Abstract: When accounting for why elections, voting, and political representation are meaningful and valuable practices, political theorists tend to assume that the political system in which these institutions occur is broadly democratic. However, authoritarian regimes also make use of these institutions. Furthermore, recent empirical research shows that elections in “hybrid,” “competitive authoritarian,” or “pseudo-democratic” regimes matter. They can stabilize authoritarian regimes by giving them the veneer of popular approval, although they can also provide opportunities for unseating incumbent regimes. Are the ethics of political participation—and, specifically, of voting—fundamentally different in nondemocratic regimes? Do the same civic imperatives that support voting in democracies come out in favor of boycotts, abstentions, or even civil disobedience under electoral authoritarianism? Can citizens expect elections and electoral participation to increase the chances of a democratic transition? We argue that more complex moral considerations confront voters in authoritarian regimes compared to voters in democratic regimes, since the answers to these questions hinge in part on the role elections play in authoritarian states. We argue that a voter’s judgment must depend not merely on principled justifications for political participation but also on prudential considerations about the impact that electoral participation is likely to have on the regime’s longevity. We enumerate some of these

Turkuler Isiksel is Associate Professor of Political Science at Columbia University, where she is currently also serving as Deputy Chair of Department. She earned her PhD in political science from Yale University and works on law-adjacent topics in contemporary political theory. In her first book, Europe’s Functional Constitution. A Theory of Constitutionalism beyond the State (Oxford UP, 2016), she argues that the market-driven process of European integration has produced a kind of constitutional order that differs from traditional democratic and rights-based models of constitutionalism. Isiksel is currently writing a book entitled Are Corporate Rights Wrong?, which focuses on the fundamental rights claims that corporations are entitled to make in democratic societies. Her other research interests include th sovereignty, citizenship, human rights, and cosmopolitanism. Her research has appeared in The Journal of Politics, the European Journal of International LawHuman Rights QuarterlyInternational Journal of Constitutional Law (I*CON)Global Constitutionalism, the European Law Journal, and Constellations. Isiksel has held research fellowships at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, the Law and Public Affairs Program at Princeton University, NYU School of Law, and Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt-am-Main, and the European University Institute. She is a former president of the European Youth Parliament.

Thomas Pepinsky is the Walter F. LaFeber Professor in the Department of Government and Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University, and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He specializes in comparative politics and international political economy, with a special interest in Southeast Asia. He is the author, most recently, of Pandemic Politics: The Deadly Poll of Polarization in the Age of COVID (Princeton University Press, forthcoming, with Shana Kushner Gadarian and Sara Wallace Goodman). His current research examines the politics of democratic backsliding around the world, and the politics of identity in Southeast Asia.

The seminar will take place in Justitia 7A-2-04 13-14.30. If you want to come, please register here.