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Modes of Autocratization: An Inter-Regional Qualitative Comparative Analysis 1990-2015

Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Comparative Perspective
Andrea Cassani
Università degli Studi di Milano
Andrea Cassani
Università degli Studi di Milano
Luca Tomini
Université Libre de Bruxelles

Attention is growing among scholars toward a possible new reverse wave of regime changes. The more analysts address the reverse wave question, the more they disagree on the answer, though. The inconclusiveness of the debate demonstrates how little we know about the processes of regime change opposite to democratization, a phenomenon that has received relatively scarce attention during the past decades. Hence, before answering the “big question” – has a reverse wave started? – more urgent issues should be addressed. In particular, what is the opposite of democratization and how do these processes of regime change unfold? To start filling this gap, the proposed paper builds on the notion of autocratization – that is, regime change towards autocracy – and offers one of the first inter-regional comparative analyses on the modalities of contemporary processes of regime change opposite to democratization, to our knowledge. In the first part of the paper, we rely on a regime spectrum that includes liberal democracy, defective democracy, electoral autocracy, and closed autocracy, and we identify six forms of autocratization, corresponding to as many regime transitions that share the same direction towards autocracy but differ in the “points” (or regime types) of departure and arrival. We also sketch a typology of autocratization, based on the quality, depth and intensity of the change that characterise different transitions towards autocracy. In the second part of the paper, we present new data on post-Cold War transitions towards autocracy and their modalities. In particular, we count five main modes of autocratization, namely, military intervention, electoral rule manipulation, political rights limitation, civil liberties limitation, horizontal accountability loosening. We use the new data to observe prevailing patters of contemporary autocratization across the regions that have suffered the most from this syndrome – that is, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Asia and the post-communist space – and conduct crisp-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis to map how modalities variously combine with each other when different forms of autocratization are examined.

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