Departing from our definition of AGCs – autocratic regimes that constitute a force of attraction and contagion for countries in geopolitical proximity – and the two different ways of autocratic influence – 1. direct and active influence (promotion of Autocracy), 2. indirect and thus non-intentional influence (diffusion) – the research interest of this study is fourfold: Why (motives of the AGC) and how (modes of influence) are which elements (autocratic elements) disseminated with which result (reaction of the contiguous countries)?
Motives of the AGC
The overall thread of the project combines a rational and a rather constructivist argumentation: The first hypothesis is based on a rationalist argument, namely that AGCs seek to stabilize their own regime and the contiguous environment. More concrete, identifying economic and security ties within the various regional cooperation organizations that secure the regime’s stability and survival of the respective country is of utmost interest. In other words, the autocratic leader strives to be surrounded by similar regimes with similar interests and thinking because stability in the own country and stability in the proximity are clearly interconnected.
The second hypothesis is based on a constructivist argument and constitutes another motive of autocratic promotion or diffusion: Legitimacy has become a key question for the “new” autocratic regimes. In order to dissociate the own regime from democratic patterns and values, the AGC nurtures a regional regime identity discourse that promotes regional regime patterns and shall also suggest a superiority vis-à-vis democratic alternatives (including elements of ‘othering’ and national/regional identity building). In nuce: We want to test the alternative hypotheses explaining the motives of AGCs for influencing their environment due to stability reasons including economic and security interests and/or due to the search for legitimation by the means of constructing an identity discourse and countering the global script of democracy with an own (regional) offer.
Modes of influence
As already mentioned, we differentiate, firstly, intentional, actor-driven modes of external influence like a) control, b) active leverage and c) socialization and, secondly, unintentional, neutral transmission modes of external influence like a) diffusion or contagion and b) demonstration effects or examples which can then lead to c) transfer by the contiguous country.
Disseminated autocratic elements
In this regard, the following question arises: What elements are imposed, diffused and transferred? The array of possible elements of export, diffusion or transfer is systematized by subsuming them into four arenas: (1) The institutional arena, (2) the policy arena, (3) the ideational arena, (4) administrative techniques.
Reactions of TS
Depending on the different modes of influence exerted by the AGCs Target States can react hereupon in multiple ways, i. e. surrender, compliance (e. g. to coercive measures), transfer, copying, and/or adoption (of autocratic elements like certain policies, discourses and governing techniques)