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The Origins of Democratic Collapse: A Conversation with Joseph Wright

April 27, 2023
La Jolla, CA
School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

While the rise of strongman leaders has become a defining trend in contemporary politics, the political consequences of the new personalist era are less understood, particularly in terms of what it means for democracy. In this closed lecture on April 27 from 12:00 p.m.–1:15 p.m., Joseph Wright, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University, discussed his forthcoming book on the Origins of Elected Strongmen (with Erica Frantz and Andrea Kendall-Taylor). The book shows that personalist political parties significantly increase the risk of democratic backsliding and collapse. Using original, global data on personalism in ruling political parties in democracies from the past three decades, Wright and his co-authors carefully document the process through which this occurs.

Joseph Wright is the co-author with Barbara Geddes and Erica Franz of How Dictatorships Work: Power Personalization and Collapse and most recently Migration and Democracy. He is also working on a project that studies how creative, non-violent tactics shape the success of mass mobilization campaigns. In addition to leading academic journals, his work has appeared in Foreign AffairsForeign Policy, the Journal of Democracy, the Washington Quarterly, and the Washington Post.

This event was sponsored by the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation’s Future of Democracy Initiative and by UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy’s Korea-Pacific Program.