Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Political Concepts
This Section aims at bringing together scholars from different fields of political science in order to engage the discussion on hybrid concepts and the concept of “hybridity”.
The first aspect this section addresses is the hybridity of concepts itself. Political Science is full of highly contested concepts like “democracy”, “legitimacy”, “populism”, “freedom”, “equality”, “state” and so on. All these concepts are decisive as theoretical and analytical tools, but their usages and meanings may vary deeply. This relates, first, to the social constructedness of concepts – as famously put by Reinhart Koselleck, concepts are both factors and indicators of the reality they describe. Accordingly, there is not just one meaning of a concept, but several. The usage of concepts varies depending on the context (time & space), the actors involved (e.g. scientists, political elites/leaders, citizens). But, as underlined by Sartori, Political Science tends to systematically neglect conceptual reflection and just use established mainstream understandings of its key concepts.
Hybrid concepts, second, are not only marked by their contestedness, but also in that they combine antithetical and contradictory features and meanings. Representative democracy for some authors such as Rosanvallon, Ankersmit, and Manin is a rhetorical innovation that combines the opposed principles of representation and democracy. On the one hand, such hybrid or oxymoronic rhetorical strategies in coining concepts have been frequently productive. On the other hand, if everything is subject to such hybridisation – ”authoritarian deliberation” is used in the present-day China, and the Gaullists invented in early V republic the term parlamentarisme rationalisée – it is impossible to fix distinctions between concepts. This implies a permanent tension: Scholars, accordingly, need to specify which terms they use and how - while at the same time specifications may take away the very point of the concept.
Last not least, concepts vary in their understanding and usage not only in the scholarly debate, but also in public and private political discourse. As an example, research has shown in the last decade that not only political scientists have different understandings of democracy, but also people living in different countries or regions, or having different socio-cultural and economic backgrounds. And maybe these individual or collective conceptions of democracy show patterns of combining ideal types of different political orders (democracy, autocracy) and therefore produce varying “hybrid understandings of democracy” in the citizenry. This point directly leads to the section´s second objective, discussing the concept of hybridity itself.
Against this backdrop, the section aims at undertaking the tasks of a systematic conceptual reflection and analysis of key concepts in Political science.
The concept of hybridity
The concept of hybridity is used in several areas of Political Science to describe political phenomena which seem to be combinations of two or more (opposing) ideal types. A common example is the concept of “hybrid regimes”. The debate centres on the conceptualization of democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, the way ideal types are defined and what kind of political regimes fall into the “residual category” of “hybrid regimes”. The literature uses various terms like competitive authoritarianism, electoral authoritarianism, delegative democracy, illiberal democracy, deficient democracy, defective democracy or hybrid democracy to describe those empirical cases in the so called “greyzone” between full autocracies and full democracies. Some scholars argue that deficient democracies and deficient autocracies can be seen as examples of hybrid regimes, whereas others argue that hybrid regimes combine characteristics of both democratic and autocratic regimes.
All these issues fuel the discussion about conceptual subtypes (regular vs. diminished), profiles, concept intension/extension, levels of abstraction and aggregation rules during the process of conceptualization. The concept of “hybrid regimes” is just one example in which the idea of “hybridity” is in use to describe empirical political phenomena. We find several similar examples in the literature, e.g. hybrid political orders, hybrid security, hybrid media systems, hybrid law systems, hybrid welfare state, hybrid adaptive bureaucracy, hybrid warfare, hybrid peacekeeping, hybrid governance ideological hybridity, parliamentary hybrids, or policy hybrids. These examples of “hybrid + X or X + hybridity” show that the usage of the adjective “hybrid” to classify combinations of conceptual ideal types seems more common throughout our discipline.
Aim and key questions of this Section
Both the hybridity of concepts and the concept of hybridity and its usage have not yet been systematically and broadly discussed nor defined in the discipline. Accordingly, this section aims to bring together scholars from different subdisciplines. We hope to push the debate on both hybrid concepts and the concept of hybridity much more forward and get scholars and their ideas connected.
The Academic Convenors have provisionally allocated eight Panels to our Section.
Please find attached the complete list of the proposed panels, including abstracts and contact information.
We therefore invite you all to submit your paper and panel proposals vie the ECPR Conference website by using MyECPR:
Keep in my mind that for each Panel you have to name a Panel Chair and a Discussant!
Please note that in case you want to propose a paper for a specific panel, you should also get in touch with the panel chairs.
Important: The deadline for Panel and Paper proposals is midnight UK time on February 18, 2019.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.