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Exclusionary Regimes, Autocratization and Democracy

Linda Cook

Linda J. Cook is Professor Emerita of Political Science and Slavic Studies at Brown University; an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University and Former Academic Supervisor, International Laboratory for Social Integration Research, Higher School of Economics, Moscow; Her research interests include welfare regimes in the Russian Federation and East-Central European Postcommunist states, comparatively and globally; labor politics, and the politics of authoritarian regimes. Cook is author of The Soviet Social Contract and Why it Failed (Harvard, 1993) Postcommunist Welfare States (Cornell, 2007, 2013; Russian translation Academic Studies Press, 2021); three co-edited volumes, and articles in Comparative Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, Post-Soviet Affairs, Social Policy and Society, Voluntas, Europe-Asia Studies, Problems of Post-Communism and other publications. Cook is the recipient of a Fulbright award, has been a Visiting Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Finland, Team Leader of a project with UNRISD, “New Directions in Social Policy,” and project collaborator at the Norwegian Research Council. She has made many research visits to the Former Soviet Union and Russia. She is currently participating in a project on “Global Welfare Regimes: Social Assistance Systems across Countries,” supported by the Taiwan National Science and Technology Council. Cook’s current research focuses on international migration and welfare nationalism. Her book, Welfare Nationalism in Europe and Russia: The Politics of 21stCentury Exclusionary and Inclusionary Migrations, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Most recent relevant publications

Cook, L. J., & Titterton, M. (2023). Mapping Shifts in Russian and European Welfare Polities: Explaining Policy Responses to Shared New Social Risks. Social Policy and Society, 22(2), 321-337.

Cook, L. J., Iarskaia-Smirnova, E. R., & Kozlov, V. A. (2023). Trying to reverse demographic decline: pro-natalist and family policies in Russia, Poland and Hungary. Social Policy and Society, 22(2), 355-375.

​​Cook, L. J., & Dimitrov, M. K. (2017). The social contract revisited: Evidence from communist and state capitalist economies. Europe-Asia Studies, 69(1), 8-26.

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

Reflecting on the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion within the context of autocracy, I have extensively examined this issue throughout my career. Initially, I delved into communist systems, characterized by political authoritarianism yet relatively egalitarian in distributive terms. Notably, I’ve observed the evolution of these systems, particularly in Russia, transitioning into a different form of autocracy that offers very limited political rights but  is markedly more inequitable. Hence, the relationship between exclusion and inclusion and the diverse manifestations of autocracy intrigues me. Different autocratic regimes employ varying strategies, with some utilizing wealth distribution as a means of managing social peace, while others rely on ideologies such as nationalism, or repression, or a combination of these strategies. Understanding the nuances in the inclusivity or exclusivity of different types of autocracies becomes a compelling area of exploration.

An emerging literature also considers the intersection of migration and autocracies, examining the capacity of autocratic states to handle refugees without requiring popular consent. This is evident in the case of Syrian refugees, primarily hosted in the Middle East, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Autocratic or electoral authoritarian countries, like Turkey, appear to be able to accommodate large numbers of refugees over extended periods, while European countries often face political reactions and anti-immigrant policies even with smaller inflows. The treatment of migrants,  reveals  contrasts between democracies and autocracies. While no system treats them well , democracies, with their deep flaws, still tend to handle migration issues differently. However, the rise of right-wing and extremist parties across Europe signals a challenging landscape. Ignoring the migration issue while attempting to bolster democratic principles is unlikely to yield sustainable solutions. I firmly believe that addressing this perspective is imperative in navigating the complex intersection of autocracy, democracy, and migration politics.

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

I see an organic connection between our hub and the hub that studies patterns of mobilization.  Both patterns of mobilization, be it in favor of or against democracy, add valuable dimensions to our hub’s exploration. The intricate dynamics of why people support autocratic or democratic regimes and how they mobilize and sustain support are indeed fascinating questions that align well with our hub’s overarching goals. Hence, understanding the factors that drive individuals to support different political systems is crucial. Exploring the motivations, strategies, and mechanisms employed in these mobilization efforts can contribute significantly to our collective understanding of the complex interplay between democracy and development.

The hub dealing with populism is also very relevant.  Populists have become increasingly successful in Europe, the US, and other regions.  Populism is usually very nationalistic, and may push in anti-democratic directions as well as toward ethnically exclusionary politics that affects both ethnic minorities and immigrants. It is a potentially critical factor in the growth of exclusion.

In essence, focusing  on these aspects not only complements our hub’s objectives but also enhances the interdisciplinary nature of our collaboration. By cooperating with the hubs on mobilization and populism, we can foster a more comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted relationship between democracy, development, and the diverse patterns of political engagement.