Democracies versus Autocracies?

New research group on political dynamics of regime competition begins work

President Joe Biden stands with leaders of the GCC countries, Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

More than thirty years after the supposed “end of history” and the third wave of demo­cratization, the world is once again charac­terized by a greater diversity of political regimes. The (re-)emergence of powerful autho­ritarian states like China and Russia and the trend of back­sliding in see­mingly conso­lidated demo­cracies have created a world that is more pluralistic and multipolar. States with different types of political regimes increas­ingly view each other as competitors. All sides seek to prove the supe­riority of their respec­tive political and eco­nomic systems and to win the alle­giance of third countries.

Current political debates that assume regime com­petition are charac­terized by some question­able assump­tions. The newly founded research group on regime com­petition, headed by Pascal Abb and Irene Weipert-Fenner, critically questions these assumptions: Is there even a clear dividing line between demo­cratic and autho­ritarian camps? Is there a connection between behavior and regime type of states? And must relations between differently consti­tuted states inevitably be anta­gonistic?

To develop a nuanced under­standing of these dynamics, the new research group brings together country and discipli­nary expertise from across the institute. It is also developing empi­rical studies of the political dynamics of regime compe­tition to show how the global order and the foreign and domestic poli­cies of third countries are affected by varieties of (perceived) regime com­petition. The results are not only of aca­demic impor­tance, but also identify and provide recommen­dations on how German foreign and develop­ment policy can deal with increasing regime diversity.