Northwestern Events Calendar


Comparative Politics Workshop: Tom Pepinsky, Voting in Authoritarian Elections

When: Friday, January 17, 2020
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, 212, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Comparative Politics Workshop for a session with Thomas Pepinsky on "Voting in Authoritarian Elections"

When accounting for why elections, voting, and political representation are meaningful and valuable practices, political theorists tend to assume that the political system in which these institutions occur is broadly democratic. However, authoritarian regimes also make use of these institutions. Furthermore, recent empirical research shows that elections in “hybrid,” “competitive authoritarian,” or “pseudo-democratic” regimes matter. They can stabilize authoritarian regimes by giving them the veneer of popular approval, although they can also provide opportunities for unseating incumbent regimes. Are the ethics of political participation—and, specifically, of voting—fundamentally different in non-democratic regimes? Do the same civic imperatives that support voting in democracies come out in favor of boycotts, abstentions, or even civil disobedience under electoral authoritarianism? Can citizens expect elections and electoral participation to increase the chances of a democratic transition? We argue that more complex moral considerations confront voters in authoritarian regimes compared to voters in democratic regimes, since the answers to these questions hinge in part on the role elections play in authoritarian states. We argue that a voter’s judgment must depend not merely on principled justifications for political participation but also on prudential considerations about the impact that electoral participation is likely to have on the regime’s longevity. We enumerate some of these considerations. 

Thomas Pepinsky is a professor in the Government department and a faculty member of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University

Thomas Pepinsky's research centers around two themes: the relationship between economic interests and political outcomes, and the interaction between domestic politics and the global economy. Most of his work focuses on emerging markets, and I have a special interest in Southeast Asia and the Muslim world. My current work focuses on issues relating to identity, politics, and political economy in comparative and international politics. For more on Thomas Pepinsky:



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