POLS Seminar: “Autocratization and the Welfare State”, Kerem Gabriel Öktem, 12:30Noon February 26 2024 (EN)

“Autocratization and the Welfare State”
Dr. Kerem Gabriel Öktem
Postdoctoral Researcher
Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM)
Bremen University, Germany
e-mail: oektem@uni-bremen.de

Date and Room Info:
Monday, February 26, 2024, 12:30 p.m.; A-130

Around the world democracy is under siege as numerous illiberal governments steer towards autocracy. In the ‘third wave of autocratization’, ruling governments take on the media and civil society, polarize societies and gradually undermine formal checks and balances. The playbook of autocratizers thus seems clear. But what public policies do governments pursue? We know surprisingly little about this. The ways in which autocratization impacts reforms in key policy areas, such as the welfare state, and shape state-society relations remains underexplored. Similarly, we do not really know much about how health or social security reforms might contribute to the legitimization of autocratizing regimes. In short, we do not know: is there a welfare state chapter in the playbook of autocratizers?

The talk explores the autocratization-welfare state nexus based on ongoing original empirical research of various contemporary autocratizing regimes, including Hungary and Turkey. It brings together quantitative data on social expenditures, qualitative data on social policy reforms and public opinion data to launch a debate about three questions: (1) Is there a common trajectory of welfare state reform in contemporary autocratizing regimes? (2) Do the various regimes pursue a common policymaking style in social policy? (3) Did the social policies pursued by autocratizing governments have an effect on political support and thus on the regimes’ abilities to reshape the polity?

Kerem Gabriel Öktem is a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM) at Bremen University, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Bilkent University, Turkey, for his thesis ‘Pathways to Universal Social Security in Lower Income Countries: Explaining the Emergence of Welfare States in the Developing World’. His research focusses on questions of how to conceptualize, measure and assess social policy developments throughout the world, with a focus on the Global South. Currently, he is exploring the sequence of inclusion into social security in Turkey and India within the research project ‘Mechanisms of Social Policy Diffusion: Ideational Dynamics of Inclusion and the Political Legitimation of Beneficiary Groups’.