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Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy

Ferdinand Eibl

Dr Ferdinand Eibl is Senior Lecturer in Political Economy at King’s College London. Ferdinand’s research focuses on the political economy of authoritarian rule in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), particularly in the areas of distributive politics, crony capitalism, and the political economy of civil-military relations. His first book, Social Dictatorships: The Political Economy of the Welfare State in the Middle East, was published with Oxford University Press. His articles have been published in the British Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, the European Political Science Review, and the Journal of North African Studies, amongst others.

Most recent relevant publications

Social Dictatorships: The Political Economy of the Welfare State in the Middle East and North Africa ​(Oxford University Press, 2020)

“From Rents to Welfare: Why Are Some Oil-Rich States Generous to Their People?” (with S. Hertog), American Political Science Review, First View, 2023.

“Anti-austerity riots in late developing states: Evidence from the 1977 Egyptian Bread Intifada” (with N. Ketchley and J. Gunning), Journal of Peace Research, Online First, 2023.

“Politics of trade protection in an autocracy: Evidence from an EU tariff liberalization in Morocco” (with C. Ruckteschler and A. Malik), European Journal of Political Economy, 71, January 2022.

“War Makes the Regime: Regional Rebellions and Political Militarization Worldwide” (with S. Hertog and D. Slater), British Journal of Political Science, 51:3, July 2021.

As a steering committee member of your hub, how do you perceive the general topic in relation to your hub?

From my perspective, the root cause of any welfare state development is politics. In line with the insights offered by new institutional economics, it becomes apparent that the institutions governing political and economic processes are of utmost importance in shaping the potential for long-term growth. In essence, the question of whether a society can achieve sustainable, long-term growth is fundamentally a political one. Within this context, one of the most crucial sub-questions revolves around how power is distributed in society, which boils down, in simpler terms, into questions about the regime type. Democracies, despite their imperfections, distribute power in inherently different ways than autocracies. This does not imply that autocracies cannot experience growth and development, but their trajectory will differ from those of democracies. Hence, I see a direct and significant connection between the question of regime type and the question of development.

As a steering committee member of your hub, how do you relate to other hubs?

The connection between exclusionary regimes and democratizing developmental states is quite straightforward. Many developmental states have had their origins in autocratic systems, and over time, some have transitioned to democracies while others have not. The critical question here concerns the relationship between regime type and the institutions underpinning developmental states, as well as how these elements can be disentangled to facilitate the transformation of developmental states into democracies, as exemplified by South Korea’s transition in the late 1980s. This intersection of research areas is where the hub I’m affiliated with closely aligns with the developmental states hub.

Concerning political mobilization, it’s important to recognize that the patterns of political mobilization are fundamentally structured by the political institutions that govern our society. Some regimes are more tolerant of public displays of discontent and demonstrations, while others strongly oppose such actions. Thus, there is a clear link between the broader contextual conditions of any mobilization and the nature of political institutions, as well as the extent to which regimes can be characterized as inclusionary or exclusionary.

When it comes to populism, it’s an interesting phenomenon as it transcends the spectrum of regime types, existing in both autocratic and democratic systems. The intriguing question that arises is whether populism varies across different regime types and whether populism inherently impacts regimes. Some research suggests that populists tend to undermine institutions that ensure accountability, potentially pushing regimes toward autocratisation. However, further research is needed to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between populism and regime type and how these two variables interact in the long-term perspective.