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AUTHLIB - Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response

To protect the future of liberal democracy in Europe, one must first understand its challengers.

The Horizon project AUTHLIB investigates the sources and implications of the normative divergence from the model of liberal democracy in Europe. It is based on the premise that liberal democracy faces not one ideological challenge but many. Against that background, it carefully and systematically explores the varieties of illiberalism and their appeal, in their contemporary forms and historical appearances, in opposition and in power, in the domestic political arena and at the level of international networks. Illiberalism has diverse ways of appealing to elites, citizens, and specific social groups. These include narratives, programs and policies, emotional triggers, institutional innovations, and sophisticated methods of diffusion, each of which needs to be understood and mapped.

To do so, AUTHLIB conducts textual data and social media analyses as well as laboratory and online-panel based surveys among citizens and experts. It also sets up deliberative fora involving ordinary citizens, ideological opponents, and individuals responsible for educating future generations and operating the intricate procedures of liberal democracy.

Besides shedding light on the diversity of the illiberal challenge, AUTHLIB’s other main aim is to provide a toolkit for policymakers to defend and enhance liberal democracy against its challengers by understanding and explaining the nature of illiberal ideologies, processes, and policies. The toolkit—consisting of case-specific sets of tools—will offer theoretically, normatively, and empirically grounded ways of responding to the specifics of illiberal claims against liberal democracy.

To achieve these goals, AUTHLIB will address two overarching objectives: mapping the varieties of illiberalism and citizens’ responses to them, and designing and testing interventions to counter the spread of authoritarianism. The project aims to capture the phenomenon and dynamics of the illiberal challenge in the European Union as a whole, with an in-depth focus on the project countries Austria, Czechia, France, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

As a Horizon project, AUTHLIB is funded by the European Union and spans the period from October 2022 to September 2025. The project consortium is coordinated by the Central European University and consists of the Charles University in Prague, the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Berlin, the Sciences Po in Paris, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, the SWPS University in Warsaw, the University of Oxford, and the University of Vienna.