Contentious Politics and Neo-Militant Democracy

Registration Number: 2018/31/B/HS5/01410

The Type of Research Grant: OPUS 16

Funding: National Science Centre

Duration: 24.06.2019-23.06.20223

Principal Investigator: Assoc. Prof. Joanna Rak

Research Co-investigators: Prof. Roman Bäcker, Prof. Przemysław Osiewicz, Kamila Rezmer PhD, Maciej Skrzypek MA

The research is motivated by the following observations: during the past decade, European democratic regimes began to take on the features of non-democracies by using legal restrictions on contentious politics, constitutional amendments, refusals of party registration, and restrictions on referendums. The systems have taken these measures to guard themselves against anti-democratic forces and to survive in a new social milieu. Nowadays, the regimes fail to meet the essential features of the old neutral model of liberal democracy which assumed that all political views give people the same rights of expression and association. These factors have brought about the rebirth of the studies on militant democracy understood as the democratic system that legally restricts certain democratic freedoms in order to protect itself from the threat of being changed by legal means. However, contemporary political regimes are substantively different from the system which was the subject of the first study of militant democracy, namely the political regime in a time of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. This project uses the category of neo-militant democracy to differentiate between the phenomena which existed in various historical contexts.

The main research objective is to formulate the middle-range theory that determines the causal relationships between contentious politics and neo-militant democracy in Europe. This theory is to explain why particular European neo-militant democracies emerge, while others decline, how they differ from each other, what brings the differences and similarities between them, how and why they change over time.

The research covers the neo-militant democracies that occurred in the 28 member states of the European Union (EU). Their membership in the UE provides a common ground of experience for political subjects, which is of vital importance to control the analysis for confounding factors. Additionally, these political regimes were faced with “the crisis of democracy” after the 2008 financial crisis. The qualitative regime change was not rapid, but clearly visible after the imposition of austerity measures by the EU and governments on the states since it was reflected in the discourse on citizenship, rights and freedoms, and austerity policies. Although the static approach allows us to observe neo-militant democracies over the particular critical juncture, the dynamic approach enables us to understand the nature of their changes. Therefore, it is important to delve analytically into the trajectories of the regimes’ continuance to capture what and how has shaped the neo-militant aspects of democracies over time. Thus, the research field encompasses the period from 2008 (the great economic crisis) to 2019, which is the expected date for the implementation of the EU’s procedures against the violations of political rights of citizens and denizens of the EU. The proceedings may contribute to the significant change of the quality of European neo-militant democracies and the end of the particular phase of the regimes’ continuance.

The analysis makes use of desk research. It employs a qualitative method of written sources analysis. This methodological choice is followed by a need for conceptual qualitative content analysis. The research techniques of data collection are the following: an analysis of secondary data gathered in the state police databases, reports, and records, the GDELT database, Eurostat, Europe, Venice Commission, state statistical offices, IMF, Countryreports, Earthtrends, Infoplease, Ameco, the Freedom House reports, non-governmental organization databases; secondary literature on neo-militant democracies and indicators involved in explanatory frameworks; and articles and visual materials published in public, commercial, and social media. The sources triangulation aims to verify the reliability of data, generate reliable databases, and facilitate the creation of statistical software for data analysis. The major criterion for sources selection is their utility to verify the hypotheses effectively, so the principle of theoretical sampling drives the collection of data. The research uses fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis to verify the hypotheses. This technique allows us to accept or reject assumptions on the causal relations between the types of neo-militant democracy and the features of contentious politics.


The project has produced dozens of scientific publications published in reputable journals and scientific publications. The team's output comprises a book, scientific articles, collective work chapters, reviews, and reports. Below is a link to the full list.

List of publications

Principal InvestigatorAssoc. Prof. Joanna Rak

Associate professor at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. In 2016-2020, she was a visiting researcher and professor at CEU San Pablo University in Madrid and Charles III University of Madrid. She worked on the following research projects: „Researching Anti-austerity Movements in Comparative Perspective”, „Basque Revitalization: The Continuance Trajectory of ETA” i „Współczesna Rosja: między autorytaryzmem a totalitaryzmem?”. The author of books and articles on contentious politics. The laureate of, i.a., Scholarship by the Minister of Science and Higher Education for outstanding young scientists, the Barbara Skarga Scholarship, START Scholarship by the Foundation for Polish Science, and Scholarship for young researchers from the Poznań scientific community. She obtained the first place in the competition of the Polish Political Science Association for the best scientific article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal or collective work in Polish in 2016-2017 as well as a distinction in the Czesław Mojsiewicz All-Polish Competition for the best doctoral dissertation in the discipline of political sciences in 2016. Research interests: cultures of political violence, contentious politics, and social mobilization. Contact:

Research Co-investigatorProfessor dr hab. Roman Bäcker

The head of the Department of Theory of Politics at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. For several decades, he has been dealing with the issues of non-democratic political regimes, and above all totalitarianism. A special area of interest are the processes of the collapse of political regimes. The basic theoretical models, in this case, are the author's theories of political bifurcation and the concepts of militant democracy modified together with Joanna Rak. In addition, he created original frameworks of theoretical categories allowing for conducting explanatory studies of political thought (typologies based on the Pareto division, according to the types of relations between subordinate and dominant cultures, etc.). Together with the team, he wrote a handbook on the methodology of political science research (open access, 2016). He is the author of seven books including Nontraditional Theory of Politics (Toruń, 2011); Interwar Eurasianism. Between Counter-acculturation and Totalitarianism? (Łódź 2000); Russian Political Thinking under President Putin (Toruń 2007).

Research Co-investigatorAssoc. Prof. Przemysław Osiewicz

Assoc. Prof. at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. FULBRIGHT Senior Award Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (2016-17). Non-Resident Fellow, at the Middle East Institute, Washington D.C. His research interests include analysis of foreign policy of the Middle Eastern states and political systems of non-democratic states as well as the EU’s external relations. Among his publications are EU-Iran Relations in the Post-JCPOA Period: Selected Political Aspects (2018); Ideological Determinants of the Current Saudi-Iranian Rivalry in the Middle East (2016); Transformation Processes in Egypt After 2011 – the Causes, Their Course and International Response (2015); Stanowiska tureckich partii politycznych wobec kwestii cypryjskiej po 2002 roku. Od nacjonalizmu do pragmatyzmu? (2015); Geneza i ewolucja systemu partyjnego Islamskiej Republiki Iranu (2014); Social and Political Changes in the Arab States After 2010: A Critical Analysis of Terms Applied (2014); Konflikt cypryjski (2013); Konstytucja Republiki Cypryjskiej. Wstęp (2013); Powstanie i ewolucja systemu politycznego Islamskiej Republiki Iranu (2012); Wybory w państwie nieuznawanym na przykładzie Tureckiej Republiki Północnego Cypru (2007).

Research Co-investigatorKamila Rezmer, PhD

PhD in political science at the Faculty of Political and Security Sciences (Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń) in the Department of the Political System of the Republic of Poland, as well as Secretary of the Board in Polish Political Science Yearbook. A graduate of master’s studies in political science and undergraduate studies in public policy. During studies she was awarded the title of the best student of the faculty, and later the best graduate. Her research interests include mainly internal and foreign policy, churches and beliefs around the world, the political system of the Republic of Poland and research in the field of agenda-setting. Analytical skills, knowledge of English, interests and completed studies allow her to efficiently obtain data, build databases, as well as verify and develop them under the grant OPUS 16. Privately she is intrested in contemporary theather, art, literature, and in her free time paints and takes care of two beloved dogs from the city-shelter.

Research Co-investigatorMaciej Skrzypek, MA

Graduated in International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science and Journalism at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. He actively participates in scientific conferences on political sciences and contemporary history. He is an author of publications about contemporary politics. His scientific interest focuses on new types of legitimization of power in contemporary Europe, limitations of the right to assembly in new militant democracy, and delegitimization of political transitions in Central and Eastern Europe.