Hybrid Regimes in Modern Times

ECTS Credits: 
Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

Hybrid regimes that alloy democratic rules with authoritarian governance are the most widespread political systems in the world at the beginning of the 21st century. Conventional accounts describe them as defective democracies or competitive authoritarian regimes. Alternative views point to the genuine features and functions of these regimes that cannot be reduced to those of half-democracies or half-autocracies. In fact, hybrid regimes are puzzling in several ways: (1) their establishment and sustainability have been unexpected either by the school of democratization/transitology or by the school of (new) authoritarianism; (2) neither democratic institutions (e.g. elections) nor autocratic institutions (e.g. dominant parties) function in a conventional way there; and (3) contrary to the expectations of stability, hybrid regimes have demonstrated a variety of (within-type) dynamics.

In this course, we will seek to unpack the category of hybrid regimes and explore the following questions: What are the origins of hybrid regimes? What are the specifics of their institutional functionality in comparison with democracies and/or autocracies? What determines their durability and dynamic nature? We will review the major research approaches that analyze the political regimes in the ‘grey zone’ between democracy and autocracy and further link these approaches to the broader literature on statehood, economic development and social order. We will identify ‘who governs’ in hybrid regimes and by which means (coercion, patronage, ideology, among others) the power is exercised and maintained. Also, we will look at how governments interact with business elites, civil society, as well as with their regional neighbors and international community. Finally, we will identify the ways the study of hybrid regimes can inform contemporary policies and practices in the democratization processes.

This course offers an opportunity to study the current landscape of hybrid regimes in Eastern Europe and Eurasia in depth and with a worldwide comparative perspective. 2 Most of our focus will be on the post-Soviet area, where some of the most obvious examples of hybrid regimes may be found. In addition, hybrid regimes from Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia will be included in comparison. Although our readings will include empirical material from countries, our approach will be thematic. In addition to seminar sessions, the course integrates exercises of a simulation game and role playing in order to let students experience real-life political processes in hybrid regimes and expose them to contemporary challenges of promoting democracy and good governance in the 21st century.

Learning Outcomes: 

At the end of the course, you will

• gain the understanding of the differences between hybrid, democratic and authoritarian regimes;
• become familiar with the major research schools dealing with hybrid regimes, their (normative) premises as well as their strengths and weaknesses;
• accumulate the knowledge about the actors, institutions and processes responsible for establishment, functioning, and dynamics of hybrid regimes;
• understand the interaction mechanisms between actors and structures as well as the links between global and local in hybrid regimes; • know specifics of East European and Eurasian hybrid regimes relative to the hybrid regimes in other world regions;
• learn how to identify empirical puzzles and how to address them with theoretical knowledge and methodological tools;
• be skilled in ‘translation’ of research findings into practical policy recommendations.


Regular attendance is required. Students are also required to read the assigned material, and participate in the discussions and working groups. The final grade will be composed as follows:

✓ Active in-class participation – 10%
✓ Two review papers/presentations – 30%
✓ Research presentation – 25%
✓ Final paper – 35%