Unlike the despots of the past, known for arbitrary violence and direct rule, today’s authoritarians use the rule of law. Many of these regimes even cultivate democratic institutions: elections, separation of powers, and institutions designed to promote transparency and accountability. This has puzzled scholars – how can authoritarians survive in contexts of democracy, however imperfect or partial? This question is even more pronounced in lower-capacity and transitional states where the ruling regime may lack the capacity to reliably suppress political opposition and public dissent.
Based on ground-breaking research in the book Arbitrary States, this event examines everyday authoritarianism in modern day Uganda. With a focus on local violent actors including militias, vigilantes and community policing initiatives, the book shows how the regime outsources key components oft governance, without relegating control. Speaking to global debates on authoritarian institutions and the rule of law, the book’s author, Dr Rebecca Tapscott, will be joined by invited experts to discuss how some regimes use pervasive political unpredictability to maintain control in the face of democratic institutions and weak state capacity.
Didier Péclard, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Master of African Studies, University of Geneva
Dennis Rodgers, Research Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute
Rebecca Tapscott, Ambizione Research Fellow, Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy, Graduate Institute
Karen Zamberia, Programme Associate - Elections & Democracy, Kofi Annan Foundation
The book is open access and can be read for free on the publishers' website.
You can also read interviews with the author in English or French.
This event is part of the programme organised by the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy for the Geneva Democracy Week.