The European Research Council has announced the winners of its 2022 Consolidator Grants competition. Professor Elias Dinas' project 'Post-Authoritarian Norms and the Ideological Legacy of Dictatorships' (POSTNORM) was among the proposals selected for funding. It is the first Consolidator grant obtained by the EUI under the Horizon Europe funding programme, the EU's most ambitious programme for R&I ever.
Dinas is the sixth EUI scholar to receive a Consolidator Grant within the past six years. Consolidator Grants are for investigators who have 7-12 years' of experience following their PhD, to pursue their most promising ideas.
The POSTNORM project will start in summer 2023 and last five years. Principal Investigator Dinas will collaborate with scholars at Queen Mary University of London and will engage at least two doctoral and two postdoctoral scholars.
The research team aims to unpack politics in so-called new democracies. They will use a new type of survey experiment to examine how the ideological associations with the old (authoritarian) regime serve as a focal point for norms about what are appropriate political positions for voters and parties, and what are not. "We have observed that democratic consolidation is followed by stigmatisation of the former regime's ideology – that is, in democracies following left-wing dictatorship, voters and political elites avoid associating themselves with the left, and in democracies following right-wing dictatorships, the reverse."
The project's time frame is the post-World War II era, and the countries to be investigated are in Europe and in South America. "Broadly speaking, Southern Europe and South America provide cases of post-right-wing regimes, while Central and Eastern European countries are the post-left-wing regimes in the study. We look at Germany in the role of both."
The intuitive, rather simple explanation for these political shifts is what social scientists call thermostatic dynamics: too much of one type of policy drives people's preferences to the opposite type. "But there is a problem with this explanation", Dinas explains, "if correct, we would expect the older people, those who lived under those authoritarian regimes, to be the ones driving these changes, and thus the differences between countries today on the left-to-right spectrum. However, surveys show the opposite: the young being more left-wing in Southern Europe and more right-wing in Central and Eastern Europe."
POSTNORM aims to trace more closely how the post-authoritarian norms and biases develop after the fall of the regime, as there are various factors at play for both individuals and groups (competing parties). The project's survey experiments will test in a rigorous way if, when and how the bias that citizens acquire under the now-gone dictatorship affects political behaviour going forward. "The behaviour we look at ranges from ideological preferences; to perceptions about parties' stances and the 'supply' of new parties; to national identity; to party elite discourse and even post-transition party names."
"This research can illuminate post-conflict situations. Understanding the competition between old and new elites and their ideas – or 'brand' – will, we hope, contribute to policies that can stabilise democracy in many transitional situations", shares Dinas.
Elias Dinas holds the Swiss Chair of Federalism, Democracy and International Governance, and is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute. He comes to the EUI from the University of Oxford. In addition to teaching and supervising responsibilities at the EUI, Dinas represents the Institute in CIVICA’s “Democracy in the 21st century” research focus area. He teaches one course per year at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, as part of the Swiss Chair.
Dinas’ research focuses on the role of history in the formation of political identities. His work has been published, among others, in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics, and mentioned in The Economist, the Atlantic and the New York Times. Elias Dinas earned his PhD from the EUI, where he received the Linz-Rokkan Award for the Best Thesis in Political Sociology.