Laboratory Western Balkans

Regime Cha(lle)nge

by Can Zeyrek (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 152 Pages


Even though comprehensive studies on political systems in the third wave of democratization have been made in the field of transformation, the situation in the Western Balkans remained underexposed. The reason for this might be that the fall of Yugoslavia and the emergence of new states are events that are to be attributed to the third wave of democratization. As Croatia has chosen the path of democracy, others still have problems with the rule of law. This book draws the political culture approach as a focal point providing a comprehensive understanding of transformations. The aim of this volume is to conceptualize the approach of embedded transformation.

Table Of Contents

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List of Figures

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Can Zeyrek

Not the ‘What?’, but the ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ of Regime Hybridity – The Concept of Embedded Transformation as an Advanced Approach to the Study of Transformation Research

Abstract Based on the question of how and why regime hybridity emerges, the aim of this essay is to analyze the causes of democratic regressions in transformation processes and to present the concept of embedded transformation as an analytical tool which can be used in the reconstruction of political, economic and social transformation processes. As institutional approaches to the study of transformation processes have proven insufficient, the political culture approach is being drawn upon as one crucial focal point providing a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of democratic transformations, the emergence and manifestation of hybrid regimes and democratic regression. Besides filling this research gap, the interest lies in middle range theory-building, thus in contributing to transformation research.

Keywords: embedded transformation, hybrid regime, unwritten constitution, ancien régime.

Introduction and Theoretical Framework

The purpose of this article is to develop an innovative concept to transformation studies with the aim of explaining how and why hybrid regimes arise and to determine major areas of conflict affecting the path toward successful democratization. Following the concept of embedded democracy1 (Merkel/Puhle/Croissant et al. 2003; see Figure 1) the concept of embedded transformation (Birsl and Zeyrek 2014: 10p.) serves as a complementary empirical tool to trace the effects of state disintegration, foreign interference and the consequences of ethnic/religious conflict on regime change and transformation processes. ← 13 | 14 →

Figure 1: The Five Partial Regimes of the Concept of Embedded Democracy According to Wolfgang Merkel et al. (2003)

The focus of embedded transformation (see Figure 2 below) lies on the character of political orders, their (un-)written constitutions and the ‘constitutional reality’. These factors are framed by the issue of state sovereignty which in turn is embedded in particular political cultures including ethno-religious conflict structures. The frame encircling the dimension of political culture comprises all the complex economic and social context conditions as political prerequisites for the process of transformation. Finally, the external and internal integration as the outer frame is included in the concept.

As one can deduce from the title, this article is less concerned with providing another definition of a specific regime (sub)type, namely, hybrid regimes. It rather focuses on the causes and the development of such. As there is a multiple and inflationary amount of conflicting definitions of regime (sub)typologies2, including those of hybrid regimes, this essay explicitly relies on the concept of defective democracy, which was developed by Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Aurel Croissant, Claudia Eicher and Peter Thiery (Merkel/Puhle/Croissant et al. 2003), ← 14 | 15 → because it provides an integrated framework of analysis superior to the typologies prevalent in the existing literature, and, further agreeing with Matthijs Bogaards, the derivation and operationalization of indicators for each type of defective democracy facilitates empirical research and comparisons (Bogaards 2009: 400p.). Defective democracy, which differentiates between four diminished subtypes, is based on the aforementioned root concept of embedded democracy with its five democratic components (see Figure 1) and is applied in empirical analysis (Bogaards 2009: 402). The democratic components or partial regimes of embedded democracy are electoral regime, political liberties, civil rights, horizontal accountability and the effective power to govern (Merkel 2004: 36). If one or more of these components are damaged in an essential way, then we are dealing with a certain subtype of defective democracy (Merkel 2004: 48). The four subtypes are as follows: exclusive democracy, domain democracy, illiberal democracy and delegative democracy (Merkel 2010: 37p.). Without going into details on the determining and distinguishing factors of defective democracies, what is beyond the scope here, in this study the four subtypes are referred to as hybrid regimes which cover the whole range between authoritarianism and liberal democracy, i.e., all regimes essentially violating one or more of the democratic components set by the concept of embedded democracy. Within this range there are regimes, combining democratic functional and structural elements to varying degrees without following an autocratic regime’s logic (Croissant/Thiery, 2000: 11p.). Insofar I disagree with Hans-Joachim Lauth who does not consider hybrid regimes as certain subtypes of democracies or autocracies (Lauth 2002). He defines hybrid regimes as regime types on their own, which cannot be considered as democratic or authoritarian (ibid.).3 The problem with this is, that one could actually not draw a conceptual clear-cut dividing line between a hybrid regime, if considered as a regime type on its own, and an authoritarian or democratic (defective) subtype, because all the (democratic or autocratic) characteristics of the pre-stages of democracy or authoritarianism coalesce and vary in the “gray zone” where, depending on what exact characteristics combine, different types of hybrids constitute between many blurred boundaries.

Accordingly, the concept of embedded transformation, which will be introduced in this paper, is meant to be applied on the above mentioned particular subtypes defined by Merkel and his collaborators in terms of reconstructing the conditions which finally lead to the defects of the democratic components. ← 15 | 16 →

Figure 2: Embedded Transformation

In the following section, the interdependencies between the embedded frameworks will be described.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (December)
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 152 pp., 14 fig., 7 tables

Biographical notes

Can Zeyrek (Volume editor)

Can Zeyrek is the Director of the Centre for Transition and Transformation Research at Gediz University. He obtained his doctoral degree in Political Science from the University of Göttingen. He further worked at the University of Izmir and at the University of Marburg.


Title: Laboratory Western Balkans