The Quality of Democracy & Populism in Western Balkans

Seminar with Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, Oct 6th 2016
  • CC BY 2.0_Armel Le Coz_on_FlickrCC BY 2.0_Armel Le Coz_on_Flickr

Seminar with Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos:

The Quality of Democracy & Populism in Western Balkans in the Comparative Perspective of Contemporary European Politics

LIEPP is glad to invite you to attend the seminar held on:

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

12:30 pm - 2:30 pm

LIEPP's Conference Room

LIEPP's Office, 1st Floor, 254 bvd Saint-Germain

75007 Paris

Registration closed.

Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos (University of Athens, Greece) 

Abstract of the paper:

Assessments of the quality of democracy focus on deviations from the rule of law and decreasing levels of political participation, but do not adequately explore the mechanisms through which the quality of democracy decreases to the point of almost reaching a breaking point, without however becoming an outright dictatorship. Populism can be both a mode of political participation and a means of political domination. The linguistic turn in the study of populism has sidelined the study of social and organizational means which populist leaders use, after they ascent to power.

Populism in power, showing authoritarian tendencies, is on the rise in Europe and particularly so in the Western Balkans, where there is a theoretically interesting combination of populism with clientelism and corruption. These three phenomena combine as means of political domination in democratic regimes which have been derailed. Spanning the grey zone between illiberal democracy and outright authoritarianism, the regimes of Aleksandar Vucic in Serbia and Nikola Gruevski in FYR Macedonia purposefully use corruption and clientelism. They also rely on a distinct populist discourse, but also on social class bases and organizational means which are characteristic of populism.

Evidence from recent field research in Belgrade and Skopje is used to discuss how populism, clientelism and corruption are associated with a backsliding from electoral democracy, the reproduction of the same governing elites in power and the emergence of a new type of political regime. Comparable trends of derailment of democracy, based on a variety of other causes, can be traced in other West Balkan and East European countries.  

Institutional Change

The Origins and Evolution of Political Institutions
  • Actualité Sciences PoActualité Sciences Po

Institutional Change:
The Origins and Evolution of Political Institutions

An Evaluation of Democracy Research Group Workshop

26 & 27 May 2016

Sciences Po, Paris

The emergence of new institutions and institutional change constitute central questions for political science. Institutions have a profound and active role in explaining the political realities we analyze. Since institutions influence actors’ behavior, we often seek to understand their effect to ultimately understand the political phenomena we study. Given the importance of institutions the question arises why certain institutions are implemented and amended in some polities but not in others. To fully understand political institutions requires an understanding of why they were put in place and how they are changed. The workshop will have two parts, which structure the contributions. The first one focuses directly on the emergence of institutions and the second one concentrates on how existing institutions evolve and are changed.

The workshop will have two parts which structure the contributions. The first one focuses directly on the emergence of institutions and the second one concentrates on how existing institutions evolve and are changed.

Session 1: How do new institutions emerge?

In this first part, we will focus on particular moments and on key periods where new institutions are generated and adopted. This can be a key moment such as the period of regime change where many institutions are changed at once but it also covers singular changes where e.g. income taxation is introduced, or a federalism reform is implemented. Conceptually relevant is the idea of punctuated equilibrium, where one expects a profound and sudden change following long periods of stability, the notion of national trajectory that insists on the unique character of each national configuration when institutions are put in place, or the premise of rational actors or transition. Do certain configurations of actors and certain factors foster the emergence of new institutions? How important are ideas, national history, and values of the reformers in these processes?

Session 2: How do institutions evolve and get reformed?

When put in place, institutions are remarkably enduring and able to survive many challenges, so much that their evolution and the reforms following their implementation tend to be overlooked by institutional analysts. Indeed, they tend to focus mostly on the consequences of reform or on the emergence of the institution. Nevertheless, even without being fully replaced, institutions are constantly adapted and reformed. A starting point to this endeavor is provided by Thelen, Mahoney and Streeck who have developed typologies of institutional change. How do institutions evolve after they have been put in place? Can they be reformed to overcome inefficiencies and unintended negative consequences? One of the challenges which arises in this line of inquiry is how to disentangle the change of the formal rules and the change of the informal practices, behavior, and values. These two sessions hope to contribute to these questions.

Lead Organizers:

  • Camille Bedock (Sciences Po, Bordeaux)
  • Lucas Leemann (University College London)


View the workshop program here. 

And visit the project’s page here.

Find here the summary of the workshop

Program_Paris_2016 (5) (1).pdf984.33 Ko