Do associations support authoritarian rule? Evidence from Algeria, Mozambique, and Vietnam

Wischermann, Jörg / Bettina Bunk / Patrick Köllner / Jasmin Lorch
External Publications (2018)

in: Journal of Civil Society 14 (2), 95-115

Open access

Whether associations help to democratize authoritarian rule or support those in power is a contested issue that so far lacks a cross-regional, comparative perspective. In this article we focus on five types of associations in three post-socialist countries, situated in different world regions, that are governed by authoritarian regimes. We first explore how infrastructural and discursive state power impact such associations and vice versa. We then discuss whether these associations support the development of citizens’ collective and individual self-determination and autonomy and/or whether they negate such self-determination and autonomy – a state of affairs that is at the core of authoritarianism. Our analysis addresses decision-making in associations and three specific policy areas. We find that most of the covered associations accept or do not openly reject state/ruling party interference in their internal decision-making processes. Moreover, in most of these associations the self-determination and autonomy of members are restricted, if not negated. With respect to HIV/AIDS policy, associations in Algeria and Vietnam toe the official line, and thus contribute, unlike their counterparts in Mozambique, to negating the self-determination and autonomy of affected people and other social minorities. Looking at enterprise promotion policy, we find that the co-optation of business and professionals’ associations in all three countries effectively limits democratizing impulses. Finally, in all three countries many, but not all, of the interviewed associations support state-propagated norms concerning gender and gender relationships, thus contributing to limiting the self-determination and autonomy of women in the private sphere.

About the author

Lorch, Jasmin

Political Science


Further experts

Fiedler, Charlotte

Political Scientist 

Gutheil, Lena

Cultural Anthropology 

Leininger, Julia

Political Scientist 

Li, Hangwei

Political Science 

Mross, Karina

Political Science 

Wingens, Christopher

Political Science