Photo: “Putin-Xi press conference (2023),” by Press statements by President of Russia and President of China licensed under CC BY 4.0. Hue is modified from the original.
Waller, Julian G. “DISENTANGLING AUTHORITARIANISM AND ILLIBERALISM IN THE CONTEXT OF THE GLOBAL STATES SYSTEM.” Journal of International Affairs 75, no. 1 (2022): 33–54. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27203118.
The 2010s and 2020s have been readily identified as periods of considerable disjuncture and political disruption at the level of the global states system. Many point to observations of a relative rise in certain ideational conceptual categories, such as “illiberalism” or “populism,” or regime concepts such as “authoritarianism” to explain these patterns of breakdown and system-level uncertainty. While this scholarly approach has much to recommend itself, in the end a great deal of academic usage suffers from a poor understanding of what these conceptual categories entail and consist of, their application across states, and their interaction with seemingly antithetical concepts such as “liberalism” or “democracy” itself. This article presents a critical schematic approach to the application of these conceptual tools in the scholarly analysis of the current international system and its discontents. In doing so, it argues that the concepts of “illiberalism” and “authoritarianism,” in particular, are vulnerable to conceptual misuse, and that this misuse leads to sometimes-unintended ontological assumptions about the global states system—such as “authoritarian internationals” and “illiberal waves”—that may be empirically and functionally untenable, or otherwise misleading, although context and close case analysis ultimately determines their relevance beyond description.