Introducing Regime Cluster Theory: Framing Regional Diffusion Dynamics of Democratization and Autocracy Promotion

International Journal of Political Theory 4 (1):74-106 (2020)
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Recently the role of ideology and hegemony has received increased attention to explain varying dynamics of diffusion and autocratic cooperation. As a result, patterns of interaction in clusters from regions without hegemony or ideology have been overlooked because their autocracy-toautocracy transitions are no threat to the global status of democracy, even when active regime promotion is very common. This article will apply insights from economic cluster theory to political regimes and introduce a typology to differentiate among clusters. Regime Cluster Theory is the first framework that presents three ideal-types of ideological, hegemonic and biotopical regime clusters. With a new concept of ‘biotopical clusters’ the paper explains the dynamics of clusters in often omitted regions, like in Sub Saharan Africa, Latin America during the Cold War, or Central Asia during the 1990s. RCT offers a dynamic approach to recognize and assess patterns of forcible regime promotion per cluster as well as distinguish between their different diffusion patterns (coercive, voluntary, bounded learning, contagion) in four arenas: institutions, ideas, policy and administrative practices. RCT advances the comparative study of regime promotion and diffusion in various regions of the world and hopes to shed new light on related theories of alliance formation, regional institutionalization, and (conflict) spill-over effects.

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