into exis­tence, adopt­ing the polit­i­cal prac­tices of Manif pour Tous.

Exam­in­ing these two case stud­ies from France and Ger­many, we present a com­par­a­tive dis­course analy­sis of both move­ments. More specif­i­cal­ly, we high­light the dif­fer­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties in their self-posi­­tion­ing with respect to sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der. To this end, we use cor­pus ana­lyt­ic meth­ods to ana­lyze the orga­ni­za­tions’ topoi and argu­men­ta­tive strate­gies (see Wen­gel­er 2003). We argue that both move­ments instru­men­tal­ize the nat­ur­al and social sci­ences (espe­cial­ly biol­o­gy) to dis­qual­i­fy gen­der stud­ies as a threat to tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly val­ues and the integri­ty of the nation. In this respect, they con­flate illib­er­al repro­duc­tive pol­i­tics and anti-intel­lec­­tu­al­ism with racist stances on issues of migra­tion (see Fassin 2020).

This col­lu­sion is a key char­ac­ter­is­tic of cur­rent soft author­i­tar­i­an attacks on lib­er­al democ­ra­cy. For instance, the illib­er­al trans­for­ma­tion of sev­er­al Euro­pean states is marked by an inher­ent­ly gen­dered modus operan­di where anti-gen­derism plays a vital role in unit­ing far-right, con­ser­v­a­tive and cler­i­cal actors behind one umbrel­la term (Grze­bal­s­ka & Pető 2018).