Book Preview with Kurt Weyland on 'Autocratic Waves in Europe and Latin America'

In cooperation with the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), the IDCAR network hosted the preview event for Kurt Weyland's new book, 'Autocratic Waves in Europe and Latin America' in Berlin on 15 November 2017.

During his lecture, Professor Weyland discussed the historical roots of autocratic regimes such as Cuba, Venezuela, and the Nazi regime in Germany specifying the core conditions that precipitated their rise. The patterns of diffusion and counter-diffusion in such regimes was described by Weyland as wave-like in that disproportionate responses by conservatives to potential unrest stimulated an even more aggressive responses that led to the rise of harsher, more autocratic rule. Drawing on cognitive psychological mechanisms of bounded rationality, Weyland argued that these reactions where people in crisis situations overrate the significance of vivid events and overreact accordingly.

Comparing these historical waves to the current situation in the US, Weyland suggested that there was little cause for fear of an emergent autocratic regime under President Donald Trump. The core argument for his belief is that the current political climate is only based on populism rather than some form of acute crisis. While being a significant change in the tone of US politics, Weyland argues, the Trump administration is only pushing a populist government and has not yet made any drastic action that could stimulate enough unrest to trigger an authoritarian overreaction. Weyland believes that the US is simply adjusting to the populist mindset that Europe and Latin America have experienced many times in the past.