"Conventional" and "Virtual" Civil Societies in Autocratic Regimes

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Abstract

In recent years many non-democracies have witnessed the rapid growth of new social media that have, in a number of instances, become vehicles for civic activism, even in the presence of anemic "conventional" civil society association. Using evidence from Russia, Tunisia, Egypt, and Ukraine, this article explores the implications of "virtual" civil society for opposition politics in autocratic regimes. The rise of "virtual" civil society potentially presents autocratic regimes with new challenges for control over the streets. But a robust "virtual" civil society combined with a weak "conventional" civil society has a series of less positive consequences for oppositional politics, reinforcing weak political organization, breeding a false sense of representativeness, diluting collective identities within oppositions, and rendering mobilization over extended periods of time more difficult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-371
Number of pages21
JournalComparative Politics
Volume49
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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