29 June 2010

CFP: Breakdowns of Democracy Revisited

12th Mediterranean Research Meeting of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute (EUI), Florence and Montecatini Terme, Italy, 6-9 April 2011

Call for papers for Workshop 7: "Breakdowns of Democracy Revisited: Transitions from Liberal-Democratic to Authoritarian Regimes around the Mediterranean Littoral"


From the workshop description: "Studies of democratization have matured greatly over the last two decades [...]. Nevertheless, early expectations that new democracies would survive and flourish have run up against significant cases in which political reform has quickly stalled out or regressed to liberalized authoritarian rule. This development has opened the door to systematic investigations of the circumstances under which initial liberalization programs have failed to gain momentum, most notably in Tunisia and Jordan. Such studies raise the crucial question of whether democratization can be assumed to move in only one direction. History suggests that liberal democracies on occasion collapse and get replaced by highly illiberal regimes. Classic cases of democratic breakdown include Italy in the early 1920s and Germany a decade later.

"Less fully investigated are parallel instances of democratic collapse in Spain, Greece and Turkey. Completely ignored are countries whose brief liberal-democratic eras have been overlooked by political scientists and historians. A number of important examples of the transition away from liberal democracy can be found in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa region]. Among these stand Egypt, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Libya, not to mention the aborted transition to illiberal governance in Lebanon of the late 1950s. Focused comparisons between well-studied episodes of the breakdown of liberal political orders along the northern shores of the Mediterranean and largely overlooked instances to the south and east are certain to enhance our understanding of the causal factors and processes that lead democracies to be supplanted by authoritarian regimes.

"Scholarship on the topic has lain virtually dormant since the late 1970s. [...] This workshop proposes not only to bring a wide range of additional, long-overlooked cases into the literature on democratic collapse but also to begin the crucial task of formulating well-structured comparisons across different empirical examples. Contributions which focus on countries that have so far been ignored in the academic literature, particularly ones situated in the MENA region, will be expected to make reference to analyses of better-studied examples. Given the peculiarities of the German model, the organizers anticipate that the experience of Italy during the first two decades of the twentieth century is likely to prove particularly thought-provoking, and would therefore welcome proposals from specialists in Italian history and politics. Contributions intended primarily to advance the theory of liberal-democratic breakdown are certainly encouraged, but will be expected to rest on a firm empirical foundation.

"Liberal experiments in the MENA during the 1920s and 1930s are routinely dismissed as too imperfect to be included in discussions of the structure, workings and transformation of democratic governance. The workshop organizers firmly reject such dismissiveness toward the variety of party-based, electoral systems that one finds throughout the Arab world in the decades before the wave of military-led revolutions washed across the region. Instead, they hope that detailed explorations of the liberal-democratic moment in the MENA, unbiased by what E.P. Thompson might call 'the enormous condescension of posterity,' will offer new insight into the dynamics of politics in this part of the world, while at the same time reinvigoring conceptual debates about the dynamics of democratization on the basis of evidence drawn from all shores of the Mediterranean."

Please find detailed instructions on how to submit a paper proposal for this workshop on the conference website (see particularly full call for papers and online form). The procedures and requirements are uncommonly stringent.

Deadline: 15 July 2010

Only for workshop-related questions, contact directly the workshop directors, Fred Lawson (Mills College, California): lawson@mills.edu
and Abdelwahab Shaker (Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt): abdelwahab.shaker@bibalex.org

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