Authoritarianism and Counter-Strategies: Global Perspectives from the South

Around the world, we see a resurgence of reactionary nationalist, religious, racist, classist, and anti-feminist ideologies and movements, as well as the accelerated undermining of democratic political systems accompanied by “shrinking spaces” for civil-society actors. These developments in many ways represent a continuation of previously existing patterns and practices. Particularly in the so-called “Global South” and many post-Soviet republics, neoliberal restructuring is accomplished through increasingly violent means. Yet with view to the current global process of de-democratization and the spread of reactionary ideologies, the universalization and globalization of authoritarianism represents a significant novelty. At the same time, the concrete conditions and processes of this universalization—in the “South” and “North” alike—have not been sufficiently analysed. Most research remains tied to a methodological nationalism and discusses authoritarian developments as endogenous problems of particular societies.

The International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counter-Strategies (IRGAC) aims to zoom in on the regional and global interconnections of authoritarian capitalism and reactionary populism and place them at the centre of scholarly debates. We believe it is crucial to both name and analyze the specificities and particular facets of different authoritarian processes, as well as explore the overarching and connective elements that unite these different processes—not ontologically, but according to the concrete conditions in which the various forms of authoritarian capitalism and reactionary populism are rooted, and to the practices and actors that actually bring together the different (national and regional) processes.

The IRGAC brings together scholar-activists from countries of the Global South with the goal of combining in-depth studies of national, regional, and local processes of socioeconomic transformation and politics with a global perspective that recognizes and analyzes the universal manifestations of authoritarian capitalism and universalizing processes that lie beyond the “rising tide” of authoritarianism. At the same time, we propose an internationalist perspective on local and regional counter-strategies, a perspective that, while discussing alternative paths and concrete, popular resistance strategies, campaigns, and initiatives, inquires about their potential to pave the way towards internationalist emancipatory transformative strategies.

The IRGAC currently assembles 12 post-doc fellows working at research institutions in the Global South who are fully funded by the Stiftung’s Global Scholarly Dialogue Programme, as well as a growing number of associated fellows from different countries. The Research Group holds regular on- and offline meetings and workshops to further develop and sharpen what we understand as global perspectives from the South on authoritarian capitalism and counter-strategies.

Together with the Regional Offices of the RLS and various research institutions based in Germany, we regularly publish calls for short-term research fellowships in Germany and cooperative South-South research projects.