Unlike Twins?! Comparing Autocracies and Democracies

Conference of the Section “Comparative Politics“ of the German Political Science Association (DVPW)

Identifying and comparing political systems in various perspectives is at the very heart of Comparative Politics as a discipline. In previous decades, the focus of the highly differentiated comparisons in the discipline’s subfields lay on democracies rather than on autocracies and systematic comparisons have frequently been eschewed. It is only in recent years that comparative research on autocracies skyrocketed. A fast growing body of literature investigates in autocratic institutions, power, legitimation, policies and so on. As a result, comparative politics now can draw much more differentiated pictures of how authoritarian regimes function, succeed, and fail in terms of regime persistence. Empirical developments such as the (more or less surprising) resilience and economic prosperity of autocracies, transitions from democracy and authoritarian shifts inside and outside the EU, increasing inequalities within and between societies and the uprising and spreading of extremism and terrorism in Europe and elsewhere make systematic comparisons of democracy and autocracy even more important. Keeping in mind the developments in the discipline it seems helpful to step back and to discuss the foundations, approaches, methods and basic concepts, including the dimensions of polity, policy and politics that we have started to discuss at the previous conference of the section „Comparative Politics“ in Hamburg (February 2015). 

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