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De- and Re-Democratization (DRD)

With its twin focus on democratic crises and democratic subversion (“de-democratization”) as well as on democratic resistance and democratizing struggles (“re-democratization”), the DRD research group places itself at the very center of contemporary debates on the global crisis of democracy. Within its broad thematic mandate, it addresses fundamental questions on democratic failure, subversion, resistance, and polarization.

  • Democratic failure: The institutions of liberal democracy promise liberty, equality, and popular control. But they do not run on autopilot and may fail in many ways. More often than not, across world regions, democratic regimes are less deliberative, fair, and effective, and more unequal, violent, and self-referential, than we would like to see them. Riding a global wave, populists declare existing democracies bankrupt. Very often, their sweeping condemnations of democratic regimes have little to do with genuine democratic deficiencies. We should strive to understand them nonetheless: How can we recognize populists when we see them? Which are the claims they level against liberal democracy? Why do these resonate among citizens? Which is their potential for democratic renewal or destruction? We should not, however, grant populists the monopoly of democratic self-critique they claim for themselves. The critical self-reflection of democracy is an integral part of its defense.
  • Democratic subversion: All around the globe, illiberal governments have been subverting democracy through practices that maintain the façade of democracy while hollowing out its spirit. In slow, stepwise paths of escalation, they have been picking from “the menu of manipulation” that sustains electoral authoritarian regimes. Which are their precise trajectories? To what extent do they transform political, economic, and social institutions? How do they manage to overcome societal and institutional constraints? Which are the structural, institutional, and political conditions of their success? Which are their material, and which their ideological, bases? Which their conceptions of democracy? Whom do they include, and whom exclude, as legitimate members of the nation and the people? What do we know about the extent and sources of their popularity?
  • Democratic resistance: To the degree that illiberal governments succeed in the gradual subversion of democracy, democrats find themselves struggling within the complex two-level game that defines electoral authoritarianism. At the game level of electoral competition, they need to persuade voters. At the meta-game level of institutional conflict, they need to overcome authoritarian structures and practices. How do they handle the related uncertainties about the weight of authoritarian manipulation? How the ensuing normative and strategic dilemmas? How do they reach voters? How do they exert institutional pressures? How do they manage to cooperate among themselves and how to provoke fissures within the regime?
  • Democratic polarization: Processes of democratic subversion may, or may not, originate in fundamental political confrontations. Yet, invariably, they generate them. Invariably, they give rise to dynamics of polarization in which political adversaries come to perceive each other as existential threats to democratic coexistence. How do such polarizing conflicts get ignited? How can they be avoided or reverted? How do they shape the relations among citizens and between political adversaries? How do they feed the erosion of democracy?
  • Democratic foundations: What does democracy require? The current crisis of democracy compels us to rethink its foundations. Our four strategic themes speak in manifold ways to the normative, cognitive, social, and institutional bases of liberal democracy. Blending political theory and comparative empirical research, we strive to reassess the complex conditions that make liberal democracy possible.

Publications by research group members (2022-23)

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Researchers

Andreas Schedler Lead Researcher / Senior Research Fellow
Ryan Bince Junior Research Affiliate
Matthijs Bogaards CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Alexander Bor Post-doctoral Fellow / CEU Visiting Faculty Member
Andras Bozoki CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Laszlo Bruszt Director / CEU Professor
Gina Donoso Research Affiliate / CEU Visiting Professor
William Edmonds Fulbright Fellow
Zsolt Enyedi Senior Research Fellow / CEU Professor
Dorit Geva CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Nicolas Hernandez Junior Research Affiliate
Flora Hevesi Research Assistant
Erin Kristin Jenne CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Evelyn Hye Kyung Jeong Junior Research Affiliate
David Karas OSUN Post-doctoral Fellow
Janos Kis Senior Research Fellow / CEU University Professor
Eszter Kovats Research Affiliate
Peter Kreko Research Affiliate
Levente Littvay Research Affiliate
Balint Madlovics Junior Research Fellow
Balint Magyar Senior Research Fellow
Jennifer McCoy Research Affiliate
Carlos Melendez Post-doctoral Fellow
Inna Melnykovska CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Assistant Professor
Wolfgang Merkel Research Affiliate
Vera Messing Research Fellow
Zoltan Miklosi CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Balint Mikola Post-doctoral Fellow
Filip Milacic Research Affiliate
Alvaro Morcillo Research Affiliate
Anand Murugesan CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Edgar Sar Junior Research Affiliate
Dean Schafer Post-doctoral Fellow
Carsten Q. Schneider CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Murat Somer Research Affiliate
Andras Szalai Research Affiliate
Lili Turza Junior Research Affiliate
Giorgos Venizelos Post-doctoral Fellow
Franziska Wagner Research Assistant
Karolina Zbytniewska Junior Research Affiliate
Edit Zgut-Przybylska Research Affiliate

News

Zsolt Enyedi: Illiberal Conservatism, Civilisationalist Ethnocentrism, and Paternalist Populism in Orbán's Hungary

In a new article in the journal Contemporary Politics, our Senior Research Fellow Zsolt Enyedi identifies three principal ideological modules of the Orbán regime: illiberal conservatism, civilisationist ethnocentrism, and paternalist populism.

Edit Zgut-Przybylska on the Judicial Situation in Poland

Our re:constitution Fellow Edit Zgut-Przybylska was part of an expert panel Visegrad Insight asked to comment on the judicial situation in Poland where the new government has taken steps to re-establish the rule of law but it is meeting resistance from President Andrzej Duda and the politically captured parts of the judiciary.

Andreas Schedler, Alexander Bor: The End of Democratic Consolidation in the US

The US has ceased to be a consolidated democracy, Andreas Schedler, lead researcher of our De- and Re-Democratization Workgroup and Alexander Bor, our Post-doctoral Fellow write in the latest DI Working Paper based on the results of their online survey "Polarization and Democratic Trust in the U.S."

Balint Magyar and Balint Madlovics Attacked in Belarusian State Newspaper

Our Research Fellows Balint Magyar and Balint Madlovics were attacked in Belarusian state-run newspaper Belarus Segodnya for their work The Anatomy of Post-Communist Regimes (CEU Press 2020).

Zsuzsanna Szelenyi and Peter Kreko on Viktor Orban's "Swedish Game" in Newsweek

Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, Program Director of the CEU Democracy Institute Leadership Academy and Peter Kreko, our Research Affiliate talked to Newsweek about Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's attitude towards Sweden's NATO accession.

Audiovisuals

New Podcast: How Orban Destroyed a Democracy

Our Senior Research Fellow Zsolt Enyedi joined Doomsday Watch host Arthur Snell in the podcast series The Bunker to unpack what lessons democracies should take from the Orban era.

Julia Sonnevend on Politicians’ Charm

In the 20th century, politicians’ charm was based on distance, while today, they are trying to construct an image of being “one of us,” our Research Affiliate Julia Sonnevend said as the guest in Friderikusz Podcast, a Hungarian show.

Voters Turn Towards Symbolic Personalities When They Are Disappointed with Political Parties

Zsolt Enyedi discusses party cooperation with Danica Fink-Hafner, professor and Head of the Political Science Research Program at University of Ljubljana, and expert on party politics, European integration, nation-building, interest-representation and democratization.

The Nationalism-Populism-Social Conservatism Database of Presidents and Prime Ministers

Did you miss the presentation of our Research Affiliate Erin Jenne, who introduced the Nationalism-Populism-Social Conservatism database of chief executives? Watch it now!

New Podcast: Zsolt Enyedi on the Hungarian Election

Our Research Affiliate Zsolt Enyedi was interviewed by Cas Mudde for his Radikaal Podcast series.