Regimes of Violence

(populist) authoritarianism, violent democracies and coercive bureaucracies

Coordinators: Bert Suykens and Julian Kuttig

Recent years have seen a resurgence of authoritarianism. Most prominent, a wave of authoritarian populist regimes and movements that equally swept through countries in the so-called Global North and South. The socio-political (trans)formation processes of these regimes and movements remain obscure. While democratically elected, their mode of rule is often characterized by the cultivation of an almost Schmittian enmity. Not surprisingly, authoritarian populist regimes and movements deploy or inspire violence and use new technologies of control to claim authority over populations and territory. While the electoral support these regimes garner is highly important, authoritarian populists’ tactics cannot always be easily distinguished from those of nascent autocracies, where the electoral system eroded, but where the repression of dissidents and free speech is still absorbed or neutralized by a certain popular appeal. At the same time, their actions are reminiscent of earlier debates about violent democracies.

While there has been a rise of interest in the study of authoritarianism more globally, CRGs interest in the subject explicitly focuses on the various forms of political violence and new technologies of control engendered by authoritarian regimes. Moreover, and in line with CRGs overall research agenda we are committed to studying the realities of authoritarian violence on the ground, through engaged fieldwork. While violent resistance to authoritarian rule can be one point of departure, in line with long-standing research expertise on militias and vigilante groups, we are also interested in how state (bureaucracies) and non-state actors can deploy violence and make use of new technologies to support authoritarian regimes in deepening its control over populations and territory. This is combined with the continued study of the role of violence in democracies as populist regimes across the world show the slippery boundaries between authoritarian and democratic regimes.


Research Projects