Workshop 2014/2015

What Makes New Forms of Authoritarianism so Attractive? - Rethinking the Shades between Authoritarian and Democratic Rule

05.–06. November 2014


The famous slogan “the end of history” proved to be a historical misjudgement. Instead of linear progress towards liberal democracies we are confronted with new setbacks of democratization, emergence of grey-zone regimes between democracy and authoritarianism and new and supposedly attractive forms of authoritarianism. Classical authoritarianism seeks for absolute obedience, is directed against individual freedom and liberties and is always ready to use hard repression against opponents. New authoritarian or grey-zone regimes are chameleon-like – they are able to adjust to new circumstances, they have institutionalized representation of a variety of agents and they even incorporate some democratic procedures like elections and thus create a structure resistant to change. Moreover, they rely mostly only on soft repression and seem to enjoy the support of considerable parts of the people. In Eastern and South Eastern Europe, in the Caucasus, in Asia we are witnessing new semi-democratic or electoral authoritarian regimes, which – under the guise of formal democratic procedures – limit individual freedom and reduce liberties. New forms of authoritarian rule seem to be attractive, flexible and adaptable, and functional alternatives to the regime in some regions such as Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasian rim. Regimes able to reconcile competitive elections, multi-party systems, parliaments, constitutions and other elements of rule usually associated with liberal democracies on the one hand side with the functional logic of authoritarianism on the other. They pose new questions and call for deeper rethinking of concepts of authoritarianism and hybrid regimes. The guiding questions are: Why are they resilient, endurable, and why do they enjoy a considerable consent of the people?

The workshop lasts two days. On the first day, 6 November, it will take place at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB); and on the second day, 7 November, it will be held at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Your contact for the event on 6 November in the WZB is Gudrun Mouna Tel. +49-30-25491 321,
E-Mail: gudrun.mouna(at)




Vedran Džihić

Center for Advanced Studies - South Eastern Europe, Rijeka



Wolfgang Merkel

Wissenschaftzentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung


Permanent Fellow

Christoph Möllers

Professor für Öffentliches Recht und Rechtsphilosophie, Richter am Oberverwaltungsgericht Berlin-Brandenburg



Vera Kempa

Vera Kempa

"Academy in Exile", Geschäftsführerin Fellowclub

Tel. +49 30 89001 157