ECPR Joint Sessions in Münster

From 22. to 26. March, the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops will take place in Münster, Germany. There will be 28 workshops on different areas of political research. The one I will participate at will be on “Comparing Autocracies: Theoretical Issues and empirical Analyses of Inpput/Output Dimensions”. This workshop is chaired by Patrick Köllner (GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies and Steffen Kailitz (Hannah Arendt Institute for rersearch on Totalitarianism). It aims at bringing togehther scholars of Autocracies to debate on different issues, adressing theoretical, conceptual approaches as well as empirical analyses of authoritarian rule in general and input/output relations in special.

I will have the opportunity to present a rather theoretical paper named “killing two birds with one stone. Systems Theory and Autocracies re-considered”. What I am proposing with the paper is that the rather fragmented and unsystematic research on Autocracies could profit from using the rather old-school approach of social systems developed for example by Talcott Parsons, David Easton and Gabriel Almond. My argument is that a revised and modernized re-reading of Parsons can offer fruitful insights into the functions, structures and exchange processes, i.e. the input/output dimensions, of autocracies. It offers a way not only towards deeper understanding of autocracies but also of conceptualizing them beyond the pitfalls of greyzones, mixed types and democracy as a normative frame of reference that often have been discussed. As Systems differ in terms of functional equivalents and societal interchange, there is no need of a discrete analysis of democracy and autocracy, as the distinct combination of structures and functions offers a typology that is both comprehensive and mutually exclusive. This opens the way of a re-conceptualization of autocracy as a genuine type of social system (not only political system) that is defined by its unique structural composition as well as original interchange systems. This implies that there has to be a two level analysis of autocracies: first on the societal level with structural composition and interchange processes between political system, economic system, integrative system and cultural system , and second on the sub-societal level with the structural composition and interchange processes within the political system.

Within the paper I argue that whereas in democracies adaptation is organized by the economy and goal attainment by the political system, in autocracies this is the other way round with the political system fulfilling the adaptive function and the economy delivering goal attainment (Interestingly they do not seem to differ with regard to the integrative and pattern maintainance functions). Thus special interchange relations are established (i.e. neo-patrimonialism, corruption).

I am really forward to the workshop, not only because I want to get feedback for my paper, but also because there are really interesting scholars from all over Europe and beyond.

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