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Photo:“0599 1989 Berlin Mauer (28 dec) (14285486046)” by Aad van der Drift, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Weyland, Kurt. Assault on Democracy. Cambridge University Press, 2021.


Why did democratic progress stop during the interwar years and fascism and authoritarianism spread across Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe? The Russian Revolution triggered this reverse wave by inspiring left-wingers in many countries to try to replicate Lenin’s success. But these precipitous uprisings induced a wide range of political groupings to suppress these imitation attempts and to be fearful of Communism thereafter. These concerns fuelled doubts in the defensive capacity of liberal democracy, strengthened the ideological right, and prompted the rise of fascism as the most potent antidote to Communism. Yet as fascist movements formed in many countries, their violent quest for total power also caused growing concerns, which led conservative establishment sectors to combat or control these radical right-wingers. The resulting conflicts played out differently across countries: Whereas fascism won out in Italy and Germany, conservative groupings prevailed in Eastern & Southern Europe and Latin America and imposed exclusionary, hierarchical authoritarianism to keep fascists out of power. In these conflicts, political actors were carried away by excessive hopes or fears and behaved in rash, not fully rational ways, as my book explains by drawing on cognitive- psychological insights”–

Table of contents

  • Introduction: The Puzzle: Reverse Waves of Political Reaction
  • The Double Deterrent Effect and the Bounds
  • The Soviet Precedent and the Wave of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts
  • The Suppression of Isomorphic Emulation Efforts and Its Limited Regime Effects
  • Persistence of the Communist Threat and Rising Appeal of Fascism
  • The German Exception: Emulating Full-Scale Fascism
  • The Spread of Fascist Movements – Yet of Authoritarian Regimes
  • Conservative-Fascist Relations and the Autocratic Reverse Wave
  • The Edges of the Autocratic Wave: Battered Democracy and Populist Authoritarianism
  • Conclusion

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.