Economic Autonomy and Democracy: Hybrid Regimes in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

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How do individuals decide to exercise their democratic rights? This book argues that they first assess their economic autonomy, meaning their ability to make a living independent of government authorities. Before individuals consider whether their resources and organizational abilities are adequate to act on their interests, they calculate the risk of political activism to their livelihood. This is particularly evident in regions of the world where states monopolize the economy and thus can readily harass activists at their workplaces. Economic autonomy links capitalism and democracy through individuals' calculations about activism. Accounts of activists' decisions about establishing independent media, leading political organizations, and running for office and descriptions of government harassment in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, along with examples from most regions of the world, illustrate these arguments. Economic autonomy and the interaction among democratic rights help explain the global proliferation of hybrid regimes, governments that display both democratic and authoritarian characteristics.