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Organised by:

Global Authoritarianism Research Network
Centre for Political Thought
Voice, Participation and Governance Cluster, HaSS Cornwall

With the support of EU Horizon REDIRECT


Upcoming Workshop on "States, Regimes, Societies" on 10 June 2024

States, Regimes, Societies

10 June 2024, 09.45 – 17.45

University of Exeter

Streatham Campus (Knightley)

 Register here:  Eventbrite form

The concept of ‘regime’ is a central feature of the analytical toolbox in the field of Comparative Politics, where it predominantly refers to the ensemble of rules that determine how political power, conceived as control of national political institutions, can be achieved (Schmitter and Karl 1991; Munck 1996). It also features strongly in the field of Public Policy, where it principally refers to the ‘governing arrangements for addressing policy problems’ (May and Jochim 2013: 428). International Relations scholars refer to ‘regimes’ when they seek to understand how norms and institutions change in the international system.

However, ‘regime’ has received less attention in Political Theory, particularly in the Anglo-American literature; in spite of its historical lineage, from the Latin ‘regere’: to direct, control, steer, govern; and its use since the French Revolution to refer to a whole pre-modern social system, as the ancien regime. In ‘positive’ political theory, it is used generically as indicating any form of government or institutionalized order, or qualifying them, as when we talk of different democratic ‘regimes’. However, other terms like system and governance have taken over some of its meaning. It seems to have no place in ‘normative’ political theory, if not as in the negative and often rhetoric sense of indicating illegitimate and authoritarian forms of governments or states. The only recent use as a theoretical concept can be found in French authors such as Castoriadis and Lefort, where regime is used to indicate the social nature of political forms against a purely institutional and procedural definition of them.

This neglect of the concept ‘regime’ in Political Theory is curious, and raises a number of questions. Why is a concept so central in some parts of the study of Politics and so marginal in others? What is the relationship between the core political concepts of ‘state’, ‘regime’, ‘society’ and ‘government’? Does ‘regime’ do anything for us that ‘government’ does not? Do we need the concept of ‘regime’?

This workshop proposes a thorough discussion of ‘regime’ and its relationship to other core concepts in the study of Politics. It brings together scholars working with the term from a variety of subfields to tease out the distinctions in the way we use this term and to explore whether and how ‘regimes’ might provide a lens to help us interpret the relationship between states and societies.

To join the workshop, please register your interest on this Eventbrite form, by Friday 24th Mayso that we can have an idea of numbers for catering etc.



9.45 – 10.00 Welcome and introductions

10.00 – 11.50 Panel: Between Political Regimes and Policy Regimes

  • Catherine Owen (Exeter): ‘Are Democratic Innovations always "Democratic"? Exploring the Influence of Regime Type on Public Engagement Mechanisms’ (co-authored with Sonia Bussu, Birmingham)
  • Stephen Greasley (Exeter): Regimes in Policy Research
  • Shiao Wang (Tsinghua): ‘Beyond Democratisation: Regimes & public goods provision in Chile’
  • Stephen Skinner (Exeter): '"We are not a government. We are a regime." Interpreting Fascism in Legal History.’

11.50 - 12.00 Break

12.00 - 12.40 Discussion: Elena Gadjanova (Exeter) and Eleanor Gao (Exeter)

12.40 - 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 15.30 Round Table: Debating the State-Regime-Society Nexus

What does regime mean to you and in your work? Is it a useful concept? How does it differ from and relate to the state-society relationship?

  • Shuangli Zhang (Fudan)
  • Dario Castiglione (Exeter)
  • David Lewis (Exeter)
  • Xianan Jin (Exeter)
  • Nelly Bekus (Exeter)
  • Biao Zhang (CUPL)

Chair: Sean Carter (Exeter)

15.30 - 15.45 Coffee

15.45 - 17.45 Books Talk – Societies beyond Regimes?

Chair/Discussant: Alex Prichard (Exeter)


Date: 26 March 2024