Research Program on Authoritarianism

Authoritarian politics impact the lives of individuals all over the world. At the domestic level, authoritarian politics have been instrumentalized by political leaders or parties to maintain and transform political systems in authoritarian directions. International influence and increased cooperation and interconnection between autocracies threaten even well-established democracies.

Through the injection of populist policies, authoritarian trends at both national and international levels have become more dynamic and prevalent. Given that populism provides legitimacy to leaders’ authoritarian claims, studying the interplay of authoritarianism and populist discourse is necessary. Populist movements, parties, and individuals do not initially self-identify as populist, but their populist tendencies subtly pave the way for exclusionary authoritarianism under various ideological and political disguises. By paying particular attention to populist trends, the Research Program on Authoritarianism (RPA) aims to monitor and explore worldwide authoritarian trends.

In line with the general vision and mission of ECPS, the RPA hopes to inspire debates and discussions on populism and authoritarianism through high-impact, quality research and to build  a global audience (including research communities, students, policymakers, leaders, and any other relevant stakeholders) and inform them about the critical danger of populism and the threats it poses to politics and everyday life.

Studying authoritarianism and populism is challenging because both terms are often used interchangeably. Given the ambiguity of populism, it’s important to study its role in social, economic, and political settings to help understand the authoritarian turn some governments have taken.

The main research themes of the Research Program on Authoritarianism are: