Call for Papers for Democratization, Autocratization, and International System’s Change: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Comparisons Scientific Conference for Young Researchers of the Cologne Forum for International Relations and Security Politics (KFIBS) in cooperation with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn from 09th to 11th September 2013 in Bonn, Germany.
Call for Papers for Democratization, Autocratization, and International System’s Change: Theoretical Approaches and Empirical Comparisons, Scientific Conference for Young Researchers of the Cologne Forum for International Relations and Security Politics (KFIBS) in cooperation with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) of the University of Bonn from 09th to 11th September 2013 in Bonn, Germany.
The political processes of the past two years observable in the Arab World resemble those „democratization waves” that occurred in Southern Europe in the 1970s, in Asia and Latin America in the 1980s, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. While the internal factors of these older democratization processes were analyzed principally within the frameworks of modernization and transformation theory, international relations research focused on the external effects of democratization processes or regime changes in general on the structure of the international system. What has been neglected from both sides until now are the external effects on internal political developments. In this field research has been largely limited to the different ways of direct democracy promotion by primarily Western states (L. Whitehead, G. Pridham et al.) and the indirect effects of diffusion of democratic ideas from the West to other parts of the world (L. Whitehead, Ph. C. Schmitter, H.-J. Lauth et al.). On the other hand, the persistence of autocracy was explained culturalistically by the perpetuation of authoritarian cultural – usually religious – traditions (S. P. Huntington et al.). Autocratization research that is theoretically and empirically comparable in scope and approach to democratization research has not yet emerged.
The idealistic bias both of the diffusion concept for the spread of democracy and the culturalistic explanation for the persistence of autocracy obscure the fact that there is a relation between changes of the political structure on the national level (both democratization and autocratization processes as well as the stabilization of democracies or autocracies) and structural changes of the international system (bipolarity, unipolarity and multipolarity including their regional manifestations like hegemonies and dependencies etc.). In this context regime changes in single states do not only change the international power structure, but can also generate feedback effects: As shown by the international positioning towards the Arab democracy movements, the external support obviously also depends on the expected positioning of these countries after a regime change. While the Western countries are carefully optimistic that the Arab states will choose a pro-Western orientation after successful democratization, Russia and China for the same reason are rather seeking to delay this process. Despite the parallel to the democratization processes in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s, this finding cannot be generalized to the thesis that democracies principally support democrats and dictatorships principally support dictators: Not only in Chile, but also in other Latin American states in the 1960s and 1970s the West, first of all the United States, promoted autocratization tendencies, fearing that democratically elected left-wing governments could seek close ties to the Soviet Union. Only when the Soviet system entered into crisis at the beginning of the 1980s, was support for dictators drawn back, propelling the then emerging democratization wave.
The aim of the conference is to contribute to the investigation of both the impacts of changes of the international system on national political processes (inner-directed impacts) and the reverse impacts (outer-directed impacts), as well as the indicated feedback effects. On the one hand there shall be examined from a theoretical point of view to what extent theories of International Relations (IR) and mainstream democratization and transformation theories, but also critical theoretical approaches like Dependency, Subaltern Studies or Postcolonial Studies, could enrich and complement each other in this context. On the other hand the international dimension shall be discussed on the basis of case studies of single regional democratization and autocratization waves, and it shall be examined by inter-regional empirical comparisons – especially of the „Arab Spring” with former democratization waves in other world regions – to what extent could theoretical approaches developed on basis of the latter contribute to the explanation of the political processes currently observable in the Arab world? The most important questions, to which the organizers of the conference hope to get scientifically relevant answers, would thus be the following:
1. How can the relation between internal and external factors of democratization and autocratization be theoretically captured and empirically weighed?
2. To what extent do structural changes of the international system constitute an external factor of democratization and autocratization processes?
3. What effects on the international system and its structure are reversely caused by these processes?
4. To what extent can „feedback effects” (in the sense of the anticipation of the impacts of a possible regime change by external actors and their resulting support of democratization or autocratization processes) be observed?
5. To what extent is the „Arab Spring” comparable to former democratization waves?
6. Are the commonly used theoretical approaches suitable to explain the political processes currently observable in the Arab countries, or are there theoretical deficits? And how can these deficits be rectified – maybe recurring to IR-theory?
The conference will be structured along the following core themes:
I. Theoretical Perspectives
Within the first core theme of the conference, theoretical considerations shall be presented concerning the relation between internal and external factors of autocratization and democratization, the impacts of changes of the international system on such national political processes, the reverse influences of regime changes on the international system and its structure, and the formerly indicated feedback effects. Special attention will be paid to the connection of IR-theory with approaches of development, democratization, and transformation theory. Apart from mainstream thinking in political science, we appreciate the recourse to critical theoretical traditions.
II. The international dimension of previous democratization and autocratization waves: empirical findings
The second core theme includes historical and empirical case studies to former democratization and autocratization waves. These discussed cases can be both individual country studies and studies of regional limited waves as a whole, e.g. a study to „the second authoritarian counter- wave in Latin America”. Even when the different regional forms of the third democratization wave since the end of the 1970s will predominate here, due to their further comparability with the „Arab Spring”, we would also like to encourage contributions dealing with the first two democratization waves (from the French and American Revolution until the aftermath of World War I and from the aftermath of World War II until the beginning of the 1960s) as well as the first two authoritarian counter-waves (from Mussolinis March on Rome until the end of World War II and from the beginning of the 1960s until the end of the 1970s).
III. The „Arab Spring”: Comparisons with former democratization waves
The third core theme is dedicated to the current political developments in the Arab World generally known as the „Arab Spring”. Although the access to data is, due to the currency of the events, limited, and a final judgement should be possible only on the basis of a larger historical distance, there shall be made the attempt to compare inter-regionally this current democratization process with former democratization waves. In this context, the question is raised as to what extent the theories developed with principal reference to the third democratization wave can serve to explain the current events. In answering this question, special attention shall be paid to the international dimension of the Arab democratization process.
As a scientific conference for young researchers, the event is principally directed to doctoral and young post-doctoral students, which does not imply however the exclusion of contributions by third parties. Conference languages will be English and German. Expenses for travelling to and accommodation in Bonn may be assumed – subject to the approval of applied funding – by the organizers. The contributions to the conference shall be published later in the KFIBS-series „Kölner Beiträge zur Internationalen Politik” (abbreviation: KBzIP) with the publisher Kölner Wissenschaftsverlag.
Please send meaningful abstracts in English or German (1-2 pages) for possible contributions to the conference to email@example.com by 30th April 2013.
Dr. phil. David Egner
Cologne Forum for International Relations and Security Politics (KFIBS)
Speaker of the KFIBS Research Group „IR-Theories and Foreign Policy Research”