Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-jzjqj Total loading time: 0.44 Render date: 2022-08-10T16:59:03.830Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Will the Real Conspiracy Please Stand Up: Sources of Post-Communist Democratic Failure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 August 2021

Abstract

At the start of the pandemic, it looked like the biggest COVID-related threat to democracy, in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, was executive aggrandizement. This focus, however, may lead us to overlook a bigger threat to Eastern European democracy. We argue that Eastern European democracies’ original sin of state capture has been exacerbated by the rise of conspiracy theories, whose stock has only increased with the addition of COVID misinformation. Eastern European voters struggle to differentiate between the true political conspiracy that enables private interests to control the state and conspiracies without empirical basis, such as COVID denialism, world government, or political correctness as a tyrannical plot. As a result, conspiracy theories enable the state capture camp to divide the reformist opposition and maintain their grip, while simultaneously claiming that they are governing competently and in line with European values. We use an original survey from Bulgaria and a GLOBSEC 2020 cross-national survey to explore this hypothesis. Finally, we draw some theoretical implications from the empirical evidence for assessing the nature of democratic backsliding in Eastern Europe. We call for more research on the conspiracy cleavage as a factor in explaining backsliding processes.

Type
Reflection
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/AXOFXL

References

Abalakina-Paap, Marina, Stephan, Walter G., Craig, Traci, and Gregory, W. Larry. 1999. “Beliefs in Conspiracies.” Political Psychology 20(3): 637–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Adorno, Theodor W., Frenkel-Brunswik, Else, Levinson, Daniel J., and Sanford, R. Nevitt. 1993. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Verso.Google Scholar
Altemeyer, Bob. 1981. Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.Google Scholar
Bakker, Ryan, De Vries, Catherine, Edwards, Erica, Hooghe, Liesbet, Jolly, Seth, Marks, Gary, Polk, Jonathan, Rovny, Jan, Steenbergen, Marco, and Vachudova, Milada Anna. 2015. “Measuring Party Positions in Europe: The Chapel Hill Expert Survey Trend File, 1999–2010.” Party Politics 21(1): 143–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bánkuti, Miklós, Halmai, Gábor, and Scheppele, Kim Lane. 2012. “Hungary’s Illiberal Turn: Disabling the Constitution.” Journal of Democracy 23(3): 138–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berinsky, Adam. 2017. “Rumors and Health Care Reform: Experiments in Political Misinformation.” British Journal of Political Science 47(2): 241–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bermeo, Nancy. 2016. “On Democratic Backsliding.” Journal of Democracy 27(1): 519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bernhard, Michael. 2021. “Democratic Backsliding in Poland and Hungary.” Slavic Review, forthcoming.Google Scholar
Bieber, Florian. 2018. “The Rise (and Fall) of Balkan Stabilitocracies.” Horizons: Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development 10: 176185.Google Scholar
Borowski, Andrzej. 2014. “Confidence in Social Institutions in the Post-Communist Countries.” International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences 25: 717. doi:10.18052/www.scipress.com/ILSHS.25.7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bustikova, Lenka, and Guasti, Petra. 2017. “The Illiberal Turn or Swerve in Central Europe?Politics and Governance 5(4): 166–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cianetti, Licia, and Hanley, Seán. 2021. “The End of the Backsliding Paradigm.” Journal of Democracy 32(1):6680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Coman, Ramona. 2014. “Quo Vadis Judicial Reforms? The Quest for Judicial Independence in Central and Eastern Europe.” Europe-Asia Studies 66(6): 892924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Coppedge, Michael, Gerring, John, Knutsen, Carl, Lindberg, Staffan, Teorell, Jan, Altman, David, Bernhard, Michael, Fish, Steven, Glynn, Adam, Hicken, Allen, Luhrmann, Anna, Marquardt, Kyle, McMann, Kelly, Paxton, Pamela, Pemstein, Daniel, Seim, Brigitte, Sigman, Rachel, Skaaning, Svend-Erik, Staton, Jeffrey, Wilson, Steven, Cornell, Agnes, Alizada, Nazifa, Gastaldi, Lisa, Gjerløw, Garry Hindle Haakon, Ilchenko, Nina, Maxwell, Laura, Mechkova, Valeriya, Medz-ihorsky, Juraj, Römer, Johannes von, Sundström, Aksel, Tzelgov, Eitan, Wang, Yi ting, Wig, Tore, and Ziblatt, Daniel. 2019. “V-Dem Dataset v10.” Varieties of Democracy - Project: Project Documen- tation Paper Series. (https://www.v-dem.net/en/data/archive/previous-data/v-dem-dataset/).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Darwin, Hannah, Neave, Nick, and Holmes, Joni. 2011. “Belief in Conspiracy Theories: The Role of Paranormal Belief, Paranoid Ideation and Schizotypy.” Personality and Individual Differences 50(8): 1289–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vreese, De, Claes, H., Esser, Frank, Aalberg, Toril, Reinemann, Carsten, and Stanyer, James. 2018. “Populism as an Expression of Political Communication Content and Style: A New Perspective.” International Journal of Press/Politics 23(4): 423–38.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Douglas, Karen, and Sutton, Robbie. 2008. “The Hidden Impact of Conspiracy Theories: Perceived and Actual Influence of Theories Surrounding the Death of Princess Diana.” Journal of Social Psychology 148(2): 210–22.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Engelbrekt, Kjell, and Kostadinova, Petia, eds. 2020. Bulgaria’s Democratic Institutions at Thirty: A Balance Sheet. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Feldman, Stanley, and Stenner, Karen. 1997. “Perceived Threat and Authoritarianism.” Political Psychology 18(4): 741–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Foos, Florian, Kostadinov, Lyubomir, Marinov, Nikolay, and Schimmelfennig, Frank. 2020. “Does Social Media Promote Civic Activism? A Field Experiment with a Civic Campaign.” Political Science Research and Methods. doi:10.1017/psrm.2020.13.Google Scholar
Ganev, Venelin I. 2007. Preying on the State: The Transformation of Bulgaria After 1989. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Goertzel, Ted. 2014. “Belief in Conspiracy Theories.” Political Psychology 15(4): 731–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grzymala-Busse, Anna. 2007. Rebuilding Leviathan: Party Competition and State Exploitation in Post-Communist Democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grzymala-Busse, Anna. 2008. “Beyond Clientelism: Incumbent State Capture and State Formation.” Comparative Political Studies 41(4-5): 638–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grzymala-Busse, Anna. 2019. “Hoist on Their Own Petards? The Reinvention and Collapse of Authoritarian Successor Parties.” Party Politics 25(4): 569–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grzymala-Busse, Anna, and Luong, Pauline Jones. 2002. “Reconceptualizing the State: Lessons from Post-Communism.” Political Theory 30(4): 529–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guasti, Petra. 2020. “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Central and Eastern Europe: The Rise of Autocracy and Democratic Resilience.” Democratic Theory 7(2): 4760.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hajdu, Dominika, and Klingová, Katarína. 2020. “Voices of Central and Eastern Europe: Perceptions of Democracy and Governance in 10 EU Countries.” Technical report GLOBSEC Bratislava, Polus Tower II Vajnorská 100, Slovakia. (https://www.globsec.org/publications/voices-of-central-and-eastern-europe/).Google Scholar
Halmai, Gábor. 2019. “Populism, Authoritarianism and Constitutionalism.” German Law Journal 20(3): 296313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hanley, Seán, and Vachudova, Milada Anna. 2018. “Understanding the Illiberal Turn: Democratic Backsliding in the Czech Republic.” East European Politics 34(3): 276–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haughton, Tim, and Deegan-Krause, Kevin. 2020. The New Party Challenge: Changing Cycles of Party Birth and Death in Central Europe and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hellman, Joel S. 1998. “Winners Take All: The Politics of Partial Reform in Postcommunist Transitions.” World Politics 50: 203–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hellman, Joel S., Jones, Geraint, and Kaufmann, Daniel. 2000. “Seize the State, Seize the Day: State Capture, Corruption, and Influence in Transition.” Policy Research Working Paper No. 2444. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
Hopkin, Jonathan, and Paolucci, Caterina. 1999. “The Business Firm Model of Party Organisation: Cases from Spain and Italy.” European Journal of Political Research 35(3): 307–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Innes, Abby. 2014. “The Political Economy of State Capture in Central Europe.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 52(1): 88104.Google Scholar
Jäger, Kai. 2020. “The Potential of Online Sampling for Studying Political Activists around the World and across Time.” Political Analysis 25(3): 329–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keeley, Brian. 1999. “Of Conspiracy Theories.” Journal of Philosophy 96(3): 109–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelemen, R. Daniel. 2020. “The European Union’s Authoritarian Equilibrium.” Journal of European Public Policy 27(3): 481–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kmezić, Marko. 2019. “EU Rule of Law Conditionality: Democracy or ‘Stabilitocracy’ Promotion in the Western Balkans?” In The Europeanisation of the Western Balkans, ed. Džankić, Jelena, Keil, Soeren, and Kmezić, Marko, 87109. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kochenov, Dimitry. 2008. EU Enlargement and the Failure of Conditionality: Pre-accession Conditionality in the Fields of Democracy and the Rule of Law, Vol. 59. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International BV.Google Scholar
Kontis, Vasilis, Bennett, James E., Rashid, Theo, Parks, Robbie M., Pearson-Stuttard, Jonathan, Guillot, Michel, Asaria, Perviz, Zhou, Bin, Battaglini, Marco, Corsetti, Gianni et al. 2020. “Magnitude, Demographics and Dynamics of the Effect of the First Wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic on All-Cause Mortality in 21 Industrialized Countries.” Nature Medicine 26. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1112-0.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kosař, David. 2016. Perils of Judicial Self-Government in Transitional Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kovács, Kriszta, and Scheppele, Kim Lane. 2018. “The Fragility of an Independent Judiciary: Lessons from Hungary and Poland—and the European Union.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(3): 189200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Magyar, Bálint. 2016. Post-Communist Mafia State. Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
Marks, Gary, Attewell, David, Rovny, Jan, and Hooghe, Liesbet. 2020. “The Changing Political Landscape in Europe .” In The EU Through Multiple Crises: Representation and Cohesion Dilemmas for a “sui generis” Party , ed. Cotta, Maurizio and Isernia, Pierangelo, 2044. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mendelski, Martin. 2016. “Europeanization and the Rule of Law: Towards a Pathological Turn.” Southeastern Europe 40(3): 346–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, Joanne, Saunders, Kyle, and Farhart, Christina. 2016. “Conspiracy Endorsement as Motivated Reasoning: The Moderating Roles of Political Knowledge and Trust.” American Journal of Political Science 60(4): 824–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Naím, Moisés. 2012. “Mafia States: Organized Crime Takes Office.” Foreign Affairs 91(3): 100–11.Google Scholar
Noury, Abdul, and Roland, Gerard. 2020. “Identity Politics and Populism in Europe.” Annual Review of Political Science 23: 421–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Oliver, J. Eric, and Wood, Thomas J.. 2014. “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion.” American Journal of Political Science 58(4): 952–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ortmann, Stefanie, and Heathershaw, John. 2012. “Conspiracy Theories in the Post-Soviet Space.” Russian Review 71(4): 551–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pappas, Takis S. 2020. “Political Charisma and Modern Populism.” In Routledge International Handbook of Charisma, ed. Zúquete, José Pedro, 226. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peršak, N., and Štrus, J.. 2016. “Legitimacy and Trust-Related Issues of Judiciary: New Challenges for Europe.” In Legitimacy and Trust in Criminal Law, Policy and Justice: Norms, Procedures, Outcomes, ed. Peršak, Nina, 89110. Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Petrov, Jan. 2020. “The COVID-19 Emergency in the Age of Executive Aggrandizement: What Role for Legislative and Judicial Checks?Theory and Practice of Legislation 8(1-2): 7192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pop-Eleches, Grigore. 2010. “Throwing Out the Bums: Protest Voting and Unorthodox Parties after Communism.” World Politics 62(3): 221–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Popova, Maria. 2012. “Why Doesn’t the Bulgarian Judiciary Prosecute Corruption?Problems of Post-Communism 59(5): 3549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Popova, Maria, and Post, Vincent. 2018. “Prosecuting High-Level Corruption in Eastern Europe.” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(3): 231–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Popova, Maria D. 2010. “Be Careful What You Wish For: A Cautionary Tale of Post-Communist Judicial Empowerment.” Demokratizatsiya 18(1): 5673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Raycheva, Lilia, and Peicheva, Dobrinka. 2017. “Populism in Bulgaria between Politicization of Media and Mediatization of Politics.” Mediatization Studies 1(1). DOI:10.17951/ms.2017.1.1.69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sadurski, Wojciech. 2019. Poland’s Constitutional Breakdown. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scheppele, Kim Lane. 2018. “Autocratic Legalism.” The University of Chicago Law Review 85(2): 545–84.Google Scholar
Stroschein, Sherrill. 2019. “Populism, Nationalism, and Party Politics.” Nationalities Papers 47(6): 923–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sutton, Robbie, and Douglas, Karen. 2014. “Examining the Monological Nature of Conspiracy Theories.” In Power, Politics, and Paranoia: Why People Are Suspicious of Their Leaders, ed. van Prooijen, Jan-Willem and van Lange, PAM, 254272. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Uscinski, Joseph, Klofstad, Casey, and Atkinson, Matthew. 2016. “What Drives Conspiratorial Beliefs? The Role of Informational Cues and Predispositions.” Political Research Quarterly 69(1): 5771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vachudova, Milada. 2005. Europe Undivided: Democracy, Leverage, and Integration After Communism. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vachudova, Milada, and Spendzharova, Aneta. 2012. “EU’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism: Fighting Corruption in Bulgaria and Romania after EU Accession.” Technical Report, Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies. Stockholm: SIEPS.Google Scholar
Vachudova, Milada Anna. 2021. “Populism, Democracy, and Party System Change in Europe.” Annual Review of Political Science 24: 471–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Waldner, David, and Lust, Ellen. 2018. “Unwelcome Change: Coming to Terms with Democratic Backsliding.” Annual Review of Political Science 21:93113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Marinov and Popova Dataset

Link
1
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Will the Real Conspiracy Please Stand Up: Sources of Post-Communist Democratic Failure
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Will the Real Conspiracy Please Stand Up: Sources of Post-Communist Democratic Failure
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Will the Real Conspiracy Please Stand Up: Sources of Post-Communist Democratic Failure
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *