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Photo: “Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership meeting in Budapest 14“, by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Ahlers, Anna L., Damien Krichewsky, Evelyn Moser, and Rudolf Stichweh. “Democratic and Authoritarian Political Systems in 21st Century World Society.” In Democratic and Authoritarian Political Systems in 21st Century World Society. transcript-Verlag, 2021.


What seemed unthinkable after the end of the Cold War and the triumph of liberalism has become reality today: the democratic world society of the 21st century is threatened by illiberal and autocratic political models. The state is no longer an instrument of a dominating stratum trying to control society. It must include individuals, produce valued outputs, know the complexity of society, and accept or deny the autonomy of other specialized function-systems.
The authors analyze these political systems of a functionally differentiated world society and argue that they are completely novel because they incessantly adapt to the process of functional differentiation. To this end, they define structural core characteristics of modern policy, such as the political inclusion of everyone as a reaction to individualism; the complexity of polities arising from internal differentiation; and the increasing political decision-making handed to experts and autonomous organizations.

Table of contents

  • Individual and Collective Inclusion and Exclusion in Political Systems
    Rudolf Stichweh
  • The Rise of Complexity: Internal Differentiation of Political Systems
    Anna L. Ahlers
  • Knowledge and the Political System
    Rudolf Stichweh
  • Political Responsiveness: The Identification and Processing of Problems in Modern Polities
    Damien Krichewsky
  • Expansion through Self-Restriction: Functional Autonomy in Modern Democracies
    Evelyn Moser
  • The Bipolarity of Democracy and Authoritarianism and Its Societal Origins
    Rudolf Stichweh and Anna L. Ahlers

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.