Information autocracy - a new trend in world politics

Two centuries ago, most countries wereautocracies or colonies. And the further into the past we look, the more rigid will be the state leaders. Fortunately, you and I live in the 21st century and know about the existence of democracy. But the opposite trend is observed in the world and more and more states are taking the side of autocracy - a form of government in which unlimited supreme power belongs to one person. Judge for yourself - the number of liberal democracies has decreased several times over the past 10 years, and the results of scientific research show that 68% of the world's population lives under an autocratic system of government. At the same time, modern autocrats are completely different from the leaders of the past and managed to acquire their own invention - information autocracy. Unlike classical autocratic models, informational autocracies do not rely on terror and massive repression. Their main goal is to convince us that they are competent.

What do modern autocrats want?

Political system - a complex of state and non-state institutions carrying out activities related to the functioning of state power.

New model of autocracy

In the recent past, dictators such as Pinochet,Mao and Pol Pot remained in power thanks to terror, ideology and the isolation of their countries from the rest of the world. But in the age of information and scientific and technological progress, being a dictator is not easy - you have to adapt. For this reason, the modern authoritarian leader gives numerous interviews, takes pictures with colleagues from different countries, and gives out New Year's gifts. He also appears on TV every day.

As Goebbels once remarked, radio should bein every house. It is scary to imagine what would have happened if the Internet had appeared in the era of World War II. However, even now it is not easy - our picture of the world, formed in many ways by the media, depicts its alarming perception.

At the same time, we live with you in the most peaceful time throughout the history of mankind - and although it is hard to believe, this is confirmed by statistics.

There are many political regimes in the world, but there are more and more autocracies

Economists Sergei Guriev and Daniel Trismanpaid particular attention to autocracy and how it has changed. In a paper published in the Journal of Public Economics in 2020, Trizman and Guriev concluded that many political systems of government today are information autocracies. This new form of authoritarianism is not built on mass violence, but on manipulation of information.

As the researchers write, modern“Informational” dictatorships are better adapted to survival in society and to the world of transparent borders and global media. Only economic problems and free access of citizens to information can undermine their power.

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Three reasons for autocracy

Modern autocrats do their best tocreate the impression that they are intelligent and competent and are fighting for how they look in the eyes of society, and therefore less likely to resort to violence. Instead of mass terror, the information autocrat relies on censorship, loyalty, or targeted repression. So it’s not surprising that free access to information in authoritarian countries is becoming increasingly difficult.

And yet, the main focus of attention of newautocrats are not the public as a whole, but the “informed elite” - a weak part of society that is easily amenable to purchase and political pressure, ”notes Guriev.

Will the world be able to maintain democracy in the face of climate change and the pandemic?

Transition of authoritarian models from old to newtype, according to Guriev and Trizman, is due to several reasons. First, this is the end of the Cold War. Earlier, Western countries supported many non-democratic regimes, explaining this by the struggle against communism. But today there is no need to oppose communism, and authoritarian leaders really want to be popular.

More on the topic: How does the education of citizens affect the politics in the country?

The second reason for the transition to a new type of autocracyare the processes of globalization and technological development. Previously, the country could develop without being open to the world. Today, as we can see from the example of North Korea, such isolation leads to a serious lag behind the developed countries. For this reason, modern autocrats are open to the world and skillfully use propaganda.

The third reason is the disappearance of ideologies shortly after the end of the Cold War. So it is rather difficult to justify mass repression today.

Difference Between Information Autocracy anddictatorships of the old model is that such regimes are disguised as democracies. The leaders of such regimes try to maintain power, as did the authoritarian leaders of the past, the study says.

Lecture by Sergei Guriev on information autocracy

Such leaders build their popularity byconvictions of citizens that only they can effectively manage state processes, and any politician who replaces them will be very bad. Therefore, autocrats are trying to gain control of the media.
Censorship alone, however, is not enough to maintain power - there are always people in society who do not believe propaganda.

See also: What is tyranny, personality cult and dictatorship?

Mimicry of Democracy

S. Guriev and D.Treisman calls this part of society the elite. This elite is made up of more informed citizens who understand how the system works. To stay in power, autocrats use propaganda to convince the majority that he is the best thing that has happened to us.
Surprisingly, some autocratic leaderstoday, although corrupt and ineffective, seem to be truly popular. And many really want such a ruler to stay in power as long as possible.

So, what conclusion can we draw based onthe above? First, modern authoritarians tend to be less violent than their predecessors, and their actions are more secretive. Avoiding official ideologies like regimes imitate democracycreating legislatures and holding elections.

Today, human rights are violated more often than one might think. And this is not good

And like democratic leaders, the majorityautocrats today are focused on economic performance and service delivery. Whenever they need to reach out to citizens, autocrats avoid harsh rhetoric.

They often seem to be able to enlist the support of ordinary citizens, hiding from them the extent of the deception.

In conclusion, I would like to note the report Freedom inthe World 2020 - Researchers have identified a serious decline in established democracies. Which is actually very alarming, because a difficult time lies ahead of us - the COVID-19 pandemic does not even think to end, and the rapid climate change is increasingly making itself felt.

You will be interested: Science is inseparable from politics: why are peaceful protests more effective than violent ones?

The future of democracy today, alas, is vague and that's itmore countries are transitioning to some form of information autocracy. Another thing that scares this whole story is that when society is faced with survival, it chooses tough leaders. Remember how the main character in The Walking Dead said that democracy no longer exists? I hope these words will remain in the series, and the countries will not be at war with each other, but with the pandemic and climate change.